List of charges against Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier continues to grow

Former dictator moves from hotel to private Port-au-Prince residence as judicial proceedings over his rule gather pace

Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier has slipped out of his hotel and moved to a private house overlooking Port-au-Prince, but the list of charges for abuses during his dictatorship of Haiti continues to grow.

Duvalier left the upmarket hotel through a rear exit yesterday while his partner, Veronique Roy, distracted journalists by walking out of the front, enabling a discreet move to the hillside residence.

It may prove a brief respite because judicial proceedings gathered momentum today after an announcement from Amnesty International that authorities are investigating alleged crimes against humanity during the former dictator's 1971-86 rule.

"Investigating Jean-Claude Duvalier for the human rights crimes committed during his time in power is a massive step forward," Gerardo Ducos, Amnesty's Haiti researcher, said. "What we need to see now is a swift and impartial process, in line with international standards, that truly brings justice for those who have been waiting for too long.

"We are also calling on the UN to offer technical support to the Haitian authorities to ensure the trial ... meets the expectations of the Haitian people and the international community." Haitian authorities made no immediate comment.

Duvalier – who made a sudden return to his homeland last Sunday after 25 years in exile – was briefly detained and charged with corruption and embezzlement.

Since then, pressure has mounted to bring more serious charges related to the jailing, torture and murder of thousands of people by a regime that relied on the brutal Tonton Macoute militia to maintain control.

Four Haitians, including a former UN spokeswoman, filed separate charges, including torture and crimes against humanity. Amnesty gave 100 documents, detailing dozens of cases, to the chief prosecutor, Harycidas Auguste, and the justice minister, Paul Denis.

A group representing former agricultural labourers filed a separate charge accusing Duvalier of selling them into "slavery" to the neighbouring Dominican Republic.

How Haiti's ramshackle justice system will cope with such a high-profile, politically charged case remained unclear but there was little doubt that 59-year-old Duvalier blundered by leaving his Paris sanctuary.

He electrified Haiti with his unexpected homecoming, but did not give a reason beyond vague remarks about helping the country recover from last January's devastating earthquake. Roy said he planned to stay just three days. Analysts speculated that it had been a gamble to recover millions of dollars frozen in a Swiss bank account, the remnants of a fortune long drained by lavish expenditure and tax and divorce disputes.

A brief, uneventful return to Haiti, the theory goes, would have allowed Duvalier to claim he had no legal troubles in Haiti and deserved access to the money.


Rory Carroll, Latin America correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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