Haitian-Canadians are being urged to submit their stories as authorities in Haiti prepare to prosecute the country's former dictator, Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, for human-rights abuses.


Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier talks to reporters in Port-au-Prince on Friday. ((Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press))

Haitian lawyer Mario Joseph, who works for a human rights organization in Port-au-Prince, said lawyers need people to come forward to build a case.

"Iā€™m calling on the [Haitian] diaspora in Canada to file complaints against Duvalier," he told a news conference in Montreal on Friday. "I need them to mobilize.

"We need to rebuild the memory of the Haitian people. They need to listen to what happened during the Duvalier regime."

Duvalier unexpectedly returned to Haiti last Sunday, the first time he has been back in the impoverished Caribbean country since being ousted by a popular uprising in 1986.

Haitian prosecutors have charged him with corruption and embezzlement during his 15-year rule, but human rights activists want the case against him expanded.


Former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier waves from the balcony of the guest house where he is staying in Port-au-Prince. ((Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press))

On Friday, Amnesty International said Haitian authorities were launching an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed during Duvalier's time in power.

A researcher with the human rights group Gerardo Ducos gave authorities 100 documents that Amnesty says detail cases of detention without trial, systematic torture, disappearances and extrajudicial killings that took place in Haiti between 1971 and 1986.

In a separate legal challenge, four Haitians have filed lawsuits alleging crimes against humanity.

In his first public statement since arriving from France, Duvalier said he returned after 25 years in exile because he wanted to participate in the reconstruction of the earthquake-shattered country.

He told a packed news conference in Port-au-Prince on Friday that his desire to mark the first-year anniversary of last January's quake and take part in reconstruction "far outweighs any harassment" he expects to face.

Duvalier, 59, walked with a shuffle and spoke with a voice that was barely audible, fuelling speculation he is in poor health.

He refused to answer any questions after his brief statement.

With files from The Canadian Press