A court hearing scheduled for Haiti’s former ruler Jean-Claude Duvalier has been postponed for two weeks, due to an overlap with the 27th anniversary of the former dictator’s ousting. Duvalier may face charges in the capital, Port-au-Prince, for crimes against humanity for human rights abuses. Duvalier, nicknamed “Baby Doc,” held power from 1971 to 1986, inheriting the presidency from his father at 19. Duvalier spent decades in exile before returning to Haiti in January 2011. Just days later, he was arrested and charged with corruption, theft and misappropriation of funds.
Lawyers for the former leader called the originally scheduled Feb. 7 date “careless,” believing that the hearing could lead to civil unrest in the area. The defense’s motion to reschedule was granted after Duvalier, 61, failed to appear in court, the second time the former leader skipped a court date. International organizations such as Amnesty International have expressed concern that Haitian officials will not continue the case against Duvalier, due to the delay in formal charges.
“The conclusion of the sham investigation into Duvalier is a disgrace and will further entrench impunity in Haiti. No serious effort was made to determine the truth despite the multiple complaints and abundant evidence about the crimes committed and the victims,” Amnesty International special advisor Javier Zúñiga reported last month.
“The handful of victims that have been interviewed had been subjected to intimidation by Duvalier supporters and his lawyers,” Zúñiga continued. “It is clear that the investigating judge left out invaluable evidence and decided not to interview all the victims that filed complaints. This is a dark day for Haiti and for justice.”
Though he was officially placed under house arrest, Duvalier has traveled freely throughout the country, and was invited to appear at official ceremonies. According to the Associated Press, Duvalier would face a maximum of five years in prison if found guilty of the financial charges against him.