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Haiti: Dictator Duvalier Only Facing Charges for Embezzlement of Public Funds

(Feb. 7, 2012) On January 30, 2012, investigating judge Carvès Jean rendered an order sending former dictator Jean Claude Duvalier before the competent Haitian tribunal correctionnel for embezzlement of public funds. The offense carries a maximum sentence of five years of imprisonment. Duvalier, who had been placed under house arrest upon his return to Haiti in January 2011, may now move about freely pending the trial. (Jean-Robert Fleury, Duvalier libre de ses mouvements ira devant le tribunal correctionnel, LE NOUVELLISTE (Jan. 30, 2012).)

The tribunal correctionnel has jurisdiction over délits. In criminal matters, Haitian law distinguishes three categories of offenses. In broad terms, crimes are a small category of very serious offenses such as murder or rape; délits are less serious offenses such as theft, fraud, assault, and involuntary homicide; and the last category, contraventions, includes a large range of regulatory offenses often of strict liability.

Jean Claude Duvalier had been under judicial investigation on charges of corruption, embezzlement, and crimes against humanity since his return to Haiti. (Nicole Atwill, Haiti: Legal Status of Former Dictator Jean Claude Duvalier, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Jan. 31, 2011).) The judge's order, which does not include any reference to crimes against humanity, has been criticized by numerous human rights organizations and the United Nations. It appears that the judge did not find enough evidence for Duvalier to stand trial for those additional charges. (Sung Un Kim, Haiti Ex-President Duvalier Will Not Face Trial for Rights Violations, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (Jan. 31, 2012).)

The order may be appealed by the victims. Amnesty International has vowed to continue helping these victims in their search for justice. (Haiti: Dropping Jean-Claude Duvalier Case “a Disgrace,” Amnesty International website (Jan. 31, 2012).)