UN independent human rights expert urges support for justice in Haiti

19 January 2011Noting the pending legal proceedings against Jean-Claude Duvalier, the former Haitian leader who returned to his home country earlier this week, the United Nations independent expert on human rights in Haiti today urged the international community to “allow justice to take its course” in the Caribbean nation. “At a time when the international community strengthens its support for the restoration of the rule of law in Haiti, unwavering support to the fight against impunity for serious crimes would be a good signal to send to the people of Haiti and particularly to victims and victims’ families,” said Michel Forst, the independent expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti.Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not United Nations staff nor are they paid for their work.Mr. Forst said that between 1986 and 2008, several legal proceedings were initiated by the Haitian justice system against Mr. Duvalier for crimes against humanity, torture, financial crimes and acts of treason, which would justify an arrest.Mr. Duvalier, who returned to Haiti on Sunday after 25 years in exile, was reportedly questioned and released by the Haitian authorities on Tuesday, after being charged with corruption, misappropriation of funds and illicit association.The independent expert noted that although the Haitian code of criminal procedure does provide for legal proceedings for offences that are more than ten years old, that requirement does not apply to serious crimes such as torture or crimes against humanity.On Tuesday, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that Mr. Duvalier’s return raises issues of impunity and accountability.