"The court's ruling ... applying crimes against humanity against Duvalier is a significant step towards combating impunity in Haiti's justice system," said Mario Joseph, director of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux.
While the Haitian Constitution grants the court the power to use international law to protect victims of human rights violations, "this is the first time that a court has invoked international law to protect the poor," Joseph said.
A three-judge panel, reconvening after a nine-month break, reinstated political crimes against Duvalier.
Criminal charges for political violence, embezzlement and corruption were filed against Duvalier in January 2011 just before he returned to Haiti from 25 years in exile. In January 2012, a magistrate judge upheld the financial crimes, but dismissed the political violence crimes upon the recommendation of the government prosecutor, who argued they were past Haiti's 10-year statute of limitations. Both sides appealed.
The court reinstated the political violence crimes and held that under international law, a statute of limitations does not apply to crimes against humanity.
"We congratulate the survivors of Duvalier's brutal regime for their hard work and patience in bringing Duvalier to justice," said Nicole Phillips, a staff attorney with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, based in Washington.
Presiding Judge Jean Joseph Lebrun appointed colleague Durin Junior Duret to further investigate allegations of corruption and crimes against humanity, the Miami Herald said.
The investigation report will be considered by the court when deciding whether Duvalier should stand trial.