It’s still uncertain whether former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier will appear in a Haitian court tomorrow as ordered.
A judge issued the order Feb. 21 after the 61-year-old ex-dictator failed to show up in court again. Tomorrow’s hearing will determine if he should face charges for human rights abuses during his 15-year regime.
The order has fueled hope among human rights advocates and victims of brutality during Duvalier’s tenure, 1971-1986. They say it’s time that Duvalier faces justice.
The Inter Press Service news agency offers a summary of the case here.
Among average Haitians, the case has garnered scant attention. The country’s lagging recovery from the 2010 earthquake, a cholera epidemic and tropical storms that destroyed much of last year’s harvest are bigger concerns.
Duvalier became Haiti’s leader after his father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, died in 1971, 14 years after seizing power and instituting restrictions on people’s movements while strengthening the country’s military force to enforce his edicts.
The U.S. supported the Duvaliers throughout their reign except for a short period. Last year, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Duvalier’s fate is in the hands of “the government and people” of Haiti.
UPDATED: Reuters and other news agencies reported that Duvalier appeared in court. He told Appeal Court Judge Jean-Joseph Lebrun that individual government officials “had their own authority” to act. Several people who claimed to be victims of brutality under Duvalier’s rule were satisfied that he had finally appeared in court. As the hearing continued hundreds of Duvalier supporters wearing black and red, symbolizing the old regime, shouted “Long live Duvalier.”