Probably CNN had it first: “Baby Doc” Duvalier’s surprise arrival in Haiti on Sunday “brought calls for arrest from [Michele] Montas and members of human rights groups”.
Michele Montas — radio journalist, ex-UN spokesperson, and sorely-aggrieved widow of assassinated journalist and agronomist Jean Dominique (shot and murdered in 2000 outside the studios of Radio Haïti Inter, which he directed and ran, one of many still-unsolved crimes in Haiti) — says she was going to file a criminal complaint against Duvalier. She told CNN: “We have enough proof. There are enough people who can testify. And what I will do is go to a public prosecutor and there is a public prosecutor that could actually accommodate our complaints”… This CNN story can be read in full here.
Javier Zuniga, special adviser at Amnesty International, told CNN that “The widespread and systematic human rights violations committed in Haiti during Duvalier’s rule amount to crimes against humanity … Haiti is under the obligation to prosecute him and anyone else responsible for such crimes”.
And Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of Human Rights Watch, told CNN that “Duvalier’s return to Haiti should be for one purpose only: to face justice”.
But Alertnet [Reuters] said Duvalier was being taken for questioning on suspicion of “stealing from the treasury”.
CNN added that “Duvalier was supposed to have held a news conference Monday but it was canceled and so far, the former dictator has remained huddled inside the Karibe”.
The Los Angeles Times later reported that “Police led the 59-year-old Duvalier from the luxury hotel room where he had stayed since his surprise return Sunday after 25 years of exile, past the pool, through the kitchen and out the back to a waiting dark-blue Nissan patrol sport-utility vehicle. He waved to waiters, hotel staff and hordes of reporters. He moved unsteadily and received help … A police convoy escorted Duvalier and his entourage to a courthouse … Haitian authorities said he would be questioned and could be released before the end of the day. It was not clear what, if any, charges the Haitian judiciary would be contemplating”. This is published here.
Two additional details: An AP story reports here that Duvalier’s defense attorney says Duvalier does not even have a passport, though the attorney asserts Duvalier can leave the country anytime he wants. [The story also notes that Duvalier separated from his “free-spending wife” in 1993…]
A documentary film, The Agronomist, was made by Jonathan Demme [Silence of the Lambs], who met Jean Dominique and Michele Montas during their years in exile. Information about the film is posted here.
Here are some excerpts from that site:
“For millions of Haitians, the voice of Jean Dominique continues to shout in the microphone ‘Yo arete Konpè Philo! Yo arete Konpè Philo’! (They arrested Konpe Philo!). The year was 1980, and the Duvalier regime had decided to put a halt to the growing media contestation that had heightened the conscience of the all social classes to unprecedented levels in Haiti. Intellectuals, artists, street vendors found their voices in the team assembled by Jeando and his wife Michele Montas. [One of the radio personalities was Konpè Filo, who characteristically spoke in a mocking tone] … the regime had reasons to worry about their pervasive impact on the status quo. Predictably, Jean, Michele, their team and dozens of other Haitian media personalities were rounded up and sent in exile during the infamous Decembre noir of 1980. But the damage had already been done. Six years later, in 1986, after continuous protests, the 29 year-old regime fell. Jean returned to Haiti the same year where he literally landed on the shoulders of the thousands of fans who had ran to the airport to welcome their hero. The optimistic vast smile, the pipe, the commanding voice, the V sign… the charm played again: in a matters of weeks, thousands of poor folks, wealthy businessmen, starving artists, obscure and reknowned intellectuals, street vendors… had poured money in a never seen collection drive to raise the funds necessary to rebuilt Radio Haiti Inter. In one of those tragedies of epic magnitude, Jean’s blood was spilled in 2000 [during the presidency of Jean Claude Aristide], when he thought that he had come back to see democracy flourish in his country, leaving his spouse of 28 years at the helm of a radio targeted for 30 years for its commitment to the empowerment of the Haitian masses. Since then, Michelle Montas, while assuring the management of the radio, and seeking justice for the murder of her husband, has been the target of threats and one assassination attempt that left a body guard dead. The story of Jean Dominique and Michel Montas goes beyond just the story of a Haitian radio station in Haiti and one man’s dedication. This is a human journey that exemplifies the struggle of Haitians for justice, the pursuit of the truth even at the ultimate cost, the quest for a dream and the resilience of an idea and an ideal through a couple, then a woman”.
Q: Tell us something about the private Jean that people wouldn’t know? Dealing with you, dealing with people in his private life…
Michele Montas: Only his close friends knew about his unique sense of humor, a self-deprecating sense of humor that allowed him to laugh in the face of tragedy and to always put things into proper perspective. The general public saw the fiery militant, the biting journalist, the cultured intellectual. But beyond that Jean was a great storyteller, a fascinating and funny companion.
Q: Did you at all time, share the views and approaches of your husband?
Michele Montas: Jean and I certainly shared the same views. We discussed national and international politics, our work, the newsroom, and his editorials on a daily basis and we deeply respected and trusted each other. I cannot remember a major disagreement in the 28 years we lived and worked together. We also had a common approach to our profession as journalists. Our strategies might have been different at times, as we do have very different personalities. Sometimes Jean would react more aggressively than I would. Sometimes those close to him would not immediately understand his moments of “sacred anger” as we called them, but Jean was a man of extraordinary vision and with a unique sense of perspectives. The principles that guided his life were of steel. Very often I realized in hindsight that his gut feelings on a number of issues were the right ones.
Q: Is Jean’s assassination an indication that the system won’t tolerate dissent in Haiti?
Michele Montas: It is obvious that true independence of thoughts and spirit is rarely tolerated in Haiti. In Jean’s case it was not only his critical attitude towards the different governments and politicians of Haiti but also his independence towards the traditional business elite. It is important to note also the increasing climate of intolerance and impunity that, in the last few years, has created in Haiti the conditions for Jean’s assassination” …
Will that end now?