- Associated Press - Monday, January 30, 2012

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A Haitian judge said Monday that former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier should face trial for corruption, but not the more serious charges of human rights violations committed during his rule.

Investigative Magistrate Carves Jean said the statute of limitations had run out on the human rights charges but not on the accusations of misappropriation of public funds. He did not explain his reasoning, but Mr. Duvalier, the once-feared ruler known as “Baby Doc,” widely is believed to have used money from the Haitian treasury to finance his life in exile.

Magistrate Jean did not release the verdict, based on a yearlong investigation, saying it first must be reviewed by the attorney general as well as by Mr. Duvalier and the victims of his regime who filed complaints against him.

The judge said he recommended that the case be heard by a special court that handles relatively minor crimes. Mr. Duvalier, who has been free to roam about the capital since his surprise return from exile last year, would face no more than five years in prison.

Duvalier attorney Reynolds Georges, who had argued that the case should be dismissed in its entirety because the statute of limitations had expired on all the charges, said he would appeal the decision as soon as he received the paperwork.

“We’re going to appeal that decision … and throw it in the garbage can,” Mr. Georges told the Associated Press.

Mr. Duvalier has posed a challenge to Haitian officials since his return home from 25 years in exile, most of which he spent in France. Haiti has a weak judicial system, with little history of successfully prosecuting even simple crimes, and the government is preoccupied with reconstruction from the devastating January 2010 earthquake.

A majority of Haitians are now too young to have lived under Mr. Duvalier, but many still remember his government’s nightmarish prisons and violent special militia, known as the Tonton Macoute, which killed and tortured political opponents with impunity.