U.N. offers to help Haiti prosecute Duvalier crimes

GENEVA Tue Feb 1, 2011 9:00am EST

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude ''Baby Doc'' Duvalier attends a news conference in Port-au-Prince January 21, 2011. REUTERS/St-Felix Evens

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude ''Baby Doc'' Duvalier attends a news conference in Port-au-Prince January 21, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/St-Felix Evens

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations human rights office said on Tuesday it had offered Haiti assistance to prosecute crimes including killings and torture committed under Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier.

Haiti's courts should ensure that perpetrators are punished for violations, despite the humanitarian and political situation in the earthquake-battered Caribbean country, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said.

Duvalier, 59, returned to his homeland on January 16 and now faces charges in Haiti of corruption, theft and crimes against humanity including torture during his 1971-1986 rule.

"Haiti has an obligation to investigate the well-documented serious human rights violations that occurred during the rule of Mr. Duvalier and to prosecute those responsible for them," Pillay said in a statement.

Under international law, there is no statute of limitations for serious human rights violations such as torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and rape, according to Pillay, a former U.N. war crimes judge.

"Such systematic violations of rights cannot remain unaddressed," she said. "The thousands of Haitians who suffered under this regime deserve justice."

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Jonathan Lynn/Maria Golovnina)