1 Mar 2013

Haiti's Baby Doc in court

4:19 pm on 1 March 2013

The former president of Haiti has appeared in court for a hearing about human rights abuses during his rule in the 1970s and 80s.

Jean Claude Duvalier, who is known as "Baby Doc", returned to Haiti in 2011 after spending 25 years in exile in France.

Human rights lawyers say his mere appearance is a victory for justice.

Baby Doc Duvalier's rule was marked by gross human rights abuses, the BBC reports.

His opponents say thousands of people were tortured to death or disappeared during his time in office.

He inherited power from the death of his father - a man known as "Papa Doc" - who was, if anything, an even more brutal leader.

The immediate purpose of Thursday's proceedings was to determine whether Mr Duvalier should go forward to a full trial and be prosecuted for crimes against humanity. A panel of three judges will decide.

At the hearing, Mr Duvalier denied responsibility for abuses carried out during his time as president, between 1971 and 1986.

Three previous attempts to hold the hearing had to be postponed when he failed to turn up.

Mr Duvalier was just 19 when he inherited the title of president-for-life from his father, Francois Duvalier, who had ruled Haiti since 1957.

Like his father, he relied on a brutal militia known as the Tontons Macoutes to control the country.

In 1986, he was forced from power by a popular uprising and US diplomatic pressure and went into exile in France.