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Posted January 29, 2003
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No one writes to the tyrants

Saddam Hussein could join a long line of dictators who have sought a new life in exile. Sarah Left looks at how some of the world's most notorious despots have spent their retirements

Monday January 20, 2003
Ferdinand Marcos

Half of a couple who raised corruption to an art form, Marcos ruled the Philippines from 1965, when he was first elected president, until 1986, when his citizens revolted and forced him from power. By that time he had trampled Philippine democracy and defrauded the country of billions of pounds. He and his wife, Imelda, were given refuge in Hawaii, while the money was allegedly given refuge in numbered Swiss accounts. He died in Honolulu in 1989, before the US had brought him to trial. 

Idi Amin

After taking over Uganda in 1971 by ousting its first president, Milton Obote, in a military coup, Amin was responsible for the murder of between 300,000 and 500,000 of his citizens. He forced much of Uganda's Asian population into exile and attacked neighbouring Tanzania. A retaliatory invasion by the Tanzanian army in 1979 put an end to Amin's reign of terror. Saudi Arabia offered sanctuary and a monthly stipend to the President for Life. Now 77, he lives just outside the Red Sea port city of Jeddah. He reportedly enjoys fishing in the Red Sea and owns several cars, including a white Cadillac. Last year the Ugandan government established a holiday on April 14 to mark Amin's downfall. 

Mengistu Haile Mariam

As military dictator of Ethiopia, Mengistu killed and tortured tens of thousands of his opponents in the Red Terror campaign of the 70s. He has lived in exile in Harare, Zimbabwe since his ouster by rebel forces in 1991.

He probably will not leave the country again any time soon: when he sought medical attention in South Africa three years ago, authorities there said they would consider extraditing him to face charges in Addis Ababa.

Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier

After a rule marked by torture and political killing, Baby Doc fled Haiti to France with a good deal of the country's wealth in 1986. He entered France on a visitor's visa and has never officially been granted asylum. Duvalier, 51, is reported to be living in Paris in poverty. His financial situation deteriorated after his divorce from Michele Duvalier, although his lawyer has denied that he is "destitute". His mother, Simone, died in Paris in 1997.

Anastasio Somoza Debayle

Exile is not always a safe option. Somoza Debayle was a dictator of Nicaragua whose family had ruled the country since 1936, kept in power by US support, years of repression and thousands of political killings.

The assassination of the newspaper publisher Pedro Joaquin Chamorro Cardenal in 1978 - and the subsequent brutal repression of the dictator's political opponents - proved a step too far for the US, now run by Jimmy Carter's relatively humanitarian administration. The US suspended arms shipments, but it was not until July 1979, when the opposition Sandanistas had taken over much of the country, that Somoza Debayle resigned.

He fled initially to Miami, Florida, then settled in Paraguay. He was assassinated there in 1980, reportedly by leftwing guerrillas. 

Jean-Bédel Bokassa

Some people just cannot stay in exile, even after being accused of cannibalism during their tenure in office. Bokassa took over the Central African Republic in a military coup in 1966, and later crowned himself emperor. He personally clubbed to death opponents in public, and reportedly served them up to visiting dignitaries as "roast beef".

He fled to France and then the Ivory Coast after his overthrow in 1979, then - amazingly - returned home after eight years in exile. His former subjects tried him for cannibalism, murder and torture, then sentenced him to life in prison. He was released in 1993, and died of a heart attack three years later.

Pol Pot

Of course, some people continue the battle after being deposed, rather than taking up fishing somewhere warm. Notorious for the slaughter of the "killing fields", Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge killed about 2m Cambodians between 1975 and their overthrow by the Vietnamese in 1979. He fought on with the Khmer Rouge from the area around the Thai border. Never officially in exile, but possibly often in Thailand, he died in a hut in the Cambodian jungle in 1998.

Useful links The crimes of Ferdinand Marcos Human Rights Watch:Mengistu Haile Mariam "Baby Doc" Duvalier photo album from wehaitians.com  

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