Former Haitian tyrant Jean-Claude Duvalier faced victims of his 15-year rule of terror yesterday, finally yielding to a judge’s order to appear in court but refuting accusations of his complicity in crimes against humanity.
Forced into court by a judicial warrant following his third failure to attend, Duvalier, known as Baby Doc, sat just a few feet away from his accusers at a hearing held to determine whether he will go on trial for human rights abuses committed by his 1971-1986 regime.
The ex-president, 61, who fled into exile amid a popular uprising in 1986, but returned to his country following the 2011 earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people, appeared defiant as he addressed allegations of executions, torture, false imprisonments and rapes committed by his secret police force, the Tonton Macoutes.
“I think I have made every effort to ensure a decent life for my compatriots,” he told the court. “Murder exists in all countries. I don’t interfere in police work.”
Attempts by his lawyer to have the hearing held behind closed doors, claiming that Duvalier was sick and deserved privacy, were rejected by the judges.
“Some dictators can no longer escape a reckoning… He can’t hide from his victims,” stated Reed Brody, a counsel for Human Rights Watch, who was in court.
“This is an important victory for Duvalier’s victims, who never gave up hope of seeing him in court,.”