Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier defied a judge’s order to appear in court on Thursday to face charges he was responsible for corruption and serious human-rights violations during his 15-year rule.
Mr. Duvalier had already boycotted two previous court hearings and Judge Jean-Joseph Lebrun, head of the court of appeals, responded to the latest snub by ordering that Mr. Duvalier be escorted to court by law-enforcement officials next week.
The presence of the 61-year-old former “president for life” was “imperative,” Judge Lebrun said.
Reynold Georges, who heads Mr. Duvalier’s legal team, argued unsuccessfully before Judge Lebrun that his client’s presence was not required.
Mr. Duvalier returned to the impoverished Caribbean nation in January, 2011, after 25 years of exile and was briefly detained on charges of corruption, theft and misappropriation of funds that are still pending against him.
A separate set of charges of crimes against humanity filed by alleged victims of wrongful imprisonment, forced disappearances and torture under Mr. Duvalier, was set aside by an investigating judge last year.
The judge ruled that the statute of limitations for those alleged crimes had run out. But the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has warned Haitian authorities that there is no statute of limitations under international law for serious violations of human rights.
Human-rights advocates said Thursday’s ruling by Judge Lebrun marked an important step forward for a country searching for political stability after decades of dictatorship, military rule and economic mayhem.
“He tried to get away with it, but this decision proves he is not above the law,” said Reed Brody, a spokesman for Human Rights Watch.