Heaviest charges dropped against former Haitian dictator
Feb 9, 2012
Judge Carvès Jean, basing his decision on the recommendation of
Haiti’s state prosecutor, told the media on Jan. 30 that he had dropped
all murder, torture and other charges against Jean-Claude Duvalier. The former
Haitian dictator, who has had the support of both U.S. and French imperialism,
will face only corruption charges.
A whole gamut of human rights organizations, as well as the United Nations,
which has militarily occupied Haiti for the past seven years, and even
right-wing journals like “The Economist,” condemned this
These charges — now dropped — grew out of the deaths and the
disappearances of thousands upon thousands of Haitians. The crimes are so
voluminous that they reached the status of crimes against humanity, which under
international law has no statute of limitation, that is, no time period after
which they expire.
If Duvalier escapes these charges, then his supporters too will feel a
renewed sense of impunity. These gangsters have overthrown Haitian governments
with coups, relying on mass murder and the disappearances of thousands of
Duvalier himself was overthrown by a mass revolution in 1986. A U.S. Air
Force plane removed him from Haiti to France then, where he had lived in lush
exile on the Riviera before his recent return to Haiti.
“This wrong-headed decision, if upheld on appeal, would entrench
Haiti’s culture of impunity by denying justice for Duvalier’s
thousands of victims,” said Reed Brody, special counsel for Human Rights
Watch. “Haiti has an obligation to its people to investigate and
prosecute the grave violations of human rights under Duvalier’s
rule.” (HRW press release)
Following an obviously fixed referendum (he won by 2,391,916
“yeses” and at most one “no”) in February 1971,
Jean-Claude Duvalier, sometimes called Baby Doc, was chosen to succeed his
father, Dr. François Duvalier, as president for life of Haiti.
(“Haiti,” Laurent Dubois, p 349)
François Duvalier had managed to “win” the election the
army held in 1957 by using a large group of gangsters called
“cagoulards” more effectively than his opponents used similar
groups. His cagoulards later morphed into the National Security Volunteers,
better known by their Haitian nickname, the Tonton Makout. It is believed that
20,000 to 60,000 people were murdered during “Papa Doc’s”
Washington had its differences from time to time with the Duvalierist
regimes. With socialist Cuba just 75 miles across the Windward Passages from
Haiti as a revolutionary contrast, the Duvaliers were an embarrassment. But
they were able to maneuver to maintain essential U.S. support.
Sometimes, relations were warmer than others. In 1969, banker and New York
state governor, Nelson Rockefeller, visited Haiti and was photographed shaking
hands with Duvalier and the U.S. ambassador. Rockefeller so strongly lobbied
for aid that some Haitian officials proposed him for honorary membership in the
When Duvalier took over from his father in 1971, he was 19 years old. But he
inherited not only the title but a well-organized repressive system. There were
over 300,000 members of the Tonton Makouts, many armed with U.S. weapons and
some trained by the U.S. military.
U.S. aid was flowing freely to Haiti, both to counteract the attraction of
the Cuban model and to prop up businesses that relied on the extremely low
wages prevalent for workers in Haiti. Baby Doc and his cronies and their
families raked off a large share of this aid. To keep the profits flowing they
relied on their terror apparatus.
“Crimes against humanity committed while Jean-Claude Duvalier was in
power remain shrouded in total impunity,” said Javier Zúñiga,
special advisor at Amnesty International, who had researched the crimes of
Jean-Claude Duvalier in the 1980s.
“The authorities haven’t made a serious effort to look into past
events that afflicted a generation of Haitians with torture, enforced
disappearance, extra-judicial executions, arbitrary arrests and other serious
human rights violations.
“Haitian judicial authorities must be given all the resources and
support — including from the U.N. — they need to conclude the
investigation and bring those responsible to justice in trials that meet
international standards.” (Amnesty International press release).
Regarding Washington’s position, it was telling that at a governmental
ceremony in early January former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who coordinates
the U.S. role overseeing the Haitian regime, openly shook hands with