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Haiti-Duvalier : Swiss government extends freeze on Duvalier’s accounts

Press release of Haiti Support Group

Submitted to AlterPresse on 4 June 2007

Good news ! - Following legal moves by a Miami-based law firm representing two victims of the Duvalier dictatorship, and a spirited lobbying campaign by Haitian, Latin American and European NGOs over the last week, the Swiss government on Friday announced it had extended a freeze on Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier’s Swiss bank accounts for a further three months.

The money, 7.6m Swiss francs (£3.1m/US$6.2m), has been frozen for the past five years as the Haitian government has argued for its release, but was due to be surrendered to Duvalier on 3 June.

Now the accounts will remain blocked for a further three months from 3 June, according to Swiss government spokesman Oswald Sigg. He stated that the Swiss foreign ministry would now try to resolve the situation with the Duvalier family and representatives of Haiti’s government. It was still the Swiss government’s aim to find a solution in favour of the Haitian people, added the spokesman.

Congratulations to Marc Henzelin, the lawyer acting for Haitians, Etzer LaLanne and Father Gerard Jean-Juste, who obtained an order from the Geneva state court blocking one of Duvalier’s accounts in Switzerland in respect of a suit successfully filed in the US. District Court in Miami in 1988.

Congratulations also to the Haitian Platform to Advocate for Alternative Development (PAPDA), the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad), the Swiss Haiti Platform, Jubilee South Americas, the Haiti Advocacy Platform UK-Ireland, and the Coordination Europe-Haïti, for petitioning the Swiss authorities to halt the release of Duvalier’s accounts.

The Haiti Support Group has today written to Haiti’s minister of foreign affairs calling on him to seize the opportunity provided by the extended freeze and quickly come up with the documentation proving that Duvalier’s money was accumulated as a result of criminal and corrupt actions during the dictatorship. On submission of this proof, the Swiss government will be obliged to hand over the some - perhaps all - of the money to the Haitian authorities. The money can then be used for socio-economic programmes to help counter poverty and stimulate economic development in Haiti.