Monday, January 17, 2011

Charges Mulled for Duvalier; United States Worried Over Haiti

Charges mulled for Duvalier; US worried over Haiti

Jan 17, 2011, 2:49 GMT

Washington/Port-au-Prince - The dust began to settle Monday on the surprise return of ousted dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier to Haiti as a Haitian journalist said she will bring charges to have him arrested.

Michele Montas, a journalist and former spokeswoman to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, told CNN from Haiti that she planned to go to a public prosecutor to file an official complaint against Duvalier for his brutality during the 1971-1986 dictatorship.

The US administration has officially remained silent about Duvalier's return, but a statement from the US State Department quoted by McClatchy newspapers indicated surprise and worry.

'We are surprised at the timing of this visit, given the continuing turmoil surrounding the November 28, 2010, elections as well as the unpredictable impact of Duvalier's return on Haiti's political situation,' the statement was quoted as saying.

A State Department official told the German Press Agency dpa that the agency had not issued a formal statement on Haiti, but that perhaps a colleague had spoken to McClatchy newspapers.

Duvalier's return comes amid a backdrop of political and social turmoil in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Haiti is still struggling to recover from an earthquake that last year killed close to 230,000 people, and which was followed by hurricanes, a raging cholera epidemic and disputed presidential elections, with a run-off vote expected in the coming weeks.

Montas and her journalist husband Jean Dominique fled Haiti during the Duvalier years after their radio station came under repeated attacks.

'I will go to press charges (against Duvalier.) We have enough proof,' she vowed.

Duvalier, 59, apparently faces no formal pending charges in Haiti for his brutality, but his foreign accounts have been frozen where he had been living in Europe. She said many young people were not aware of 'how much it cost in human lives' during Duvalier's dictatorship.

'It is our duty to remind them,' she said.

Garry Pierre Pierre, editor of the New York-based Haitian Times, said the roots of Haiti's current-day dysfunction lie in the Duvalier family's rule, starting with Francois 'Papa Doc' Duvalier from 1957 to 1971. He recalled that even within families, wives and husbands did not trust each other for fear of political reprisals, leaving 'very deep psychological scars.'

'If there is a bright spot (about the return,) it's that finally we have to face that demon that we have never faced straight on,' Pierre Pierre said in broadcast remarks.

Human Rights Watch also called for Duvalier's arrest.

'Duvalier's return to Haiti should be for one purpose only: To face justice,' said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) earlier Monday.

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