After ignoring three previous summons, former Haiti leader Jean-Claude Duvalier, has appeared in a Port-au-Prince court explaining why he should not be charged with human rights abuses.
‘Baby Doc’, the son of ex-leader ‘Papa Doc’, may also face financial crimes charges related his 1971-86 regime.
At the pre-trial hearing to determine potential charges, Duvalier denied responsibility for abuses under his 15-year rule.
Individual government officials “had their own authority” the 61-year-old Duvalier said when asked about his role as head of state.
“Under my authority, children could go to school, there was no insecurity,” he told the court.
The proceedings are being closely watched by international human rights observers who consider it a landmark case for Haiti’s weak justice system after decades of dictatorship, military rule and economic mayhem.
“Duvalier got away with everything all his life, and now he’s being forced to face his victims across a courtroom,” said Reed Brody, a spokesman for Human Rights Watch.
“It’s a powerful message. This is the sort of thing that could restore Haitian faith that justice is possible,” he added.
Duvalier made a surprise return to Haiti in early 2011 after spending 25 years in exile.