UN rights chief offers Haiti help for Duvalier case

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UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said Tuesday that Haiti must prosecute systematic violations under ex-dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier's rule, offering the impoverished nation technical assistance to do so.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights underlined that there was no statute of limitations under international law for serious violations such as torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and rape.

"Haiti has an obligation to investigate the well-documented serious human rights violations that occurred during the rule of Mr. Duvalier, and to prosecute those responsible for them," she said.

"Such systematic violations of rights cannot remain unaddressed. The thousands of Haitians who suffered under this regime deserve justice," Pillay added.

Within 48 hours of exiled Duvalier's return to the country on January 16, prosecutors levelled embezzlement and corruption charges against him, mainly related to the alleged siphoning off of millions of dollars of public funds.

So far private lawsuits have also been filed against the 59-year-old former strongman over alleged human rights violations and torture, and judicial officials expect more complaints to follow.

"I call on the Haitian authorities to send a message to the world that their national courts can ensure accountability for serious violations of human rights, even in difficult humanitarian and political contexts," said Pillay.

Her spokesman, Rupert Colville, said the offer was mainly motivated by the destruction Haiti's already frail institutions suffered during the devastating earthquake that levelled parts of the capital Port-au-Prince a year ago.

© 2011 AFP

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