Four file complaints in France against former Haitian dictator
PARIS (AP) -- Four Haitians living in France filed complaints of "crimes
humanity" against former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier with the Paris
prosecutor's office Friday, judicial sources said.
The four plaintiffs claimed they had been imprisoned for years and tortured
political reasons under Duvalier's regime. They have chosen to remain anonymous for
safety reasons, said their lawyer, Basile Ader.
The Paris prosecutor must decide whether the complaints are admissible
under the French penal code in order to determine whether further judicial
action can be taken.
Duvalier, known as "Baby Doc," was named president for life at age 19
following the death in 1971 of his dictator father, better known as "Papa
Doc." Tens of thousands of people were massacred and tortured to death
during the 31-year father-and-son dynasty.
Duvalier fled to France in February 1986, when a popular uprising forced
him into exile.
In December 1998, a Haitian-born photographer, encouraged by the arrest
in Britain of former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet, organized a
committee in Paris to bring Duvalier to trial for crimes against humanity.
"Jean-Claude Duvalier must admit responsibility for his actions, and justice
must be brought to the Haitian people," Gerald Bloncourt, the photographer,
told The Associated Press.
But under French law, the notion of "crimes against humanity" applies only
actions committed after 1994, when a new definition of such crimes entered
the penal code.
In the case of the four plaintiffs filing against Duvalier, the alleged
were committed before 1994, which means the case may never make it to
Duvalier lived for a time on the French Riviera and then following financial
difficulties moved to the Paris region in 1993, where his father-in-law lived.
Haitian exiles claim that Duvalier was seen in Paris in mid-1998.
The French Ministry of the Interior said in December 1998 that it had lost
track of Duvalier and that he had probably left French territory.
In a December interview conducted "somewhere in France" with the French
magazine VSD, Duvalier claimed that he helped bring democracy to Haiti
and said he had nothing to fear from the movement to bring him to trial.