PARIS (Reuters) -- Haitian exiles said on Tuesday they wanted to bring
Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier to trial for crimes against humanity, but
the former Caribbean dictator told his lawyer he found the threat amusing.
The lawyer, Sauveur Vaisse, said he spoke by telephone to Duvalier, 47,
who was "very amused" by the exiles' threat.
"He found this rather funny. He does not understand why they would want
him to carry the can for his father (Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier)," Vaisse
French authorities said they had lost track of Duvalier, who has been
reported to be living in poverty after an extravagant exile on the French
Riviera. He fled his homeland in 1986 after an upsurge of popular protest.
Poet Gerard Bloncourt, the 72-year-old spokesman for a small group of
Haitian exiles, said they wanted "Baby Doc" to answer for what he alleged
were 60,000 assassinations under his 15-year rule and his father's 14-year
rule before him.
He said "Baby Doc" had had people tortured and executed in the basement
of his presidential palace in Port-au-Prince even on the eve of his flight into
exile to France in 1986.
The threat to seek prosecution of Duvalier coincided with ceremonies in
Paris to mark the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human
It also followed the arrest in Britain of former Chilean President Augusto
Pinochet who is wanted in Spain, France and several other European
countries over the disappearance of foreign nationals during his dictatorship.
French authorities said they did not know of any legal action against
The lawyer said Duvalier called him by portable telephone from an
undisclosed location. "I saw him 10 days ago and I'll be seeing him again
soon," he said.
French authorities said they had lost track of Duvalier.
Interior Ministry sources said they did not know whether he was in France
or had gone abroad, taking advantage of the Schengen agreement which has
lifted border controls between several European Union countries.
Bloncourt said he was reported to have been sighted a few days ago with
bodyguards on Paris' Champs Elysees avenue.
When he came to France, Duvalier lived in a hotel in the French Alps then
moved to the Riviera resort of Vallauris.
France turned down his request for political asylum status. He was under
house arrest for some time, then freed with an unspecific de facto asylum
He lived the high life in a plush villa, shopping at jewelers and vacationing
ski resorts, then gradually ran out of money after his wife divorced him.
In the mid-1990s he fired his staff and quit his villa. A neighbor said
briefly employed him as a gardener.
Police sources said the last trace he left was an unpaid hotel bill in
Riviera resort of Mougins in 1995.
But Vaisse denied his client was destitute.
"Living in France without work probably cost him a lot," he said."But I
him 10 days ago and he did not look like a tramp."
He would not say whether Duvalier was paying him fees.
Copyright 1998 Reuters.