Press Release

IACHR Welcomes Decision of the Haitian Court of Appeals to Investigate Serious Human Rights Violations Committed under the Regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier

February 28, 2014

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights welcomes the decision issued by the Court of Appeals in Port-au-Prince on February 20, 2014, in which it ordered to investigate the serious human rights violations committed under the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier.

After the return of Jean-Claude Duvalier to Haiti in January 2011, a group of victims filed criminal complaints against the former president for life for alleged human rights violations committed under his regime. On January 27, 2012, the investigating judge declared that the statute of limitations had run out for the crimes related to human rights violations and decided that Duvalier would stand trial for the crime of embezzlement of public funds.

On February 20, 2014, the Court of Appeals in Port-au-Prince concluded that international law is part of Haitian domestic law and that, therefore, statutory limitations do not apply to crimes against humanity. The Court further established that there is sufficient evidence to investigate Duvalier´s criminal responsibility and ordered that an investigation be opened in which all parties be heard and all the accused be interrogated.

The serious and systematic human rights violations committed under the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier were documented by the Inter-American Commission in its Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, published in 1979 and prepared on the basis of an in loco observation visit to Haiti which took place in August, 1978. In May 2011, after the return of Jean-Claude Duvalier to Haiti, the IACHR issued a statement on the duty of the Haitian State to investigate those violations and pointed out that “the torture, extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances committed during the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier are crimes against humanity that, as such, are subject neither to a statute of limitations nor to amnesty laws.” In accordance with consolidated jurisprudence of the inter-American system on human rights, the non-applicability of statutory limitations to crimes against humanity is an imperative norm of international law that States must comply with.

The decision of the Court of Appeals in Port-au-Prince represents a fundamental step in the strengthening of the rule of law and in restoring confidence in the Haitian justice system. The IACHR congratulates the Republic of Haiti for this important achievement and hopes that the investigation will take place in accordance with due process guarantees and based on the premise of justice, truth and reparation for victims of human rights violations.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 24/14