In the News: Testimony resumes in Haiti’s ‘Baby Doc’ case

by Evens Sanon. Originally posted at The Miami Herald

Nicole MagloirePORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Testimony in the high-profile case of former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier resumed Thursday, with another alleged victim describing abuses she says were committed under his rule.

Dr. Nicole Magloire told an appellate court about the broad influence wielded by the former leader known as “Baby Doc,” and the alleged violations associated with his 15-year government.

Duvalier “was declared supreme leader of all the armed forces in the country,” said Magloire, an opposition leader who fled into exile during that era. “He was in charge of the National Palace. He was in charge of the army. He was in charge of the country.”

Magloire is the third person this month to testify about alleged abuses under Duvalier, a playboy strongman who inherited power from his father Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and ruled Haiti from 1971-1986 with the help of the Tonton Macoutes private militia.

Last week, two other people described ghastly prison conditions they said they endured while locked up for months in a prison notorious for torture.

Magloire spent five days behind bars after being arrested by government of the younger Duvalier, the former “president for life” known as “Baby Doc.”

Defense attorney Fritzo Canton asked her Thursday if the arrest might have been a mistake. “If I was arrested by mistake, I was imprisoned by mistake and forced into exile by mistake,” Magloire said.

Duvalier was charged with human rights abuses and embezzlement in 2011 after his surprise return to Haiti following 25 years in exile. His attorneys say he is innocent on both counts.

A lower court threw out the human rights charges and said Duvalier should face charges only for the alleged financial crimes.

The court of appeals is now considering whether to reinstate the rights abuse charges, and is looking at an appeal by Duvalier’s legal team to drop the embezzlement charges as well.

The case could also go to a trial.

Duvalier recently made a surprise appearance in court, after failing to honor three earlier orders to appear, and testified that Haiti was better off under his watch.

International and local human rights groups hailed Duvalier’s day-long testimony a small triumph for a judiciary long plagued with dysfunction and corruption.

The 61-year-old Duvalier suddenly checked into an unspecified hospital following his court appearance, his attorney Reynold Georges said. The attorney said Thursday that Duvalier had since left the hospital, but declined to say when.

The court will hear more testimony from alleged victims next week.