Baby Doc Arrested in Haiti

Baby Doc Arrested in Haiti

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 Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, a former Haitian dictator, was taken into police custody Jan. 18, two days after his shocking return to the beleaguered country.

Hours earlier, he had been in talks with Haiti’s chief prosecutor inside his posh hotel in Petionville.

SWAT teams and a swarm of journalists surrounded the building in anticipation of the 59-year-old’s exit. He was escorted out by police without handcuffs, several news outlets reported. As he left, he waved to the massive crowd, holding his wife’s hand. CNN first reported Duvalier was transported to a courthouse for a hearing on his possible arrest. In a story update, CNN said a source close to Duvalier expected the former ambassador to return to his hotel, with no charges, within hours.

Duvalier mysteriously arrived in Haiti Jan. 16 after 25 years of exile in France. Heruled over the island nation beginning in 1971, following the death of his father Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and maintained power until his oust during an uprising in 1986.

Human Rights Watch and other international groups have called for the controversial leader’s arrest, saying he and his father created a vicious dynasty that ordered the death and torture of 20,000 to 30,000 Haitians.

“Duvalier's return to Haiti should be for one purpose only: to face justice,” José Miguel Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas division, said in a statement. “His time to be held accountable is long overdue.”

He has never been prosecuted of any crimes. According to Human Rights Watch, four Haitians recently filed torture complaints against the former leader in France but charges were overturned because the country’s statue on crimes against humanity was not retroactive.

Some civil leaders are urging media to focus on the devastation in Haiti caused by a cholera outbreak, extreme poverty and slow earthquake recovery not on Duvalier’s return.

“To the extent that Baby Doc is a citizen of Haiti, many say he has the right to visit the county,” said Eric Walcott, executive director of the D.C.-based National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians. “I know there are outstanding warrants for his arrest because of crimes against humanity and it is their obligation to take a stance on that.”

But the country is in dire straits, he said. “That should be the focus, not the diversion created by Baby Doc.”

The day he was taken into police custody, Duvalier had scheduled a news conference to discuss his return to Haiti, according to The Associated Press.