Duvalier probed for crimes against humanity

Haitian authorities will investigate former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier for crimes against humanity allegedly committed under his 16-year rule.

Haitian Montrealers urged to file complaints

Haitian authorities will investigate former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier for crimes against humanity allegedly committed under his 16-year rule, the country's top prosecutor said Friday.

Former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier retreated to a private residence north of Port-au-Prince after missing a flight out of the country on Thursday morning. ((Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press))

Chief Magistrate Harycidas Auguste told CBC News Duvalier will face charges related to torture, imprisonment for political reasons and refusing freedom of expression. All of the crimes are alleged to have occurred during Duvalier's presidency from 1971 to 1986.

Amnesty International's researcher for Haiti, Gerardo Ducos, met Thursday with top Haitian justice officials, including Auguste and Justice Minister Paul Denis.

In a statement, Amnesty International said Ducos handed more than 100 documents "detailing dozens of cases of detention without trial, systematic torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions."

Duvalier, 59, already faces charges of embezzlement, misappropriation of funds and theft amid accusations he siphoned up to $300 million from federal coffers into his personal bank accounts.

On Thursday, he met with Auguste and Judge Carves Jean, the investigating judge in his case.

Haitian Montrealers urged to come forward

Haitian human rights lawyer Mario Joseph said Friday the only way to make the charges against Duvalier stick is for members of the Haitian diaspora to file complaints against him.

"We need people to mobilize, not only the Canadian diaspora but ... progressive Canadian people to mobilize to judge Duvalier," Joseph said.

Joseph has been gathering stories from Haitians who say they were tortured and abused by the Tontons Macoutes, the secret police force established by Duvalier's father and predecessor, François Duvalier, and used by both.

"It's a chance for the victims," Joseph said a day earlier. "It's … time for Jean-Claude Duvalier to be judged."

Haitian-born Franz Voltaire told CBC News he was arrested and jailed by the Tontons Macoutes before being expelled to Montreal.

"They don't give you a specific reason, just tell me ... I had too many contacts with the opposition," Voltaire said.

Reasons for staying unclear

Duvalier had been booked on a flight to leave the capital, Port-au-Prince, on Thursday morning, but missed it. Instead, he slipped out the back of his hotel and was driven to a private home on a mountain above Port-au-Prince.

The reasons for his prolonged stay remain as murky as his motivation for coming back in the first place, but advisers and confidants cite two primary motivations: the lack of a valid passport and the ongoing court investigation against him on allegations of corruption and human rights abuses during his reign.

As his scheduled flight took off he was still in the international-style hotel in Petionville, where he had stayed in a standard room. After a group lunch on its covered patio restaurant his girlfriend, Veronique Roy, walked to a waiting car at the hotel's main door to draw off most of the press while he was shepherded to a separate car behind the compound on a concrete loading dock.

Defence attorney Reynold Georges told reporters earlier in the day that he couldn't speculate how long the ex-dictator would stay in Haiti, but that it would take at least two weeks to resolve the legal cases filed against him.

"He will have to answer that question himself but for now, we're here," Georges said.

Asked if Duvalier had been invited to Haiti by anyone in the government, the attorney said not to his knowledge. "It's his country. He doesn't need an invitation."

Duvalier flew into Port-au-Prince on Sunday after 25 years in exile; he left Haiti in 1986 during a popular rebellion.

With files from The Associated Press