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Tuesday, December 8, 1998 Published at 21:40 GMT

World: Americas

'Bring Baby Doc to justice'

Baby Doc Duvalier - tens of thousands killed and tortured under his rule

A group of Haitian exiles living in France has called for the arrest and trial of the former president of Haiti, Jean-Claude Duvalier.

They say that 47-year old Mr Duvalier, better known as Baby Doc, should be charged with crimes against humanity because of his role in tens of thousands of murders during his own rule and also in that of his father, known as Papa Doc.

"It is our duty to make sure Jean-Claude Duvalier is tried for the memory of the 60,000 victims of his regime and that of his father Francois," said Gerald Bloncourt, founder of a committee seeking a trial for the former dictator.

BBC Paris correspondent Hugh Schofield says the arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in Britain has given heart to the exiles that Baby Doc Duvalier could be brought to justice.

No official asylum

Jean-Claude Duvalier fled spiralling unrest in Haiti in 1986, and settled in France, although the French authorities have never formally granted him political asylum.

He was allowed to enter the country on an eight-day visitor's visa by then Socialist Prime Minister Laurent Fabius, who is now president of the National Assembly, but the authorities turned a blind eye when his documents expired.

The French Ministry of the Interior now says it has "lost track" of Mr Duvalier who it says has "probably" left French territory.

But Haitian exiles claim that Duvalier was seen in Paris in mid-1998.

Mr Duvalier's lawyer in Paris, Sauveur Vaisse, also says he is "still living in France", but would not say where.

According to Mr Bloncourt of the exiles' committee France is still protecting Mr Duvalier.

"He comes and goes freely and all the authorities claim to ignore where he is, that's impossible," Mr Bloncourt.

Pinochet's precedent

[ image: General Pinochet - still under arrest in London]
General Pinochet - still under arrest in London
Mr Duvalier's lawyer said that his client had been shocked at recent press reports comparing him with General Pinochet, but had no fear that any attempts to bring him to trial would succeed.

"For the time being, Jean-Claude Duvalier is not the object of any complaint of this type in Haiti or in France," Mr Vaisse said.

The Duvaliers ruled Haiti from 1957, when Papa Doc came to power and, helped by his private militia, the Tontons Macoutes, introduced an iron fist rule.

On his father's death in 1971, 19-year old Baby Doc was named president for life and continued in Papa Doc's footsteps.

Iron fist rule

During their 31-year rule tens of thousands of people were killed, some tortured to death. It has been alleged that even on the eve of his flight into exile Baby Doc was torturing and killing prisoners in the presidential palace.

Baby Doc was alleged to have brought with him a fortune of tens of millions of dollars looted from his country, and for the first years of exile he lived in luxury on the Cote d'Azur.

But his luck changed when divorce from his wife cost him most of his fortune. He left his villa without even paying the telephone bill, and is now said to be destitute and sick.

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