Dr. Nicole Magloire, a retired gynecologist who brought human rights charges against former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, has died. She was 76.
Magloire died Thursday night at a Petionville hospital after suffering medical complications from intestinal problems, said her niece, filmmaker Rachèle Magloire.
“Nicole was a fighter, an engaged citizen, a reference in the current social movements,” Magloire said about her aunt.
Born in Port-au-Prince, Magloire was a well-known doctor from a politically active middle-class family. She was an opponent of the country’s 29-year, father-and-son Duvalier dictatorship. She first left Haiti for Montreal, Canada in the 1960s after Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier tightened controls around the University of Haiti after a student strike.
She returned home in 1979, vowing to stay out of politics. But a year later, in November 1980, Magloire was jailed alongside scores of other Haitian intellectuals and journalists by the regime of the younger Duvalier, “Baby Doc.” Her cellmates were journalists Michèle Montas, widow of slain Haitian journalist Jean Dominique, and Lillian Pierre-Paul of Radio Kiskeya.
“We have lost an exceptional person,” said Montas. “She was an incredible fighter.”
During her five-day imprisonment at the old army barracks known as Casernes Dessalines on the grounds of the National Palace, Magloire was taken back to her home to be interrogated. When she returned to the cell, she handed Montas and Pierre-Paul a pair of clean underwear, the only clothing they were allowed.
“She was in the middle of a repression, and she thought of us,” Montas said. “It was a small gesture but a testimony to her generosity and her courage.”
Days later, when the group was being expelled from Haiti after their release, Magloire, a petite woman, put up a fight, insisting she would not leave without her infant daughter, Kalinda. She eventually left and returned to Haiti in February 1987, a year after Baby Doc’s ouster by a popular uprising.
In 2011, after Baby Doc’s shocking return to Haiti after 25 years in exile in France, Magloire and Montas would find themselves together again. They were among an initial group of five Haitians who brought crimes-against-humanity charges against an ailing Baby Doc. Eventually, the group grew to 30 and became known as the Collective Against Impunity.
“You can't have all of those people who died, who went to jail, and then just sit and say, ‘So what?’ ” Magloire told the Miami Herald in a 2011 interview at her home after twice losing her battle to avoid Duvalier in person. “I'm angry. But I am no longer afraid. I don't ever want to be afraid again. At least today, we can say what we want and not be afraid again.”
As the case slowly moved through the country’s broken justice system and Duvalier’s attorneys espoused his innocence, Magloire refused to give up hope. She religiously attended court proceedings, taking her usual front-row seat inside the packed courtroom. When a three-judge panel ruled in February 2014 that Duvalier should stand trial for allegations that he tortured, killed and imprisoned opponents, an elated Magloire said, “We didn’t give up.”
Eight months after the ruling, however, Duvalier died of a heart attack while having breakfast with a friend.
In addition to daughter Kalinda, Magloire is survived by a granddaughter, son-in-law Maxwell Marcelin and many nieces, nephews and friends.