BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – Haiti could be in for a blood bath if former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide returns to Port-au-Prince while former Haitian dictator Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier is in the country.
So warns St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas on Tuesday, hours before news broke that the former Haitian dictator was slapped with several charges including corruption, theft and misappropriation of funds that were allegedly committed during his 15 year rule.
“We know that the situation is very explosive in Haiti at this time with the return of former Haitian dictator Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, who has had a trail of blood in Haiti. With several statements including calls for the return of deposed former Haitian President, Jean-Claude Aristide from South Africa, it means that there is going to be increased political pressure because there must be Duvalierists and supporters of the Duvalier regime in Haiti and for Aristide to return and with Duvalier on the ground and in the absence of a credible succession plan following the last election, then of course Haiti could become embroiled in a blood bath,” said Prime Minister Douglas in response to a caller on his radio programme “Ask the Prime Minister” on Tuesday morning.
“I want us to pray for Haiti and hope that the presence of Duvalier in Haiti at this time does not lead to continued conflict and unsettling of the situation there,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
CMC reported Tuesday afternoon that Duvalier, 59, was picked up by the Haitian authorities.
“His fate is now in the hands of the investigating judge. We have brought charges against him,” said Port-au-Prince chief prosecutor, Aristidas Auguste.
Under Haitian law, the charges must now be investigated by the judge who will decide whether a judicial case should go ahead.
A number of human rights groups, including Amnesty International and American Watch, had called on the authorities here to arrest Duvalier, who had been staying at a luxury hotel since his return.
Duvalier was whisked to court on Tuesday under heavy police guard, some in riot gear, and he appeared calm as he waved to a small group of supporters.
“Mr. Duvalier is under the control of the judicial system. He’s not free, he’s going to my office,” Auguste said when he was brought to the court house.
A spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights said it should be easier to prosecute Duvalier in Haiti because it was where atrocities took place even as he acknowledged that the judicial system was fragile.
The return of Duvalier comes against the backdrop of great uncertainty in Haiti following disputed presidential elections that have created a political vacuum with riots between rival factions that left five dead.
One year after a catastrophic earthquake killed an estimated 300,000 people and left more than a million others homeless, much of the capital Port-au-Prince remains in ruins and a cholera epidemic has claimed almost 4,000 lives.
A French diplomatic source in Port-au-Prince told an international news agency that Duvalier had booked a return ticket to France dated January 20.
Duvalier, also called “Baby Doc” came to power in 1971 when he was just 19. Like his father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier ruled the French Caribbean country with an iron fist and human rights groups said he was responsible for various abuses as well as stealing millions of dollars from the impoverished country.
The dreaded Tonton Macoutes, a secret police force loyal to the Duvalier family, have been accused of kidnapping, torturing and killing up to 30,000 suspected opponents during the 1960s and 1970s.
In 2007, Duvalier called on Haitians to forgive him for the “mistakes” committed during his reign, but outgoing President, Rene Preval dismissed his remarks at the time and said the former dictator should face justice.