- 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:
- 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,
- 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."
- Odds tilt heavily toward the latter resolution given
Duvalier's friends in high places, especially in Haiti, France, Canada
and Washington. In 1986, the Reagan administration airlifted him to sanctuary
in France, without official asylum. Charges at the time weren't filed nor
threat of extradition. He got virtual amnesty for 25 years, so why sudden
change now. He spent his first full day back visiting with secret police
- Besides foreign allies, influential Haitians support
him. Putting him in the dock exposes them for years of criminal complicity
and profiteering. Chances of that are virtually nil, so expect smoke but
no fire, except perhaps a quiet settlement for a small fraction of what
he stole, whitewashing his kidnappings, torture, and mass killings.
- On arrival, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley merely
- His presence "adds unpredictability at an uncertain
time in Haiti's election process. We don't believe at this point Haiti
needs any more distractions. Our focus right now is to help Haiti through
this delicate period, have a new government emerge that is credible enough
and legitimate enough and viewed positively in the eyes of the Haitian
people so that the country....can move ahead" and rebuild.
- Not a word of how Washington supported his reign of terror
and massive theft. Nor about Haiti's sham elections. Rerunning a credible
process is essential, with all wrongfully excluded parties participating,
especially Fanmi Lavalas, by far the most popular.
- Like his father, Papa Doc, Washington, other countries,
and international lending agencies supported him generously. In fact, for
decades, America allied with the worst of world tyrants, the list comprising
a scandalous rogue's gallery, including:
- -- father and son Duvalier;
- -- pre-WW II Adolph Hitler;
- -- Spain's Francisco Franco;
- -- Cuba's Fulgencio Batista;
- -- Nicaragua's Anastasio Somoza, Sr., a man Franklin
Roosevelt called "a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch;"
so aren't all others Washington supports;
- -- China, then Taiwan's Chiang Kai-Shek;
- -- Indonesia's Suharto;
- -- Zaire's Sese Seko Mobutu;
- -- Uganda's Idi Amin;
- -- South Africa's PW Botha;
- -- the Saudi dynasty;
- -- other Middle East despots, including Tunisia's Zine
al-Abidine Ben Ali for 23 years until forced out;
- -- Israeli despite decades of slow-motion genocide against
- -- Iraq's Saddam Hussein before falling out of favor;
- -- Iran's Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi;
- -- Cambodia's Pol Pot;
- -- the Philippines' Ferdinand Marcos;
- -- Chile's Augusto Pinochet;
- -- decades of Mexican and South American despots;
- -- Panama's Manuel Noriega before falling out of favor;
and dozens more.
- A Final Comment
- On January 18, Haiti Libre.com headlined, "Haiti
- Duvalier: Can we really stop 'Baby Doc,' " saying:
- "Experts on Human Rights UN" say, "It
is not clear yet, if Haiti is in a position to arrest or prosecute Jean-Claude
Duvalier....Everyone knows that very serious things have happened in Haiti,
but we need evidence for prosecution," adding that UN and other officials
benefitted during his exile. Despite past complaints and charges, he was
never arrested or prosecuted. Now statute of limitations expired, no doubt
affecting the timing of his trip.
- Expecting prosecutorial justice and stolen millions recovered
is practically nil. Whitewash is more likely, except for minor slaps on
the wrist, keeping Baby Doc's dirty linen safely hidden with most of his
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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