Prosecuting Jean-Claude Duvalier: Interview with Paul Seils



Four Haitians then stepped forward and brought a second case against him for crimes against humanity. Duvalier led Haiti from 1971-1986, leaving the country after a popular uprising accused him of brutality and misuse of government power.

Paul Seils, ICTJ’s legal counsel, recently traveled to Haiti to speak with justice actors about the cases against Duvalier, the potential for a public forum to bring out more information about the Duvalier period and how the judiciary can ensure a trial that is fair and allows for the participation of victims of rights violations during that period.


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“What we’re keen on doing,” Seils says, “is at least maximizing the information that’s coming out in such a way that victims have a way of making sure that their rights are vindicated in some form.”

Seils believes that international actors can play a crucial role in supporting Haiti during this case primarily by calling for a thorough investigation and a fair, transparent trial. The most difficult task ahead, according to Seils, may be how to ensure the qualitative participation of victims in the justice process when many still fear retribution.

“[There remain] huge levels of fear,” Seils adds. “Most of the people who were political opponents, either civilian dissidents or as political activists, basically were either kicked out of the country or left the country for fear of their own safety. That means that the prospects of coming back and speaking out really have to be measured against their own memories of those fears, but also what the circumstances are for being protected and taken seriously now. Talking to some of the victims that are bringing the cases just now, it’s very clear that fear still plays a large part.”