Español English French Kwéyol

Haiti: The truth must not die with Jean-Claude Duvalier

Press Release from Amnesty International

Transmitted to AlterPresse on October 7, 2014

The death of former Haitian ruler Jean-Claude Duvalier must not halt the investigations and prosecutions owed to thousands of people killed, tortured, arbitrarily arrested and disappeared under his regime, said Amnesty International today.

“The death of Jean-Claude Duvalier must not be used to brush away the crimes committed under his regime. An entire network of volunteer militia and state authorities are also suspected of perpetrating human rights violations under Duvalier’s command. These people too must be investigated and, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, prosecuted in fair trials,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

“This is not the final chapter in this horrific episode of Haiti’s recent history. Instead it should be a reminder that there are thousands of victims who still deserve justice, truth and reparation for the human rights violations they suffered.”

In response to news of the death, Haiti’s current President Michel Martelly has spoken of reconciliation and called Jean-Claude Duvalier a “true son of Haiti”. In the past, President Martelly has hinted in several public statements at pardoning the former leader. Despite being investigated for embezzlement charges, Jean-Claude Duvalier was issued with a diplomatic passport in 2013, and participated in several official ceremonies and events.

“Whereas President Martelly could have expressed compassion for the thousands of victims of Duvalierism and participated in forging memories about the crimes committed at that time, he willingly decided to express ‘sadness’ and ’sympathy’ only for Duvalier’s family. This is a slap on the face for human rights and the victims’ struggle to justice,” said Erika Guevara.

During Jean-Claude Duvalier’s presidency - between 1971 and 1986 - prisons and torture centres claimed the lives of hundreds of victims. Arbitrary arrests, torture, deaths in custody, enforced disappearances and political killings were regularly reported.

Haitian authorities singled out political leaders, journalists, trade unionists and those suspected of being opponents of the government. Illegal detention was also rampant. Detainees were kept incommunicado for long periods of time and were frequently subjected to torture and ill-treatment.

A key weapon of control in Duvalier’s arsenal was the use of National Security Volunteers or “tonton macoutes” (“bogeymen”) as they became known. This volunteer militia took on many of the tasks of the army and police force and were responsible for extreme brutality as they killed, tortured, arbitrarily imprisoned or forcibly disappeared people with impunity. In the mid-1980s, there were an estimated 9,000 tonton macoutes at work.

“For 15 years, Jean-Claude Duvalier ruled Haiti with total disregard for the rights of the Haitian people. The grave human rights abuses perpetrated during those years still remain shrouded in absolute impunity. Now, more than ever, Haitian authorities must show political will to investigate those suspected of criminal responsibility for human rights violations," said Erika Guevara.