18 Jan 2011

Call to arrest former Haiti leader

3:12 pm on 18 January 2011

International human rights groups have called for the prosecution of former Haitian leader Jean-Claude Duvalier who has returned to his homeland after 25 five years in exile.

'Baby Doc' Duvalier said he would come back to help the people of Haiti following last year's devastating earthquake, the BBC reports.

Mr Duvalier is accused of corruption, repression and human rights abuses during his 1971-1986 rule. He denies allegations he embezzled millions of dollars from the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Amnesty International said the Haitian authorities had an obligation to prosecute the former leader for crimes against humanity.

Human Rights Watch Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco told the BBC that Haiti had enough problems without Mr Duvalier, and that his time to be held accountable is long overdue.

The groups want him brought to trial for the killings and torture of thousands of opponents at the hands of the brutal private militia known as the Tontons Macoutes.

There has been no public response from Haiti's government.

At the age of just 19, Mr Duvalier inherited the title of president for life from his father, the notorious Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, who had the country since 1957.

Like his father, he relied on the Tontons Macoutes, which controlled Haiti through violence and intimidation.