MIAMI — New York-based Human Rights Watch called for the arrest and prosecution of Jean-Claude Duvalier for "grave violations of human rights'' Monday, the day after the deposed dictator made a surprise visit to his native homeland following nearly 25 years in exile.
"Duvalier's return to Haiti should be for one purpose only: To face justice,'' said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of Human Rights Watch. "His time to be held accountable is long overdue.''
In Miami, a grassroots group, Veye Yo, plans to echo that call Monday afternoon in a 3 p.m. rally and later news conference outside its Little Haiti headquarters.
Duvalier, known as "Baby Doc,'' ran Haiti as "president for life.'' He assumed the title at age 19 after his father François "Papa Doc'' fell terminally ill.
It is estimated that the Duvaliers ordered the deaths of some 20,000 to 30,000 civilians using their Tonton Macoutes private militia.
The 29-year Duvalier dynasty also sent hundreds of thousands of Haitians into exile in South Florida, New York, and elsewhere.
After protests engulfed the country, Duvalier and his wife Michéle fled Haiti for France on Feb. 7, 1986 on a U.S. military aircraft.
What followed in Haiti was a succession of administrations cut short by coups and marred by political violence.
Duvalier has never faced prosecution abroad, Human Rights Watch reported.
In September 1999, four Haitian torture victims filed complaints with a French prosecutor charging crimes against humanity. The prosecutor rejected the complaints because France's 1994 law on crimes against humanity was not retroactive.
"Haiti has enough troubles without Duvalier,'' said Vivanco. "Duvalier's presence -- unless he is immediately arrested -- is a slap in the face to a people who have already suffered so much.''
Duvalier's return comes as the quake-battered country tries to resolve a political crisis stemming from the flawed Nov. 28 presidential vote. On Dec. 7 preliminary election results unleashed violent protests in Port-au-Prince, and many fear there will be more if the disputed election remains unresolved.
The Organization of American States recently issued a report showing that the government-backed candidate did not receive enough votes to head to a runoff.