Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier(L) and his wife Veronique Roy Duvalier arrive on January 20, 2012 in front of the Palace of Justice in Port-au-Prince.

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier appeared in court Thursday for a hearing to determine if he can be charged with crimes against humanity.

Duvalier, who was observed at the court by an AFP reporter, was summoned by a judge after failing three times previously to show up in court.

The 61-year-old wore a dark suit and white shirt as sat in the packed courtroom with his companion Veronique Roy. Many of those on hand were former victims of the Duvalier regime who planned to testify against him.

But outside, several dozen supporters wearing the red and black colors that symbolized the old regime shouted out support for the former ruler, saying “Long live Duvalier.”

Former opposition figures have accused him of deploying the feared Tonton Macoute militia and of complicity in murder, torture and kidnapping.

The issue at stake is whether the statue of limitations on the alleged human rights abuses has expired.

A Haitian court decided last year that too much time had passed for Duvalier to be charged with crimes against humanity, which are protected by a statute of limitations. His alleged victims have appealed that decision.

Duvalier was the world's youngest head of state when, at the age of just 19, he succeeded his late autocratic father Francois “Papa Doc” in 1971. He was overthrown in a popular revolt in 1986 and fled to France.

He returned to Haiti two years ago after 25 years in exile.

Duvalier had initially been scheduled to appear in court on February 7, but failed to show up and instead sent a letter accusing the judge of taking the plaintiff's side and asking for the hearing to be postponed.

He objected to the original hearing date because it was the anniversary of the 1986 day when he was overthrown. - AFP