Jean‑Claude Duvalier was Haiti’s “president for life” from 1971 to 1986, succeeding his father François “Papa Doc” Duvalier. The Duvaliers are estimated to have ordered the deaths of between twenty and thirty thousand Haitian civilians. The brutality of their government created the modern Haitian diaspora, driving hundreds of thousands of Haitians into exile in Canada, France, the United States, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere.
Human Rights Watch, Haiti: Prosecute Duvalier (17 January 2011)
Jean-Claude Duvalier’s arrival in Port-au-Prince on January 16 provides the Government of Haiti an unprecedented opportunity to right the wrongs of the past through the rule of law. By thoroughly investigating and effectively prosecuting these crimes, the Government of Haiti would finally end the impunity that Duvalier has enjoyed since he fled into exile in France in 1986. It would also provide well-deserved hope to those who have waited decades for their persecutors to be brought to justice. And–at a crucial moment in the country’s political process—it will demonstrate that while the constitution may be paper, it can be mightier than the bayonet.
Joint Action Statement on Prosecuting Jean-Claude Duvalier (20 January 2011)
Under the leadership of Jean-Claude Duvalier, the government of Haiti relied on an extensive network of security forces to enforce its control through a pattern of human rights abuses, including:
- Political Prisoners and the “Triangle of Death”: Hundreds of political prisoners held in a network of three prisons known as the “triangle of death” died from maltreatment or were victims of extrajudicial killings.
- “Disappearances” and Political Killings: Many political prisoners who entered the triangle of death were never released, and their whereabouts remain unknown to their families. Summary executions of prisoners are also alleged to have occurred, including prisoners at Fort Dimanche on August 7, 1974, seven people executed on March 25, 1976, and eight prisoners reportedly executed at Morne Christophe and Titanyen on September 21, 1977. Political killings by security forces also took place.
- Torture: Political prisoners often faced interrogation and savage torture. A common method of torture—the djak in Haitian Creole—involved tying the hands of prisoners behind their legs, and pushing a stick or bar between their legs and arms. The prisoners tied in this position would be drawn into a ball around the stick, and beaten with sticks.
- Repression of the Press and Political Dissent: Freedoms of association, assembly, and expression were severely restricted. The government repeatedly closed independent newspapers and radio stations. Journalists were beaten, jailed and forced to leave the country.
Human Rights Watch, Haiti’s Rendezvous With History: The Case of Jean-Claude Duvalier (14 April 2011)
I will also take this occasion to once again voice my deep sorrow to my fellow countrymen who say, rightly, that they were victims under my government.
Jean-Claude Duvalier, “Statement,” Haiti Libre (22 January 2011)