'Baby Doc' wants Haiti presidency

Former president Jean-Claude Duvalier seeks a return to power, despite facing corruption and theft charges.

    Some supporters may have hailed Duvalier's return, but human rights groups say he should face trial [EPA]

    Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, Haiti's former president, retains ambitions of returning to the presidency, despite the fact that he is currently facing charges of corruption and theft of funds, his lawyer has told Al Jazeera.

    "He is a political man. Every political man has political ambitions," Reynold Georges, Duvalier's lawyer, told Al Jazeera in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, on Wednesday.

    Asked if Duvalier retained ambitions of returning to power in Haiti, Georges replied: "That is right. Because under this new constitution, and let me tell you I am one of the persons who wrote that constitution, he has the right to do two mandates. Two!"

    Just a day earlier, Haitian prosecutors charged Duvalier over a number of offences related to the tens of billions of dollars that allegedly went missing from state funds during his 15-year rule.

    'Statute of limitations'

    When asked whether his client was innocent of the charges against him, Georges cited the "statute of limitations".

    "I am a lawyer, not a racketeer. I have to go by the law. And I have just told you what the law says about accusations. You have to make them in due time. After ten years? Shut up!" he said.

    Haiti is currently embroiled in a political crisis after disputes arose regarding the country's presidential election. International monitors said on Wednesday that the November polls to replace incumbent president Rene Preval were tainted by fraud and irregularities.

    "That's all fading into the background as focus turns towards Duvalier," Al Jazeera's Sebastian Walker, reporting from Port-au-Prince, said.

    It is unclear whether Duvalier, who unexpectedly returned to the country from exile on Sunday, would have a realistic chance of becoming president if he does decide to run.

    "His political support is not widespread, he is not seen as a figure who is relevant to the Haitian political landscape right now," Walker said, adding that most of Haiti's population is too young to remember Duvalier's time as president.

    "[The Haitian people] don't remember him. I would say that he does not have strong support there," Elizabeth Abbot, a Duvalier biographer, told Al Jazeera.

    "There is a little bit of support there, and it will erode when he is shown to be what he is: a man with no power, no money, he's not a smart man, he doesn't really have anything to offer, he never did."

    Duvalier has also been accused of crimes against humanity between 1971, when he came to power following the death of his father, and 1986, when he was ousted in a popular revolt.

    Torture accusations

    Four Haitians, including a former United Nations spokeswoman, filed criminal complaints against the former president on Wednesday.

    Michele Montas, the former spokeswoman for UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, said she and three other Haitians who had been jailed during Duvalier's rule filed the complaints with a Port-au-Prince prosecutor.

    "We have lodged lawsuits for arbitrary detention, exile, destruction of private property, torture and moral violation of civil and political rights," Montas said.

    "There are grounds not only to judge him for economic crimes but also for human rights abuses."

    The Tonton Macoutes, a secret police force loyal to Duvalier and his father who ruled before him, have been accused of kidnapping, torturing and killing up to 30,000 suspected opponents during the 1960s and 1970s.

    International human rights groups have urged the Haitian authorities to open a criminal investigation into Duvalier's responsibility for a multitude of human rights abuses that are said to have occurred during his reign.

    "If true justice is to be done in Haiti, the Haitian authorities need to open a criminal investigation into Duvalier's responsibility for the multitude of human rights abuses that were committed under his rule including torture, arbitrary detentions, rape, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions,'' Amnesty International said in a statement.

    Aristide return

    Jean-Bertrand Aristide, another former Haitian president, announced on Wednesday that he too would be returning to the country shortly.

    "Since my forced arrival in [Africa] ... the people of Haiti have never stopped calling for my return. Despite the enormous challenges that they face in the aftermath of the deadly January 12, 2010, earthquake, their determination to make the return happen has increased," he said in a statement.

    Aristide, who has been living in exile in South Africa for almost seven years, said his purpose was to "contribute to serving my Haitians sisters and brothers as a simple citizen in the field of education".

    He also said that his return was necessary for medical reasons, as the winter cold in South Africa would cause him "unbearable pain" in his eyes, which have undergone six surgeries in recent years.

    Aristide said he was ready to "leave today, tomorrow, at any time".

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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