No Justice for Duvalier Survivors


Court fails obligation to both victims and the law in Duvalier case

NEW YORK, Tuesday, January 31, 2012—A Haitian court’s decision to drop charges of crimes against humanity against former president Jean-Claude Duvalier is a blow to the victims of his brutal dictatorship and sends a disturbing signal that the country cannot fulfill its basic legal obligations, the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) said today.

“Haiti has a responsibility under both its own criminal code and international law to investigate all allegations of grave human rights abuses and bring their perpetrators to justice,” said Paul Seils, vice president of ICTJ.

The court confirmed Duvalier will face charges relating to corruption and embezzlement that took place during his 15 year presidency, but has thrown out allegations he is also guilty of crimes against humanity—including torture, disappearances, and extrajudicial killings.

Duvalier’s defense argued that Haiti’s 10-year statute of limitations expired on these alleged crimes in 1998. International law explicitly states crimes against humanity will not be subject to any statute of limitations.

The written judgment has not yet been made public. The court’s decision will be reviewed by the Haitian attorney general.

“We know the investigation was poorly resourced and that victims who came forward have been subjected to intimidation by Duvalier’s lawyers and supporters,” Seils said. “In addition, President Michel Martelly’s comments last week suggesting he may pardon Duvalier raised the concern of possible political interference in the case.”

ICTJ urges the attorney general to review the court’s decision in accordance with international law. Failure to do so would leave serious questions about the ability and will of the Haitian judiciary at a time when it desperately needs to demonstrate both competence and independence.

About ICTJ

The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) works to redress and prevent the most severe violations of human rights by confronting legacies of mass abuse. ICTJ seeks holistic solutions to promote accountability and create just and peaceful societies. For more information, visit

Listen to a podcast with Paul Seils on the Duvalier case.


Paul Seils (New York) Vice President, ICTJ Tel +1-917-637-3977 Cell +1-917-826-7471

Photo: Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier speaks to the media January 21, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti following his return from exile. Copyright Lee Celano/Getty Images.