I wanted to pass on some good news out of Haiti yesterday, to which the International Human Rights Committee and Section on International Law contributed. The appeals court reinstated the political violence charges against Jean-Claude Duvalier, and recognized that Statutes of Limitations cannot apply to allegations of crimes against humanity. Read NYT's Haitian Dictator May Be Charged With Human Rights Crimes, Court Says. This is a big deal for the victims in Haiti, but also for the global fight for accountability for large scale political violence. Beyond the Duvaliers and their victims, this is an important step towards establishing the rule of law in Haiti, to the benefit of everyone from poor peasants defending their land to factory owners who need to count on contract enforceability.
Although the law is fairly clear, having it applied in this case was not easy. The government had adamantly opposed the prosecution of Duvalier, and due to a difficult political context the judges needed substantial personal courage as well as substantial political support from human rights groups, legal organizations and other influential entities in Haiti and abroad to be able to make this decision. The ABA policy on the non-applicability of statutes of limitations to crimes against humanity contributed to this result in two ways. First, it helped demonstrate that international law did in fact establish the non-applicability. But perhaps more importantly it provided the judges with political cover to do the right thing by demonstrating that an influential legal organization in the U.S. agreed with the non-applicability finding.
I deeply appreciate the vital contribution that the IHRC and SIL made to this historic victory, and your personal efforts in shepherding the position through the ABA processes.
Brian Concannon Jr., Esq.
Director, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
Related: Haitian Court: Duvalier Can Be Charged with Crimes Against Humanity | Democracy Now! (Video)