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Baby Doc Duvalier on torture charges

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Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, known as "Baby Doc," attends his hearing at court in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. Duvalier appeared in court Thursday after three times shunning a summons for a hearing on whether he should be charged with human rights abuses during his brutal 1971-1986 regime. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, known as "Baby Doc," attends his hearing at court in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. Duvalier appeared in court Thursday after three times shunning a summons for a hearing on whether he should be charged with human rights abuses during his brutal 1971-1986 regime. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

AP

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, known as "Baby Doc," attends his hearing at court in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. Duvalier appeared in court Thursday after three times shunning a summons for a hearing on whether he should be charged with human rights abuses during his brutal 1971-1986 regime. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

FORMER dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier appeared in a Haitian court for the first time, answering questions on whether he should be charged with human rights abuses during his brutal 1971-86 regime.

IT WAS also the first time for the plaintiffs to see the former ruler known as 'Baby Doc' (below) answer direct questions about the widespread abuses associated with his rule.

Activists and opponents applauded as they saw Duvalier arrive for the hearing, after repeatedly shunning previous summons. Near him sat his defence lawyers and his long-time partner, who did not remove her sunglasses during the proceedings.

Militia

The session was a "historic victory in a country where the rich and powerful have always been above the law," said Reed Brody, counsel and a spokesman for Human Rights Watch.

"Who'd have thought that Duvalier would be forced one day to face his victims in a court of law, to submit to questioning about his alleged crimes, and to listen to the names of people who were tortured?"

Thousands were imprisoned, tortured or killed for opposing Duvalier's regime, and he wielded his influence through a private militia known as the Tonton Macoutes.

He became president at 19 after the death of his predecessor and father, 'Papa Doc' Duvalier. 'Baby Doc' was ousted in 1986 in a popular revolt.

hnews@herald.ie


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