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#457: Torture Claims Vs. Duvalier Filed (fwd)


Friday September 10 10:12 AM ET 
Torture Claims Vs. Duvalier Filed
By PIERRE-ANTOINE SOUCHARD Associated Press Writer 

PARIS (AP) - Four Haitians living in France filed complaints of ``crimes
against humanity'' against former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier
with the Paris prosecutor's office Friday, judicial sources said.
The four plaintiffs claimed they had been imprisoned for years and
tortured for political reasons under Duvalier's regime. They
have chosen to remain anonymous for safety reasons, said their lawyer,
Basile Ader.The Paris prosecutor must decide whether the complaints are
admissible under the French penal code in order to determine
whether further judicial action can be taken.Duvalier, known as ``Baby
Doc,'' was named president for life at age 19 following the death in
1971 of his dictator father,better known as ``Papa Doc.'' Tens of
thousands of people were massacred and tortured to death during the
31-year father-and-son dynasty.Duvalier fled to France in February 1986,
when a popular uprising forced him into exile.In December 1998, a
Haitian-born photographer, encouraged by the arrest in Britain of former
Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet, organized a committee in Paris
to bring Duvalier to trial for crimes against humanity.``Jean-Claude
Duvalier must admit responsibility for his actions, and justice must be
brought to the Haitian people,'' Gerald Bloncourt, the photographer,
told The Associated Press.But under French law, the notion of ``crimes
against humanity'' applies only to actions committed after 1994, when a
new definition of such crimes entered the penal code.In the case of the
four plaintiffs filing against Duvalier, the alleged crimes were
committed before 1994, which means the case may never make it to court.
Duvalier lived for a time on the French Riviera and then following
financial difficulties moved to the Paris region in 1993, where
his father-in-law lived. Haitian exiles claim that Duvalier was seen in
Paris in mid-1998.The French Ministry of the Interior said in December
1998 that it had lost track of Duvalier and that he had probably left
French territory.In a December interview conducted ``somewhere in
France'' with the French magazine VSD, Duvalier claimed that he helped
bring democracy to Haiti and said he had nothing to fear from the
movement to bring him to trial.