AFRICANGLOBE – Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, known as ‘Baby Doc’, has died of a heart attack aged 65.
Duvalier was notorious for human rights abuses and corruptions as he used terror to keep his people in line in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas.
His lawyer, Reynold Georges confirmed the ex-president’s death on Saturday 4 October, saying that he died at home in Port-au-Prince.
Duvalier inherited power from his similarly cruel father, ‘Papa Doc’ in 1971, when he was made ‘President for Life’ aged just 19. He was exiled after an uprising in 1986 and spent 25 years in refuge in France.
Upon his return in January 2011, Duvalier was briefly detained on corruption, theft and misappropriation of funds charges.
He was due to be put on trial for crimes against humanity under international law, after a Haitian court ruled in February that he could be held responsible for abuses committed by the military while he was in office.
Duvalier has always denied responsibility for human rights abuses under his rule.
Reel Brody of Human Rights Watch, the New York-based organisation that helped victims build a criminal case against Duvalier, told reporters that his death deprives Haitians of what could have been “the most important human rights trial in the country’s history”.
“Hundreds of political prisoners held in a network of prisons died from mistreatment or were victims of extrajudicial killings,” Brody said.
Duvalier was also heavily criticised for living a life of luxury while ignoring the dire poverty of his people.
Pope John-Paul II visited Haiti in 1983 and declared that “things must change”, prompting further outrage over living conditions on the island.
“Despite our quarrels and our differences, we honor the departure of a true son of Haiti,” he wrote.
Duvalier’s son Nicolas is believed to be an advisor to Martelly’s government.