Haitian police have taken the country’s former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier out of his hotel – but have refused to disclose whether he was being detained for crimes committed under his brutal regime.
A contingent of police led the former dictator known as “Baby Doc” through the hotel and to a waiting vehicle. He was not wearing handcuffs.
Duvalier, 59, was calm and did not say anything. Asked by journalists if he was being arrested, his longtime companion Veronique Roy laughed but said nothing.
Mona Bernadeau, a senate candidate from the Duvalierist party, said the former dictator was being taken to court but said she did not know why.
Outside the hotel, he was jeered by some people and cheered by others. His removal from the hotel came after he met in private with senior Haitian judicial officials inside his hotel room amid calls by human rights groups and others for his arrest.
The country’s top prosecutor and a judge were among those meeting with the former leader in the high-end hotel where he has been ensconced since his surprise return to Haiti on Sunday.
Dozens of Haitian National Police officers were posted inside and around the hotel, some of them in riot gear or guarding the stairwells. A police vehicle for transporting prisoners was parked in front of the hotel’s main door and all non-police traffic was halted at the driveway.
None of the officials present would comment on what was being discussed at the meeting. Asked by journalists why he was going to meet Duvalier, Judge Gabriel Amboisse said: “I’m here to assist the prosecutor because he asked me to be here with him.”
Duvalier was forced into exile in 1986 in a mass uprising and had been living in exile in France. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others have urged the Haitian government to arrest him for widespread abuses.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville said Duvalier’s return increases the chance that he could be charged with atrocities committed during his 15-year rule because it will be easier to bring charges in the country where the crimes occurred. He cautioned, though, that Haiti’s fragile judicial system may be in no position to mount a case.