Baby Doc Duvalier not in court: What now?

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL February 21, 2013
Michele and Jean-Claude Duvalier, Haiti, Baby Doc, dictator

The way they were: Baby Doc and his ex-wife Michele in the sumptuously appointed National Palace

“Baby Doc isn’t showing,” tweeted Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch from the courtroom in Port au Prince where Baby Doc was expected at 10 am today.

A betting man might have made a fortune out of any wager on whether or not Haiti’s ex-dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier would make it into court and whether he will ever be punished as appropriately as he might.

Today, a judge was expected to hear an appeal against last year’s court decision that too much time had passed for the now 61-year-old ‘Baby Doc’ to be charged with crimes against humanity. It was all but a re-run of February 7, when Duvalier failed to show up in court and casually asked that the hearing be postponed. Even before the sun came up in Port au Prince, his lawyers were telling anyone who would listen that they had already asked the Supreme Court to prevent the hearing. Lawyers for Baby Doc’s victims argued that it was a “frivolous” move but the complaint was all but drowned out by  the habitual static of injustice that seems to issue from this part of the world.

On February &, Baby Doc offered the strongest of a specious set of reasons advanced by his team so far, to prevent the judicial process from beginning. His lawyer, Fritzo Canton, argued that the very date chosen for the hearing – February 7 – had been biased and unfair to his client because it was the anniversary of the day in 1986 when Duvalier was overthrown.

It had been “unwise” for the judge to summon him to appear on “a date so charged with resentment and emotion,” Canton argued.

So how did February 21 rate as a suitable day to see Baby Doc in court? As good a day as any, most would say. Hope springs eternal in the do-gooder’s heart and just yesterday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reminded Haiti of its duty to probe, prosecute and punish human rights violations. Anyone who wants to be convinced why it’s appropriate at least to bring the man to trial – or attempt to do so – might do worse than check out this by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

Amnesty sent an observer in the hope that the hearing would be held. And the world is watching, but perhaps not quite with baited breath. So what happens now? Will Baby Doc be arrested? And if not, how will the Haitian Establishment weasel out of this one?

Jack Kerouac

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”
– Jack Kerouac