The prolonged drought and recurrent cyclones had a devastating impact on access to food, water and sanitation. Detention facilities were overcrowded and conditions poor. The right to freedom of expression was restricted. The judicial persecution of human rights defenders, activists and whistle-blowers persisted and an environmental defender was murdered. Cases of discrimination and violence against people with albinism increased. Abortion remained a criminal offence.
Between January and April, six tropical storms and cyclones made landfall in the country, compounding the effects of the prolonged drought. Over 200 people were killed, and the livelihoods of more than 570,000 people were disrupted; public infrastructure, such as schools, roads and health centres, were destroyed across the country.
In February Imbiki Herilaza resigned as minister of justice amid corruption allegations after audio recordings of him requesting bribes were shared on social media.
By September, around 1.4 million people, representing 5.4% of the population, were vaccinated against Covid-19.
Right to food
The people of southern Madagascar continued to suffer the impact of prolonged drought and food insecurity. Consequently, malnutrition rates in the region increased and access to water, sanitation and hygiene became more precarious. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), 33% of the population in the Grand South region were facing high food insecurity.
The tropical storms and cyclones made landfall primarily in the east and central regions, driving further food insecurity; the WFP estimated that at least 470,000 people in the affected regions needed urgent food assistance.
Detention facilities were overcrowded and conditions were poor. In June, President Rajoelina commuted the sentences of 11,316 detainees and pardoned 2,902 sentenced prisoners, including people convicted of minor offences who had up to three months left on their sentence.
Human rights defenders
In the first quarter of the year, civil society actors held national consultations and meetings with representatives of the minister of justice to discuss the draft law on the protection of human rights defenders and activists, including environmental defenders and whistle-blowers. Following this, on 18 October, a parliamentarian submitted proposal 004-2022/PL for discussion at the National Assembly. However, there was no set date for its review. Malagasy human rights organizations expressed concerns that it did not incorporate key outcomes of the national consultations.
Whistle-blowers and human rights defenders were subjected to harassment and judicial persecution for exposing cases of corruption.
In February, human rights defender and schoolteacher Jeannot Randriamanana exposed on social media allegations concerning local authorities’ embezzlement of humanitarian aid meant for populations affected by cyclones Batsirai and Emnati in the district of Nosy Varika. On 17 March the Criminal Court of Mananjary sentenced him to a two-year suspended prison term on charges of “defamation and humiliation of members of Parliament and public servants” and identity fraud.1 After two months in arbitrary detention, he was granted provisional release on 10 May. On 12 July, the Court of Appeal of Fianarantsoa upheld the criminal court’s sentence. In September, Jeannot Randriamanana’s lawyers filed an appeal against his conviction before the Supreme Court. The date for the appeal had not been set by the end of the year.
On 26 May, the Criminal Court of Antananarivo sentenced Ravo Ramasomanana, who had been suspended from his position with the Ministry of Public Health, to a six-month suspended prison term and a fine of MGA 2 million (around USD 440). He was convicted on charges of defaming public servants in relation to an anonymous SMS that insulted members of the national police.
Right to life
On 2 June, Henri Rakotoarisoa, a 70-year-old environmental defender and president of the Mialo community association, was stabbed to death in the eastern district of Moramanga. On 18 November, the Criminal Court of Ambatolampy sentenced eight people to life imprisonment after convicting them of murder under article 295 of the Penal Code, and two people to three years’ imprisonment after convicting them of “non-assistance to a person in danger” under article 304 of the Penal Code. The court acquitted two defendants due to insufficient evidence. The Court also sentenced the ten defendants to pay damages of MGA 40 million (around USD 8,880) to the family of Henri Rakotoarisoa. Henri Rakotoarisoa was a leading voice in the denouncing of timber trafficking and illegal logging in Ankazondandy forest.
People with albinism
There was an increase in cases of discrimination and violent attacks against people with albinism, including murders and mutilations. According to a statement from the UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism in October, attacks in 2022 doubled compared to the same period in 2021. Children were the main targets, particularly in the south, where dangerous superstitious misconceptions about albinism persisted. In February, a three-year-old child was abducted in the city of Fort Dauphin in the south. The child’s mother was murdered and an uncle injured by the unidentified assailants, believed to be cattle thieves. On 4 March, the mutilated body of a six-year-old boy was found in the community of Berano, Amboasary Atsimo district.
At the end of August, unidentified men killed a woman and abducted her three-year-old child in Ikongo district in the south-east. The police arrested four suspects and on 29 August hundreds of community members gathered in front of the police station to demand accountability. They allegedly threw stones at the police station and the police responded with gunfire, killing nearly 20 people. The child was still missing at the end of the year.
In September, a private school in Ivato, a neighbourhood in the capital, Antananarivo, denied a 17-year-old boy’s enrolment request, alleging that the school needed to preserve its image and declaring that it was “not ready to take in children with albinism”.
Sexual and reproductive rights
Abortion remained a criminal offence. In May 2022, the president of the Permanent Commission of the National Assembly rejected the proposed law 004-2021/PL to modify article 317 of the Penal Code to decriminalize abortion. The proposal had not been presented for a vote before the National Assembly. The member of the National Assembly and permanent commission spokesperson said the draft law was deemed to be “incompatible with Malagasy culture and values”. The proposed law had sought to decriminalize abortion where pregnancy presented a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or girl, in cases of serious fetal impairment, and pregnancy resulting from rape or incest.