Duvalier must face Haiti justice: Preval

Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier returns to Haiti after 25 years of exile.

Last Updated: Jan 24, 2011, 13:01 PM IST

Port-au-Prince: Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier must face justice for alleged crimes under his 1971-1986 dictatorship and cannot leave Haiti until legal proceedings are concluded, President Rene Preval said.

Within 48 hours of Duvalier`s unexpected return one week ago, government prosecutors slapped him with a slew of charges, many related to the alleged siphoning off of hundreds of millions of dollars during his 15-year rule.

Six private lawsuits have also been filed against the 59-year-old former strongman over alleged human rights violations and torture, and judicial officials expect more complaints to follow.

"The government has done all it can do and we now hope that justice will do its work," Preval told reporters Saturday during a visit to the neighbouring Dominican Republic.

Duvalier`s lawyer said the former dictator had every intention of staying in Haiti to clear his name and suggested it was the current president who should be going to jail.

"Preval should go to prison for all his wrongdoings, for the stolen millions, and he knows it very well," Reynold Georges said.

Duvalier has denied his unexpected return, after 25 years of exile spent mostly in France, has anything to do with a post-election crisis that led to deadly riots in December.

Human rights activists and experts suggest the most plausible explanation is that Duvalier is short of money and wants to get his hands on USD 5.7 million that Switzerland is set to release to the Haitian government.

An American lawyer in Duvalier`s entourage said the former dictator only wanted to make sure the cash, frozen in Swiss bank accounts, goes to the Haitian people.

"What he`d like to do with the funds in Switzerland is contribute to the rebuilding of the country," Edwin Marger said. "He`s not asking that anything goes to him personally."

In his only public remarks since returning, Duvalier, appearing frail, expressed sorrow on Friday to "fellow countrymen who say, rightly, that they were victims under my government”.

The older generation in Haiti remember only too well the 29-year rule of "Baby Doc" and his repressive father Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier -- an era dominated by the sinister Tonton Macoutes secret police.

People still tell dark stories about victims who were locked up, tortured and murdered at Fort Dimanche, a notorious prison that came to be known as the "Haitian Gulag" or "the Dungeon of Death”.

Bureau Report