Former dictator Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier is facing some blowback after breezing into Haiti last Sunday following a 25-year absence. On Wednesday, prominent Haitian journalist and former UN spokesperson Michele Montas joined three others in filing criminal complaints against the former dictator who returned to the country Sunday, just days after the anniversary of last year’s devastating earthquake.
The allegations–filed by Montas, along with former political prisoners Alix Fils-Aime, Rosiers Claude, and Nicole Magloire–include illegal detention, enforced exile, destruction of private property, physical and psychological torture, and violation of civil and political rights, according to press reports.
Montas, who endured threats, detention, and an assassination attempt in reprisal for her journalistic work, is no stranger to the courtroom. She petitioned fiercely for justice in the 2000 murder of her husband, Jean Dominique, owner and director of the independent radio station Radio Haïti-Inter. Radio Haïti-Inter and its staff suffered frequent harassment throughout the Duvalier years. The station was shuttered and Montas and Dominique were expelled from the country in 1980, an injustice that continued until the dictator’s ouster in 1986.
CPJ research shows that the persecution Montas and Dominique faced during the Duvalier regime was common. In 1985, for example, CPJ’s Attacks on the Press found three journalists were detained, two arrested, one harassed, and one expelled from the country, while two radio stations were shuttered.
Montas’ complaint came on the heels of Duvalier’s arrest Tuesday on charges of corruption, embezzlement of public funds, and abuse of power. Duvalier was released by a Haitian court pending an investigation into the charges. The court ordered him to remain in Haiti for the duration of the investigation.
Journalist Lilian Pierre-Paul, whose arrests, harassment and imprisonment at the hands of the regime prompted her exile in 1980, told EFE yesterday that she is disappointed by Tuesday’s legal proceedings against Duvalier, which she called nothing but “show business.” She called on victims of the regime to take a stronger stand against the dictator.
Duvalier’s return has prompted international human rights watchdogs to renew calls on Haitian authorities to fully prosecute those responsible for human rights abuses committed during Duvalier’s reign including disappearances, torture, and executions.