Madagascar 2019
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Madagascar 2019

People living in poverty faced multiple barriers to accessing their economic, social and cultural rights, and remained at risk. Prison conditions continued to be inhumane, overcrowding worsened and the excessive use of pre-trial detention persisted. In the second half of the year, the government committed to addressing the pre-trial detention crisis.

Background

On 19 January, Andry Rajoelina was sworn in as President, taking over from Hery Rajaonarimampianina following an election. On 27 May, a parliamentary election took place to elect the 151 members of the National Assembly, characterized by low voter turnout (31%). The majority of the seats (84 out of 151) went to the presidential coalition      party, Isika Rehetra miaraka amin’I Andry Rajoelina (IRD,) as confirmed by the results pronounced by the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI). In August, the newly-     elected National Assembly held its first session.

International scrutiny

In November, Madagascar was examined under the UN Universal Periodic Review process for the third time.[1] Madagascar received 203 recommendations, including on torture and degrading conditions in prisons, decriminaliz     ation of abortion, and protection of human rights defenders. Madagascar accepted 163, took 29 recommendations under further consideration and rejected 11.

Economic, social and cultural rights

Access to economic, social and cultural rights remained precarious.[2] Infant mortality remained high, as did the rate of children under five suffering from stunted growth.  Access to education was low, with one child out of five      aged 6 to 10 and one child out of three aged 11 to 14 remaining out of school.  Half the population continued to lack access to clean water, and 20% lacked adequate sanitation.[3]

In August, the new government backtracked on a commitment made by the previous government to adopt a new Education Development Plan, which aimed at facilitating access to school for children living in rural areas. Several NGOs working in the education sector protested this decision.

Detention

Prisons remained extremely overcrowded, with the total number of detainees increasing, and conditions      still inhumane. As of June, the prison population had reached more than 28,000 people, 56% of whom were in pre-trial detention. This number is up from 23,759 detainees in December 2018, when the rate of pre-trial detention was at 53.21%.

In May, the Minister of Justice informed Amnesty International[4] that he had approved a new, more nutritious diet for detainees, as opposed to their existing diet of mainly cassava (manioc), often served only once a day. By December 2019, however, this new diet had not yet been implemented in all prisons across the country.

In October, following a press statement by the President emphasizing the need for fair trials, the Ministers’ Council moved to organize mobile court hearings in all regions of Madagascar, and to increase the use of alternatives to detention for minor offences. Later that month, President Rajoelina visited the capital city’s prison, and publicly denounced the conditions of detention, overcrowding and excessive use of pre-trial detention, including for cases of petty and minor offences. He announced a presidential pardon of detainees held for minor offences, and committed to accelerating trials throughout the country.

Police and security forces

Acts of torture and other ill-treatment perpetrated by the police and the military forces remained a common occurrence, particularly in the context of the government’s fight against alleged cattle rustlers. Security forces often raided and looted villages, burned down houses, and tortured or killed villagers during searches for suspected cattle rustlers. In January, Amnesty International documented harrowing images of eight men in Betroka, Southern Madagascar, whose bodies were bullet-riddled after they were shot by police during a raid – they were accused of trying to steal from a shop.[5]

Despite the statement from the Minister of Public Security, the government has failed to ensure justice and      redress, and to hold suspected perpetrators to account. There is still no accountability for the victims from the 2017 revenge attacks by policemen in Antsakabary, who burnt down 500 houses, leading to the death of an elderly woman.

Freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly

The rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly continued to be violated. In April, investigative journalist Fernand Avimana, popularly known as Fernand Cello, was acquitted, nearly two years after his arrest on charges related to his work and fabricated accusations that he had stolen a cheque book.[6] He had previously accused a mining company and an alleged government ally of running an illegal sapphire mine in Ilakaka, South-West Madagascar. 

In April, members of a community opposed to a mineral sands project, Base Resources in South-West Madagascar, marched against plans to start mining. The local community, mainly consisting of farming and fishing families, have opposed the mining of ilmenite, zircon and rutile for seven years. On 2 May, authorities arrested 30 community members, accusing them of vandalising the company’s property during a demonstration. Twenty-one were released, but nine people from Benetse, Ampototse and Tsiafanoke were charged with burning and vandalizing the Base Resources exploitation campsite, and sent to pre-trial detention in Fianarantsoa prison on 9 May. On 13 June, the Fianarantsoa court acquitted them on charges of material destruction and arson and found them guilty of unarmed gathering without permission. They were released from prison and given six-month suspended prison sentences.

Sexual and reproductive rights

Abortion remained prohibited in all circumstances. An estimated 16% of maternal deaths were due to unsafe abortions – according to a Marie Stopes representative, three women died every day from a ‘spontaneous or provoked abortion’[7].

 


[1] Human Rights Council adopts Universal Periodic Review outcome on Madagascar (X/X/2019)

[2] https://mics.unicef.org/surveys

[3] Enquête nationale sur la situation socio-démographique des ménages (MICS) : les indicateurs restent faibles pour Madagascar, https://www.unicef.org/madagascar/communiqués-de-presse/enquête-nationale-sur-la-situation-socio-démographique-des-ménages-mics-les

[4] Madagascar’s new diet for detainees is a step in the right direction, Amnesty International Public statement, 12 June 2019, AFR 35/0519/2019

[5] Madagascar: Gruesome killing of suspected cattle thieves must be investigated, Amnesty International Press release, 1 February 2019

[6] Malagasy journalist acquitted nearly two years after his arrest, 17 April 2019, AFR 35/0218/2019

[7] Madagascar: les femmes et l’avortement illegal, https://fr.africanews.com/2019/09/01/madagascar-les-femmes-et-l-avortement-illegal/