Ex-Haitian Dictator 'Baby Doc' Duvalier Led Out of Hotel By Police

"Baby Doc" Duvalier expected to be charged with "heinous" crimes.

Jan. 18, 2011— -- Just days after his surprise return to Haiti, former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier was led out of a Port-au-Prince hotel by heavily armed police.

It remains unclear whether he will simply be questioned or if he will ultimately be charged with crimes allegedly committed during a brutal regime that ended with his ouster 25 years ago.

Before the police arrived at the hotel, a government official told ABC News the one-time dictator would be arrested for "heinous crimes against the Haitian people."

Armed policemen, a judge and the country's senior prosecutor arrived at the Karibe Hotel in Petionville, where Duvalier has remained holed up since his return from French exile on Sunday. Hours later police led him out of the hotel.

He was not handcuffed but led from the building by armed officers into a waiting SUV that rushed him directly to a courthouse.

Duvalier, 59, was calm and did not say anything as he got into the truck. Asked by journalists if he was being arrested, his longtime companion Veronique Roy, laughed but said nothing, according to the Associated Press.

Outside the hotel, some spectators applauded his arrest while others jeered.

Duvalier supporters, however, quickly erected roadblocks on the road to the courthouse, but the car made it to the courthouse and the former dictator was escorted inside.

In order to file charges, the prosecutor needs to make a case to an investigating magistrate who opens a formal investigation.

"That the prosecutor met him at the hotel and then took him directly to the courthouse could indicate they're taking the first step to filing charges," said Reed Brody, a lawyer for Human Rights Watch, who worked as a prosecutor in Haiti in the 1990s.

"We certainly hope it means he's brought to trial and given a fair trial. Haitians have a right to see to the man accused of thousands of political killings and torture brought to justice. Some might say with all Haiti's problems, why prosecute Duvalier? But doing so, shows that the state is capable of the most basic of tasks. It's hard to tell gangs not to go looting, if a mass murderer is treated like a dignitary and stays at hotel," Brody said.

A Brutal Duvalier Regime

Despite previous warnings that a return to Haiti would result in arrest, Duvalier arrived Sunday with a diplomatic visa and a perceived understanding from Haitian President Rene Preval that he had permission to return "like any other Haitian citizen," according to a source in the president's office.

Human rights groups have been clamoring for Duvalier's arrest, citing allegations of flagrant corruption and a lengthy reign of terror that began when his father Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier first seized control of the island in 1957. "Baby Doc" Duvalier who came to power in 1971 as the 19-year-old heir.

Since his ouster in 1986, Baby Doc has lived in exile in a lavish villa in France.

"The widespread and systematic human rights violations committed in Haiti during Duvalier's rule amount to crimes against humanity," the Amnesty International said in a statement. "Haiti is under the obligation to prosecute him and anyone else responsible for such crimes."

It is unclear why Duvalier chose to return to Haiti now, a year after a devastating earthquake and in the midst of a deadly cholera outbreak and political deadlock. Many observers speculated that the former dictator hoped to exploit the instability and the millions of Haitians too young to remember his brutal regime.

"I'm not here for politics," Duvalier told Radio Caraibes Sunday after arriving at the airport. "I'm here for the reconstruction of Haiti."

With more than 1 million people left homeless after the earthquake and another 3,500 recently dead from cholera, some Haitians may be nostalgic for the stability that Duvalier brought the country; even if that reliability came with death squads and reckless corruption.

"Baby Doc" Duvalier Is Taken to Court

"Average Haitians who weren't intellectuals or political figures might be nostalgic for the life they knew under Duvalier. They knew what was up and what was down," said Amy Wilentz author of the definitive book on Duvalier, "The Rainy Season." "There was law and order imposed, for better or worse."

But that law and order came with a steep price. Duvalier's Haiti came with prison camps, torture, the absence of due process and the constant threat of the dictator's paramilitary goon squad, the Tonton Macoutes.

The Macoutes -- Creole for boogeymen -- were kidnappers and killers who carried out the president's orders and used that power to intimidate even the poorest people.

"The Macoutes were like the Gestapo; not just police but abusive at every level," Wilentz said. "They abused power as taxation officers, stealing money from even the lady selling mangoes from the smallest stand in the market.