UN's Call for Truth Panel on Duvalier Faces Significant Challenges

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Wednesday, 06 July 2011 15:09

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - A United Nations official is pressing for the creation of a truth panel on the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier.

This new UN effort faces many difficulties in that it undermines the legitimacy of an ongoing case in Haiti and for the world organization, itself, it lacks the consistency and grounding to make such a call.

On Tuesday, Kyung-Wha Kang deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights spoke at a press conference in Port-au-Prince where she advocated the forming of a truth commission that would help aid in the prosecution of Baby Doc Duvalier. The deputy from Korea spoke of a broader "coming to terms with the past" and of accountability.

For many Haitian officials they feel that the calls are an undermining of the judicial processes of a sovereign nation. It was reported earlier in 2011 that the United Nations desired to assist in prosecuting the former dictator and Kang reiterated a similar sentiment saying "we do not think that this (Duvalier) case and a truth commission are necessarily exclusive."

As prosecutors in Haiti are still seeking some areas where victims of Duvalier may find some repair, it is more over decided that the statute of limitations on embezzlement and other malfeasance is expired. Regarding human rights abuses, murder and torture, the fact that it was a dictatorship and these types of acts often occur in dictatorships, exonerates Duvalier as a sole culprit for the fact that everyone in the country is considered complicit.

These realities lead to the issue of the United Nations' lack of consistency, grounding and overall legitimacy on the matter.

For one, many Haitians point to the actuality that the United Nations began operating in Haiti in the mid-1950s and has been present ever since. The world organization entered the Haitian political scene just as Baby Doc Duvalier's far more brutal father, Francois 'Papa Doc' Duvalier, became President of the Republic of Haiti. The UN to many Haitians is assumed complicit.

Another point made in conversations with Haitians is that the United Nations has failed to discover the meaning of 'truth' and 'accountability' in the context of the cholera outbreak, which has taken the lives of more than 5,000 Haitians in less than a year's time. It has been reported by countless studies, independent organizations, that the UN is at fault but acceptance and responsibility the organization has eluded.

The overwhelmingly young population in Haiti, with upwards 70% at or below the age of 26, are far less concerned about a commission of truth on Baby Doc Duvalier than with the circumstances that led to the recent two coups of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and again, the cholera epidemic.

Deputy Kang did meet with President Michel Martelly but did not discuss the UN's desires to participate in the prosecution of Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier with him. This omission presents an oddity in itself as such a subject would have been a more than appropriate to discuss with the head executive of the state.

With all these things considered, many questions arise concerning the United Nations more than 50 year presence in Haiti, a country that has experienced an incredible decline since its mid-1950s arrival. The Haitian people have grown very doubtful as to the benevolence of this international power to their circumstances.

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