Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier says he feels “profound sadness” for Haitians who say they were victims of his 15-year regime.
Duvalier said Friday that he has returned to Haiti to show his solidarity at a difficult period for the country, which is struggling to recover from a devastating earthquake one year ago.
Duvalier also voiced sympathy for many of his supporters, who he said were “assassinated, suffocated, interrogated” and “subjected to tire necklace burnings” after he fled the country in 1986 during a popular revolt.
The former dictator spoke in Port-au-Prince, five days after making an unexpected return to his homeland following 25 years in exile in France.
Haitian authorities are investigating crimes committed during Duvalier’s rule. Officials in Haiti had charged him with corruption and embezzlement of public funds, and several Haitians have filed lawsuits accusing him of human rights violations.
Former U.S. congressman and presidential candidate Bob Barr was one of the attorneys accompanying Duvalier as he made his statement Friday.
Barr’s website says he is in Haiti to assist Duvalier in bringing his “message of hope” to the world.
Amnesty International said Friday it has handed over 100 documents to Haitian officials detailing dozens of cases of detention without trial, systematic torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions under Duvalier’s leadership.
The motives behind Duvalier’s return have been a source of debate and confusion in Haiti. Some believe he has returned with hopes of unlocking his frozen Swiss bank accounts.