Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier is sorry for "wrongs" in his rule and urges supporters to rally around his fringe political party during a rare address delivered on Haitian radio over the weekend.
In a speech recorded from Paris, Duvalier said history will be the judge of his 15-year dictatorship, which is widely blamed for killing and torturing opponents and pilfering the national treasury.
"If, during my presidential mandate, the government caused any physical, moral, or economic wrongs to others, I solemnly take the historical responsibility ... to request forgiveness from the people and ask for the impartial judgment of history," Duvalier said.
Duvalier's regime came to an abrupt end on Feb. 7, 1986 when he fled the country during a popular uprising, and he's been notably quiet during his years in exile.
In the radio address, broadcast across the country on Saturday and Sunday, Duvalier described himself as "broken by 20 years of exile" but "reinvigorated" by what he claimed was growing support among younger Haitians for his small National Unity Party.
"The watchword is already launched, the instruction is given. Militants and militant sympathizers of the National Unity Party be ready. We live ... in waiting of the revival," Duvalier said. He did not say if he would lead such a movement or if would seek to return to his homeland.
In recent months, a handful of die-hard loyalists have been campaigning to bring Duvalier home from exile, launching a foundation to improve the dictatorship's image and reviving Duvalier's political party in hope that one day he can return to power democratically.
The address - delivered in French, not the Haitian Creole of the country's poor masses - was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the election of his father and predecessor, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier. Named president for life at 19 following the death of his father in 1971, Duvalier now lives in France and reportedly supports himself with handouts from friends.
Duvalier, 56, lamented the collapse of the Haitian economy since his rule and the social divisions that continue to polarize the Caribbean nation, which is still struggling to recover from a 2004 revolt that toppled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Duvalier's party has no seats in parliament, and political observers say it has little chance of becoming a force in a country deeply scarred by the 29-year Duvalier reign.
Duvalier also congratulated President Rene Preval for stabilizing the country and restoring democracy but did not mention him by name.
Preval, a former anti-Duvalier activist, was in New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly, and his office did not immediately respond to Duvalier's remarks.
Last month, the Swiss government extended a freeze on Duvalier-linked bank accounts containing 7.6 million Swiss francs (US$6.3 million; 4.7 million EUR) - money many Haitians believe was stolen from public funds. Duvalier has denied the charges.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969