By Associated Press, Updated: Monday, February 13, 12:46 PM
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The U.S. State Department is sending to Haiti a team of legal experts to look at ways to strengthen the Caribbean nation’s beleaguered judiciary, Haitian Prime Minister Garry Conille said Monday.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Conille said the delegation is scheduled to arrive in Haiti this week following a recent meeting in Washington, D.C., with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“We did ask them for assistance in looking at how do we make sure that we can reinforce our judiciary system,” Conille said. “We need to look at how do we make sure that when a judge gives a verdict, in whatever direction, people feel comfortable, that the judge ruled in all independence.”
Conille didn’t immediately offer details on the delegation but said that one of its aims would be to look at a much-criticized ruling in the high-profile case of former strongman Jean-Claude Duvalier.
An investigative judge recommended last month that the former despot known as “Baby Doc” face trial for financial crimes rather than the human rights abuses associated with his 15-year rule.
The decision prompted condemnation from human rights groups and plaintiffs, who said they suspected political interference from the government.
The administration of President Michel Martelly has said it has never influenced the case.
The Justice Ministry filed an appeal of the judge’s ruling, Martelly’s office said last week.
Both plaintiffs and the defense, which has said Duvalier is innocent on all charges, also plan to appeal.
Reached by telephone Monday morning, U.S. Embassy spokesman Jon Piechowski didn’t disclose details about the delegation.
Conille announced the plans after a news conference in which he said he had met with U.S. officials in Washington last week and discussed Haitian government proposals to revive the army, which was disbanded in 1995 because of a history of abuse.
Conille and other Haitian officials hope the “modern” army they have in mind will eventually take over security responsibilities from a U.N. peacekeeping mission that has been in Haiti since 2004, when then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was toppled.
The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to arrive in Haiti on Monday for a four-day trip that will review the work carried out by its peacekeeping force.
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