MADRE Statements

MADRE Signs on to Open Letter to the President of Haiti

Posted on: Friday, January 27, 2012

Keywords: Haiti, Latin American and Caribbean

Open letter to the President of the Republic, Mr. Michel Joseph Martelly

Port-au-Prince, 23 January 2012

Mr. Michel Joseph Martelly
President of the Republic of Haiti
National Palace

Object: The case against the former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier

Dear Mr. President,

In the name of truth and justice, the signatories to this letter believe that it is of paramount importance that the nation be informed about the state of the criminal proceedings against the former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier who returned to the country he ravaged 25 years after a popular revolt forced him to seek sanctuary in France.

A few days after his return, several victims of his dictatorial regime filed complaints against him. The Prosecutor’s Office in Port-au-Prince, contrary to what is required by law, hastened to send the complaints to the investigating judges’ office without carrying out a preliminary investigation, identifying the perpetrators, co-perpetrators and accomplices of all the prohibited acts reported. At the investigating judges’ office, with the exception of hearing the plaintiffs’ testimonies, no thorough investigation has been carried out.

We wish to restate that it is the State’s responsibility to take all necessary measures to establish the facts in relation to the crimes perpetrated under the responsibility of the former President-for-life Jean-Claude Duvalier. Duvalier had proclaimed himself Commander in Chief of the Haitian Armed Forces and the National Security Volunteers (commonly known as tonton macoutes), and governed autocratically. Therefore, it is fundamental to show a strong and absolute determination, firstly, by giving the investigating judge all the human and material resources needed to conduct a thorough investigation; and secondly, by accepting the collaboration and expertise offered to the Haitian government and the justice system by authoritative institutions, in particular the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

We reiterate that crimes against humanity are characterized not only by their number and their systematic nature, but also by the brutality and inhumanity with which they are committed. The crimes perpetrated during the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier correspond to this category of crimes under international law which is binding on Haiti. Contrary to the claims of Duvalier supporters, these systematic and serious crimes are not subject to a statute of limitations and Haitian courts have competency to prosecute crimes against humanity.

We are concerned and distraught that after one year, Jean-Claude Duvalier has not been held to account despite the fact he is under investigation by the Haitian state and he is the object of complaints by victims. His co-perpetrators and his accomplices are also to be held accountable. The case has not moved forward in accordance with the necessity of imparting justice.

We raise our voices against the tendency toward dismissing Duvalier’s dictatorship, against the contempt for the legitimate quest for justice by those who suffered and continue to suffer in silence, and who are confronted with the arrogance and the threats of those for whom the law is an illusion. Who ordered the restitution of Jean-Claude Duvalier’s properties, obtained at the cost of the blood of the Haitian people? How can we accept that he receives a state pension as if he had been a good president and served the nation with honor and integrity?

Mr. President, the Haitian authorities can no longer, like Pontius Pilate, wash their hands of all responsibility in this matter. The Executive branch of government and the Parliament have precisely to ensure that adequate resources are available to the justice system in order to carry on with its fundamental mission: to seek the truth. Haiti’s national reconciliation, so highly desired and yet so long awaited, will inevitably occur through unveiling the truth about this period of history that has deeply marked our society.

We, sons and daughters of Haiti, condemn the repeated insults against direct and indirect victims of the Duvalier regime. Duvalier’s sponsorship of the students’ graduation at the Law and Economic Sciences School in Gonaïves is an open provocation but seeing Jean-Claude Duvalier beside the President of the Republic in Titanyen is even more unbearable.

Mr. President, the presence of Jean-Claude Duvalier in Titanyen can be understood as an act of sacrilege and complicity. It is an absolute insult and an offence to the nation that we cannot accept. How could we forget, that Titanyen, like Fort-Dimanche, is the graveyard of thousands of Haitians, dehumanized, tortured by the henchmen of Jean-Claude Duvalier and his father and whose bodies were dumped there for the dogs to feed on?

Mr. President, you have promised, during your electoral campaign and in the government programme you run with Prime Minister Mr. Gary Conille, to devote yourself to the construction of the rule of law in our troubled country. Impunity and the rule of law cannot coexist under any circumstance; there cannot be reconciliation without justice. To fulfill your promises, it is essential, that according to your functions as defined in the Constitution, you exhort Haitians to leave behind ancient practices and embrace the law, without bias and without exceptions.

Jean-Claude Duvalier must be brought to trial for the crimes against humanity for which he is responsible, and the embezzlement of public funds as already recognized by a Swiss court. Ending impunity is a sine qua non condition for the reconstruction of Haiti, that is the unequivocal message long  awaited by the nation.

Please accept, Mr. President, our patriotic salutations.

Signatory organizations and individuals (open list):

1. Collective against impunity (a structure regrouping plaintiffs and human rights organizations)

2. Ecumenical Center for Human Rights (Centre Œcuménique des droits humains, CEDH)

3. Pétion Bolivar Centre

4. Center for Economic and Social Research and Training for Development (Centre de recherches et de formation économique et sociale pour le développement,  CRESFED)

5. Justice and Peace Episcopal Commission (Commission épiscopale Justice et paix, JILAP)

6. Refugees and Repatriates Support Group (Groupe d’appui aux rapatriés et réfugiés, GARR)

7. Research and Intervention Group in Alternative Education (Groupe de recherche et d’intervention en éducation alternative (GRIEAL)

8. Kay Fanm (Women’s house)

9. Haitian Women’s Movement for Education and Development (Mouvement des femmes haïtiennes pour l’éducation et le développement, MOUFHED)

10. National Human Rights Defense Network (Réseau national de défense des droits humains,  RNDDH)

11. Haitian Human Rights Organizations Platform (Plateforme des organisations haïtiennes de droits humains, POHDH)

12. Alix Ambroise

13. Carlo Cantave

14. Jean-Max Calvin

15. Paul A. Corbanese

16. Eddy Chapoteau

17. Bernac Célestin

18. George Jean-Charles

19. Julien Jumelle

20. Patrick Lemoine

21. Michèle Montas

22. Raoul Peck

23. Elder F. Thébaud


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