Jean-Claude Duvalier, who ruled Haiti with an iron fist from 1971 to 1986, died of a heart attack on Saturday at the age of 63. After initially ruling out prosecution on grounds that too much time had gone by, Haitian authorities decided in February to reintroduce crimes against humanity charges against the ex-dictator and order further investigations.
“Jean Claude Duvalier’s death does not end prosecutions by his country’s justice system, since the victims of his regime have also filed complaints against his acolytes,” said Pierre Espérance, director of the (Haitian) National Human Rights Network (RNDDH) and FIDH secretary general.
“Duvalier died without being tried, but he was being prosecuted for forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and torture, which he ordered,” said FIDH president Karim Lahidji. “He has certainly escaped being sentenced, but not justice and not history.”
After 25 years of exile in France, Duvalier returned to Haiti in January 2011 after the catastrophic earthquake that hit the country.
Proclaiming himself president for life, he came to power in 1971 at age 19, after the death of his father. Thus continued a long period of dictatorship in one of the poorest countries in the world.
His father François Duvalier, known as “Papa Doc”, created a militia known as the “tontons macoutes” which terrorized the population. Duvalier the younger, known as “Baby Doc”, followed in his father’s footsteps.
Several thousand opponents were murdered, tortured or forced into exiled under Duvalier rule.