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Duvalier in the Dock

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Duvalier in the Dock - by Stephen Lendman

Don't bet on it, or at most expect prosecutorial pretense, theater, with Baby Doc Duvalier free to return to his luxury French villa, though perhaps later than planned. A previous article discussed his arrival and 15 dictatorial years of rule (plus his father's), accessed through the following link:

click here

On January 18, New York Times writer Ginger Thompson headlined, "Former Haitian Dictator to Face Charges," saying:

"Haitian prosecutors presented formal charges of corruption and embezzlement against the former dictator Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier on Tuesday, raising the level of uncertainty surrounding his abrupt emergence from exile this week."

Haiti's Chief Magistrate, Marycidas Auguste, announced charges of "government corruption, embezzlement of funds, money laundering, and assassination."

Calling the day's events a "political show," his lawyer, Gervais Charles, said only corruption and embezzlement were involved, adding that "Jean-Claude came into this country at the wrong time. That's what this is about, not the law." 

A judge will decide if enough evidence warrants trial, he explained, adding that most charges stem from $4.6 million in Swiss accounts, a small fraction of what he stole, believed to be hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Haitian lawyer Salim Succar, involved in negotiations with Switzerland. 

Statute of limitations also matter, having expired in 2006. Duvalier was never prosecuted despite past charges brought, including a 1988 US District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruling (in Jean-Juste v. Duvalier) that he was liable for $500 million in misappropriated public funds, taken for personal use.

His traveling companion, Veronique Roy, was asked if he was arrested. By phone inside court she said, "Absolutely not. We are very relaxed, drinking coffee and water."

Besides stealing millions as dictator, his Tonton Macoute (praetorian guard) killers abducted and murdered tens of thousands of Haitians, many tortured to death in prison. Haitians revile him, except for cronies and elitists who profited. Even Thompson admitted that:

"The charges filed on Tuesday seemed to be a modest list for a man who is widely blamed for one of the darkest chapters in (Haiti's) history - and whose government has been accused of kidnapping, torturing and murdering thousands of political opponents."

She's mistaken, however, saying "the case against Mr. Duvalier represents a bold step by a country with a long history of impunity...." In fact, it's theater, not boldness. 

Baby Doc spent several hours in court, then returned to his luxury hotel, not jail where criminals belong unless released on bail. Given Baby Doc's obvious flight risk, legitimate proceedings wouldn't allow it, besides including charges of grievous crimes against humanity for which conviction should mean life in prison without parole.

Expect none for Baby Doc. According to Rupert Colville, spokesman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Haiti's fragile judicial system makes effective prosecution unlikely. Brian Concannon, Director of Haiti's Institute for Justice & Democracy said:

"It could be a very good step in the right direction if the Haitian justice system pursues this case. It could also be a whitewash if they don't pursue him and find a reason to let him go."

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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