The unresolved demons in Michèle Montas life underscore how even the influential in Haiti cant push the levers of a justice system thats badly in need of reform.
Forced into exile by the Duvalier dictatorship only to return to Haiti, and be forced out again by an assassins bullet Montas today finds herself at the center of two epic legal cases winding at snail-pace through the judicial system.
In one courtroom, an investigative judge is trying to determine who ordered the assassination of her husband, agronomist-turned-famous journalist Jean Léopold Dominique and a guard in the courtyard of his Radio Haiti-Inter 13 years ago this month.
In another, a three-judge appeals panel is determining whether former President-for-Life Jean-Claude Baby Doc Duvalier, 61, should stand trial on human rights abuses that Montas and others say they suffered under his dictatorship from 1971 to 1986.
What matters to me is the process, said Montas, a former spokeswoman for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and whose grandfathers were justices on Haitis supreme court. Somewhere in me, there is that time when we had a judicial system that functioned.
But in Haiti, where crimes routinely go unpunished, the justice system hasnt worked in a long time. Clerks still keep records by hand, legal proceedings are held in French although most speak Creole, and, according to a recent human rights report, judges often complain of being unable to dispense justice calmly, because of explicit threats made against them or their families.
There is still a long way to go before the justice system is working as it should be, said the reports author, Michel Forst, the ex-UN Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti.
Still, Montas, a former radio journalist, pushes forward in her quest for answers.
In the case of Jean, I hope things will come out. The truth is probably the first step toward rule of law. I just want the truth, she said. In the case of Duvalier, what I want is for people to hear what happened. Its not about a dictator who is old and sick. Its about what impact he has had on the country.
We are still paying the price for 30 years of dictatorship and many people dont realize it, she said.
On Thursday, after a two-week hiatus and a power outage inside the sauna-like courtroom, Duvaliers appeals hearing resumed with testimony from Henri Faustin, who was imprisoned for more than a year as a student.
Duvalier wants the court to dismiss an investigative judges order that he stand trial on corruption charges. Montas and 29 others, including Faustin, are seeking to have crimes against humanity charges reinstated. The judge rejected those charges last year.
The case has divided Haitians with some suggesting to Montas that both Dominique and Duvalier are old stories that should be left in Haitis tragic past.
Impunity, for me, is not just a question of assassination. Its about everything in Haiti. Its about our future, said Montas, 66. What does that mean when we cannot even try a guy who has taken $600 million out of Haitis coffers? That is what Duvalier did.
On Feb. 28, after refusing three previous requests by the court to appear, Duvalier finally faced his accusers except for Montas.