Duvalier's return 'increases chances of arrest'

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The Independent US

The return of exiled dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier to Haiti increases the chance of him being charged with atrocities during his rule, UN human rights officials said today.

Groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have already urged Haiti to hold Duvalier accountable for the crimes committed by his secret police, known as the Tonton Macoute, who tortured and murdered political opponents.

The former dictator was also notorious for siphoning the Haiti's wealth into his family's pockets until a popular rebellion drove him into exile.

"The country where the crimes were committed is a much easier place to bring charges," a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

Before his surprise return home on Sunday, Duvalier had been living in France for the past quarter-century.

"I believe there have been various cases brought over the years in France," the spokesman said. "We're checking ... exactly what happened over the many years he's been resident in France and why he wasn't arrested."

He warned that it was also unclear whether Haiti's fragile judicial system is in a position to mount a case.

"As with any arrest and charging you have to have assembled some evidence in an organised fashion to bring a case," he said. "It means having a case prepared sufficiently to warrant an arrest, and then the rest of the judicial procedure."

Meanwhile, Switzerland is poised to permanently seize 7 million Swiss francs (£4.6 million) of Duvalier's money. The funds have been frozen on Swiss bank accounts for years, but a new law tailored to his case - comes into force on February 1.

The Swiss government says it plans to give the money back to Haiti to improve living conditions.