Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier has for the first time appeared in court for a hearing on whether he should be charged with human rights abuses during his brutal 1971-1986 regime.

Dozens of supporters cheered as Duvalier emerged Thursday wearing a navy blue suit and gray tie and sat facing the judge.

Those seeking to have Duvalier prosecuted smiled as they saw him arrive, and some applauded.

The former dictator known as "Baby Doc" had previously ignored the court summons three times.

The Duvalier case seemed to have vanished until it went before Haiti's Court of Appeal in January. A lower court judge had ruled in January 2012 that Duvalier should only face charges on alleged financial crimes.