The hurly-burly of two dozen supporters of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier shouting obscenities and paralyzing an Amnesty International press conference rattled the civil community, rights and advocacy groups. “It was a chilling reminder of the intimidation tactics the 1957 regime used against opinionated citizens,” wrote the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH) in a released statement.
Reynold Georges and Osner Fevry, long-time Duvalier lawyers, led the group of protesters that barged into Room Toussaint Louverture II at Le Plaza Hotel, disrupting an Amnesty International press conference. A three-member team representing the human rights organization held the media event to release “You Cannot Kill the Truth,” a 40-page report detailing its case against Duvalier. The report contained dozens of unpublished testimonies of jailed and tortured political prisoners who survived the authoritarian regime. Protesters labeled the team as impostors, calling the report divisive.
Human rights organizations, as a result, mobilized to rebuke the repressive tactics of Duvalier’s supporters. The National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH) categorizes as “scandalous behavior” actions it perceived to be an infringement of freedom of expression and association, enshrined in articles 19 and 20.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
GARR, the Support Group for Refugees and Repatriated, declared the disruptions, “a violation of the right to information and freedom of expression stipulated in the Haitian constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and several international conventions to which Haiti is a signatory.”
Duvalier, 60, landed at Port-au-Prince’s Toussaint Louverture Airport unexpectedly on January 16, 2011 after a 25-year exile in France, but faced charges of corruption, embezzlement and crimes against humanity from prosecutors the next day. The judicial process stalled until Thursday, September 22, when special advisers at Amnesty International stated; “There is sufficient evidence to prosecute Jean-Claude Duvalier for the widespread arbitrary detentions, torture, deaths in custody, killings and disappearances that took place during his regime.”
Yet according to lead lawyer Georges, Duvalier was being persecuted in his own country. He saw no merit in the prosecution’s case against his client. “These people are trying to provoke a societal breakdown, they want to divide Haitians,” he told AFP. “Because no Haitian law allows anyone to judge Duvalier,” he added. Protesters brought skulls and femurs with them to the press conference; evidence they said proved the persecutions and murders of Duvalierists after the ex-dictator fled the country in 1986 amid a popular uprising.
Judge Carvez Jean will analyze the report, including the new testimonies before deciding whether the case against the former dictator moves forward or not. “As for analyzing the merits of the case, it’s not my job to find people or institutions wishing to file complaints,” admitted Carvez when asked about the amount of complaints he received against Duvalier. “There is a procedure to follow,” he said.
Nevertheless, Amnesty International remains committed to bringing justice and reparations to victims of Duvalier’s repressive regime. “The organization reminds the Haitian government of its obligations under international law to lead a serious investigation into allegations of crimes against humanity perpetrated in Haiti under Jean-Claude Duvalier and bring those responsible to justice,” declared the human rights organization.
Meanwhile rights and advocacy groups denounced the scare tactics employed by the remnants of the authoritarian regime and have called on Haitian authorities to hold those who disrupt the peace accountable as prescribed by Haitian laws.
- Human rights group: Bring Duvalier to justice in Haiti (cnn.com)
- Haiti protesters disrupt Amnesty Int’l presser (sfgate.com)
- Haiti protesters denounced Amnesty Int’l report (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Duvalier supporters protest Amnesty report on former dictator (cbc.ca)
- Will ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier ever face justice in Haiti? (guardian.co.uk)
- Haiti protesters denounce Amnesty Int’l report (ctv.ca)
- Haiti protesters denounced Amnesty Int’l report (sfgate.com)
- Martelly Opposes Reducing U.N. Force in Haiti (nytimes.com)
- Haitian Scholar and Activist Jean-Claude Bajeux Passes Away (repeatingislands.com)