Is a U.N. Truth Panel on Baby Doc Necessary?

With a resurging cholera epidemic and earthquake reconstruction, some question whether a panel investigating former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier is really that important.

Posted: 07/08/2011 04:08 PM EDT
Jean-Claude Duvalier

Months after his startling return to the nation he ruled 25 years ago, former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, also known as “Baby Doc,” could soon have to face the music for some of his past alleged crimes.


In an effort to provide closure to Haitians who suffered through his leadership, the United Nation’s Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha- Kang, called for a truth commission during a press conference Tuesday.


 “We do believe that there is a need for a broader coming to terms with the past,” she told the Associated Press. “A truth commission would serve that purpose.”


She also made it clear that the panel will not be a replacement for the current criminal charges against him.


“The Duvalier case would focus specifically on the accountability of the leader of what was a very brutal period,” she said.


Since his return to Haiti in January, there have been more than 20 lawsuits, ranging from attempted murder and torture to embezzlement, filed against the former dictator. A judge has placed him under house arrest, but the case against him has been moving slow.


A lawyer for Duvalier insists that the statute of limitations in the cases have expired. He also thinks the truth panel is pointless.


"I totally disapprove," Reynold Georges told the Associated Press. "We have our own legal system, and we're going to stick to it. ... Love [Duvalier] or leave the country."


In the face of an emerging cholera epidemic (which a recent CDC report says was spawned by U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal) and a massive earthquake recovery, many Haitians don’t see the point of it, Defend Haiti, an online news site which focuses on issues in the nation, reports.


President Michel Martelly himself suggested amnesty for Duvalier, in an April interview with French language Montreal publication La Presse, in an attempt to move the country forward.


With all of Haiti’s pressing problems, he might have a point.

(Photo: Lee Celano/Getty Images)

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