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Duvalier ‘has right to return’

rhondathompson, [email protected]

Duvalier ‘has right to return’

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SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – In his first public statement since former Haitian dictator Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier returned home unexpectedly on January 16 from exile in France, President Rene Preval says the former strongman has every right to do so.
He, however, said Duvalier must now face an investigation of alleged abuses during his rule.
“Duvalier had the right to return to the country, but under the constitution, he also must face justice,” Preval told reporters, flanked by Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.
Preval said he and Bellerive had met here on Saturday, with Dominican President Leonel Fernandez for four hours, to discuss Haiti’s political crisis and the ravaging cholera epidemic.  
“If Duvalier is not in prison now, it is because he has not yet been tried,” Preval said.
He said, by law, Haitians cannot be prohibited from their homeland, stating that that applies to both Duvalier and former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who has been in exile in South Africa since his 2004 ouster but recently expressed interest in returning to his impoverished, French-speaking Caribbean homeland. 
“They do not depend on my decision,” Preval said. “It is the nation’s constitution that prohibits exile.”
In breaking his silence since his unexpected return home, Duvalier told nationals on Friday that he decided to end his near 25-year exile to help in Haiti’s reconstruction.
Haiti was ravaged by a massive earthquake on January 12 last year that killed more than 300,000 people and left about 1.5 million homeless.
“When I made the decision to come back to Haiti to commemorate this sad anniversary with you, in our country, I was ready for any kind of persecution,” said Duvalier in a brief statement.
 “The desire to participate at your sides in this endeavor for the national construction far surpasses the personal hassles I could have confronted,” he added, in apparent reference to the allegations made against him by Haitian authorities, including embezzlement, fraud, and crimes against humanity.
Human rights groups say that the 59-year-old former leader ruled Haiti from 1971 to 1986 through terror. They say thousands of Haitians were imprisoned, tortured or killed during his rule.
Duvalier’s statement came on the day the United States revoked visas of some Haitian officials, hoping to increase pressure on the government to resolve the political crisis stemming from November’s disputed presidential elections.
“Our focus at the present time is in ensuring a free, fair and credible election process in Haiti,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
Since Duvalier’s return, prosecutors have charged him with embezzlement and corruption; others followed by filing human rights abuse complaints against him.
Duvalier’s sudden return has thrown Haiti into confusion amid election officials’ struggle to resolve the results of the November 28 vote.
The Organization of American States (OAS) has urged Haitian officials to accept a report drafted by a team of its election experts, showing that third-place finisher, popular musician Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, not ruling party candidate Jude Célestin, should advance to a runoff with ex-first lady Mirlande Manigat.
The findings ran counter to preliminary results that showed that Célestin and Manigat won spots in the second round and that Martelly finished third – a move that unleashed two days of unrest.
Martelly on Friday called on the Provisional Electoral Council to accept the OAS report, saying he was the victim of a plot orchestrated by the ruling party and electoral commission.
The Haitian government has called the OAS findings flawed, and election officials have said they are not bound by the OAS recommendations.
A runoff scheduled for January 16 was postponed, and no new date has been set. (CMC)