PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Former Haitian President Jean-Claude Duvalier must face charges for serious human rights violations that took place during his rule, the United Nations said.
Responding to reports from Haiti Duvalier may face only charges of financial corruption rather than ones relating to human rights abuses during his time in power, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said torture, rape and extrajudicial killings during Duvalier's reign have been extensively documented by Haitian and international human rights organizations.
"The High Commissioner has consistently reminded Haiti of its absolute obligation to investigate these well-documented serious human rights violations and to prosecute those responsible for them," UNHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville said Tuesday at a news briefing in Geneva, Switzerland.
Colville said justice must be ensured for Duvalier's victims
"We are extremely disappointed at reports that Mr. Duvalier may not be charged with any human rights crimes, despite numerous complaints by victims to the prosecutor," he said. "It is clear under international law that there is no statute of limitations for such crimes, and the U.N. human rights office has provided technical assistance and legal advice stressing this point."
Human rights groups have long called for Duvalier's arrest for human rights abuses and U.N. officials have offered Haitian authorities technical assistance for prosecuting crimes committed from 1971 until 1986 when Duvalier was in power.
Duvalier returned to Haiti last year after 25 years of exile in France.
A ruling by Judge Carves Jean, chief investigating prosecutor of Haiti's Supreme Court, that Duvalier can only be prosecuted for financial crimes was submitted for review by Haiti's attorney general, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
"Today's wrongheaded decision, if upheld on appeal, would entrench Haiti's culture of impunity by denying justice for Duvalier's thousands of victims," said Reed Brody, legal counsel for Washington-based Human Rights Watch. "Haiti has an obligation to its people to investigate and prosecute the grave violations of human rights under Duvalier's rule."
Haitian President Michel Martelly, linked by family to Duvalier, is seen as sympathetic to the former ruler, the Journal reported. Martelly often said he favors reconciliation and has called on Haitians to join together to unite the country.