Haiti to Seek Extradition of Duvalier From France
In a surprise move apparently brought on by growing public restiveness, the government of Haiti announced Thursday night that it will attempt to extradite former President Jean-Claude Duvalier from exile in France.
In making the announcement on national television, Justice Minister Gerard Gourgue also said that Haiti will try to extradite from Brazil the hated former police chief of this capital, Col. Albert Pierre, who was allowed to leave the country Sunday.
“Ex-President Jean-Claude Duvalier will soon be the object of an extradition suit that will be presented jointly by the Ministries of Justice and Social Affairs in the name of the Haitian state,” Gourgue said.
Duvalier has taken up quarters in a resort hotel in the French Alps while France and the United States search for a nation that will give him permanent exile.
Haiti and France have no extradition treaty, and the French Embassy here could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
Gourgue’s statement came during a week of growing unrest provoked in part by the continued presence and influence of Duvalier officials in and out of government.
On Thursday, looters tried to ransack properties owned by suspected associates of the ousted dictator. Dozens of soldiers were sent to patrol the heart of downtown Port-au-Prince, where they turned away crowds before any stores were broken into.
Gourgue seemed to make an allusion to the turbulence. In repeating a promise not to let alleged human rights violators leave the country, he said that “public clamor” prompted the decision to seek Duvalier’s extradition.
Gourgue’s communique also ordered police to automatically detain former officials who are denounced to the Justice Ministry by the public.
In addition, he said, the government is studying the expropriation of properties held by former Duvalier ministers. Earlier in the month, the government announced the expropriation of Duvalier’s holdings here.
With his announcement, Gourgue, one of the five members the ruling National Council that replaced Duvalier’s government three weeks ago, appeared to have emerged the victor in a short political struggle.
Last Sunday, the government allowed Pierre, linked with past episodes of torture and disappearances here, to leave his refuge in the Brazilian Embassy and board an airplane out of the country.
Gourgue, who was not told ahead of time about that move, publicly denounced it as insulting to public opinion. There was speculation that he might resign from the council, the other members of which all had ties to the Duvalier government. Now, he appears to be making progress in his efforts to secure the prosecution of hated elements of the Duvalier dynasty.
Meanwhile, looters tried Thursday tried to ransack properties held by suspected associates of Duvalier, but soldiers sent to patrol the downtown commercial district intercepted the crowds before they could break into any stores.
In the hills surrounding Port-au-Prince, occasional gunshots were heard. In some cases, neighborhoods previously untouched by such activity became the scene of taunting mobs seeking revenge against members of the Tontons Macoutes, or bogeymen, Duvalier’s personal militia.
Although it was the second consecutive day of scattered unrest in the capital, most of the city functioned normally. Several stores closed in a four-block district downtown, but even there street vendors carried on as usual on crowded sidewalks.
The outbreaks suggest, however, that the lingering presence of Duvalier agents and associates is much resented. In addition, attacks on less well-known businessmen linked to Duvalier may foreshadow wider turbulence, foreign observers said.
To justify their actions, looters on Thursday pointedly used the Creole word dechoukage, which means uproot. Uproot was the battle cry of street demonstrators whose protests helped drive Duvalier into exile, ending 28 years of rule by him and his late father, Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier.
Since then, pressure has built for the removal of Duvalier cronies still in government and for the prosecution of officials in and out of power who are suspected of human rights violations.
In recent days, student protesters have called for the ouster of Alix Cineas, a member of the National Council, because of his long ties to the Duvalier dynasty.
They have also demanded the removal of Col. Prosper Avril, a close associate of Duvalier who is an adviser to the council. But so far, there has been no general outcry for the other members of the council to step down.
Some employees of private firms and government ministries have initiated their own demands for the firing of Duvalier-linked officials.