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Former Haitian Dictator Sued For Torture, Crimes Against Humanity

Four Haitians have filed filed separate lawsuits against Haiti's former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, accusing him of torture and other crimes against humanity during his 1971-1986 rule, officials said Wednesday.

The lawsuits against the former dictator were filed by Michele Montas, a prominent journalist and a former UN spokeswoman, and three other Haitians who were jailed during Duvalier's 15-year-long rule in Haiti.

Montas confirmed later that she and the three other Haitians had filed separate criminal complaints with prosecutors against Duvalier, accusing him of arbitrary detention, exile, destruction of private property, torture and moral violation of civil and political rights.

Montas is an active Haitian human rights activist and has served as a spokeswoman for UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. She was forced into exile after Duvalier's authoritarian regime closed down her late husband's radio station.

The development came a day after Haitian prosecutors charged Duvalier with corruption, embezzlement of public funds and abuse of power during his 1971-1986 rule, just two days after his surprise return to Haiti from exile.

Duvalier was arrested on charges brought by the Haitian government on Tuesday. But he was later freed by a Haitian court, pending the outcome of a judicial investigation launched to determine whether the government charges carries enough merit to formally indict the former dictator. He was also ordered by the court to remain in Haiti until the investigation is completed.

Duvalier, better known by his nickname of "Baby Doc," had returned to his impoverished home country in a surprise move on Sunday. He was living in exile in France after being ousted 25 years ago by a popular revolt against his brutal dictatorship rule.

The former dictator's return to Haiti came amidst political uncertainty over disputed presidential elections, a continuing cholera epidemic and dragging post-quake reconstruction efforts.

Soon after his arrival, Duvalier told reporters that he had returned "to help the people of Haiti" in the ongoing reconstruction efforts forced by last year's devastating earthquake. Without elaborating further, Duvalier said he was moved by television images of the first anniversary of the earthquake.

Duvalier had succeeded his father François Duvalier, known as Papa Doc, as the Haitian president after his father's death in 1971. He continued his father's legacy of ruling by brutality and intimidation for nearly 15 years before being ousted in 1986.

Though his critics accuse Jean-Claude Duvalier of massive corruption, repression and human rights violations during his rule, the former president has consistently denied any wrongdoings.

Duvalier's return to Haiti comes amidst a political crisis triggered in the country by the indefinite postponement of a presidential run-off due to alleged electoral fraud. The run-off is for choosing a successor to outgoing president Rene Preval.

In addition, Haiti has been battling a cholera outbreak that has left more than 3,650 people dead since it was first reported in mid-October last year. The disease has since spread across all ten of Haiti's provinces.

Also, international efforts are currently progressing in Haiti to rebuild the country after the January 12, 2010 earthquake that killed 217,000 people, displaced more than 1.5 million and caused an estimated damage of $8 billion to $14 billion. Haiti is incidentally the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

by RTT Staff Writer

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