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Former Haitian leader must face charges for human rights abuses …

Article / Review by on January 31, 2012 – 6:05 pmNo Comments

Former Haitian leader must face charges for human rights abuses, says UN

31 January 2012 – The United Nations today voiced its concern at reports that former Haitian President Jean-Claude Duvalier may not face charges relating to the serious human rights violations that took place during his 15-year rule, while stressing that justice must be ensured for the victims.

Crowds outside the Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince after elections in 2011. UN Photo/Victoria HazouCrowds outside the Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince after elections in 2011. /UN Photo/Victoria Hazou

Serious human rights violations, including torture, rape, and extrajudicial killings have been extensively documented by Haitian and international human rights organizations to have occurred in the country during his reign, stated a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

“The High Commissioner has consistently reminded Haiti of its absolute obligation to investigate these well-documented serious human rights violations and to prosecute those responsible for them,” Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva.

Human rights groups have long called for Mr. Duvalier to be arrested in relation to rights abuses carried out during his rule. The former president made a surprise return to Haiti in January 2011, after 25 years of exile in France and amidst a political crisis in his country.

Soon after Mr. Duvalier’s return, OHCHR offered Haitian authorities technical assistance for prosecuting crimes committed from 1971 to 1986 when he was in power.

Mr. Colville voiced concern about a string of reports quoting Haitian judicial officials as saying that Mr. Duvalier may only face charges of financial corruption rather than ones relating to human rights abuses during his time in power.

“We are extremely disappointed at reports that Mr. Duvalier may not be charged with any human rights crimes, despite numerous complaints by victims to the prosecutor,” he stated.

“It is clear under international law that there is no statute of limitations for such crimes, and the UN human rights office has provided technical assistance and legal advice stressing this point.”

Mr. Colville added that impunity for such serious crimes cannot be allowed to prevail.

“We urge the relevant authorities to ensure that justice is, belatedly, delivered to the many victims of human rights abuses committed under the government of Mr. Duvalier. There can be no true reconciliation and forgiveness without justice.”

The Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, Michel Forst, also voiced his concern about the reports that Mr. Duvalier may not face charges for rights abuses.

“If information about Jean-Claude Duvalier is confirmed, then this would a very serious blow to the credibility of the process of judicial reform in Haiti,” he stated as he arrived in the country for an eight-day mission. “The existence of crimes committed by the Duvalier regime is well established and has been confirmed,” he added.

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Press briefing notes on Haiti

31 January 2012
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Subject: Haiti

We are very concerned about a string of reports quoting Haitian judicial officials saying that former President Jean-Claude Duvalier may only face charges of financial corruption rather than ones relating to the serious human rights violations that took place during his time in power.

Very serious human rights violations, including torture, rape, and extra-judicial killings have been extensively documented by Haitian and international human rights organizations to have occurred in Haiti during the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier. The High Commissioner has consistently reminded Haiti of its absolute obligation to investigate these well-documented serious human rights violations and to prosecute those responsible for them.

It is clear under international law that there is no statute of limitations for such crimes, and the UN Human Rights office has provided technical assistance and legal advice stressing this point. We are extremely disappointed at reports that Mr. Duvalier may not be charged with any human rights crimes, despite numerous complaints by victims to the prosecutor. Impunity for such serious crimes cannot be allowed to prevail and we urge the relevant authorities to ensure that justice is, belatedly, delivered to the many victims of human rights abuses committed under the government of Mr. Duvalier. There can be no true reconciliation and forgiveness without justice.

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About Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) 

Who we are

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) represents the world’s commitment to universal ideals of human dignity. We have a unique mandate from the international community to promote and protect all human rights.

Leadership

The High Commissioner for Human Rights is the principal human rights official of the United Nations. The High Commissioner heads OHCHR and spearheads the United Nations’ human rights efforts. We offer leadership, work objectively, educate and take action to empower individuals and assist States in upholding human rights. We are a part of the United Nations Secretariat with our headquarters in Geneva.

The Office’s priorities are set out in two key strategic documents: the OHCHR Plan of Action and its Strategic Management Plan 2010-2011. These priorities include greater country engagement, working closely with our partners at the country and local levels, in order to ensure that international human rights standards are implemented on the ground; a stronger leadership role for the High Commissioner; and closer partnerships with civil society and United Nations agencies.

United Nations human rights system

We also support the work of the United Nations human rights mechanisms, such as the Human Rights Council and the core treaty bodies set up for monitoring State Parties’ compliance with international human rights treaties, promote the right to development, coordinate United Nations human rights education and public information activities, and strengthens human rights across the United Nations system. We work to ensure the enforcement of universally recognized human rights norms, including through promoting both the universal ratification and implementation of the major human rights treaties and respect for the rule of law.

Our structure

We have an office at United Nations headquarters in New York and offices in numerous countries and regions. In addition to the Executive Office of the High Commissioner and a number of units that report to the Deputy High Commissioner, OHCHR has two major divisions and four branches.

To implement our comprehensive mandate, we employ more than 850 staff (last update in April 2007), based in Geneva and New York and in 11 country offices and seven regional offices around the world, including a workforce of some 240 international human rights officers serving in UN peace missions.  We are funded from the United Nations regular budget and from voluntary contributions from Member States, intergovernmental organizations, foundations and individuals.

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> United Nations (UN).

The General Assembly in session. Photo credit: UN / Eskinder Debebe The United Nations was established on 24 October 1945 by 51 countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the UN: membership totals 192 countries.

When States become Members of the United Nations, they agree to accept the obligations of the UN Charter, an international treaty that sets out basic principles of international relations. According to the Charter, the UN has four purposes:

  • to maintain international peace and security;
  • to develop friendly relations among nations;
  • to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights;
  • and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.

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* The above story is adapted from materials provided by United Nations (UN)
** More information at United Nations (UN)

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