Madagascar

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings of criminal suspects. Most killings occurred during security force operations to stem cattle rustling by armed criminal groups in the central, west, and southwest areas as well as during police raids to combat insecurity in urban areas. Villagers sometimes supported government efforts to stem cattle rustling and were responsible for killing cattle rustlers.

In January the National Gendarmerie told the press that in its efforts to combat insecurity, gendarmes had killed 217 presumed thieves in 2017, compared to 220 the year before. Between January and September, media reported 292 deaths from security force actions to combat insecurity, but this number included members of the security forces and civilians as well as presumed thieves According to media, clashes between alleged cattle thieves and the security forces occurred at least monthly. Usually the security forces were composed of police and gendarmes, but occasionally they included military elements. There were isolated reports of security forces executing cattle thieves or bandits after capture. These could not be substantiated and were rarely, if ever, investigated.

In July bandits kidnapped four employees of a then state owned chromite mining company 115 miles north of Antananarivo. After their ransom was paid and they were released, gendarmes deployed to the area, and in mid-August a gendarme was killed in a shootout. Subsequently an army platoon consisting of 30 soldiers reportedly arrested a number of persons the locals identified as suspected bandits, removed their clothing and applied hot, melted plastic to their bodies. At least five were summarily executed, according to a villager’s report to a media outlet.

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution and law provide for the inviolability of the person and prohibit such practices, but security forces subjected prisoners and criminal suspects to physical and mental abuse, including torture, according to media reports.

Security personnel used beatings as punishment for alleged crimes or as a means of coercion. Off-duty and sometimes intoxicated members of the armed forces assaulted civilians. In most cases, investigations announced by security officials did not result in prosecutions.

Media outlets reported on August 25 that police took two presumed thieves to Antananarivo’s main public hospital August 23. One of the suspects was dead upon arrival at the hospital and the second one was very weak and died the next day. Both presented injuries including bruises, suggesting they had been the victims of battery. The suspects had been arrested the previous day for alleged involvement in an armed attack in Ankadindramamy that resulted in the death of a police officer.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening due to inadequate food, overcrowding, poor sanitation, and insufficient medical care.

Physical Conditions: Severe overcrowding due to weaknesses in the judicial system and inadequate prison infrastructure was a serious problem. One penitentiary surpassed its official capacity by nearly eightfold. As of August the country’s 84 prisons and detention centers held an estimated 24,590 inmates, of whom 1,729 were female and 22,861 male. The total number of inmates included 785 minors. This figure represented well over twice the official capacity of 10,360 inmates.

Lengthy pretrial detention was pervasive, contributing significantly to overcrowding. On April 25, the National Human Rights Commission (CNIDH) noted that two-thirds of detainees in the country were in pretrial detention, resulting in as many as 180 detainees sleeping in one room. The largest rooms were dormitory-style rooms designed to hold many detainees. Authorities sometimes held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners.

Authorities did not always hold juveniles separately from adults, and some children under school age shared cells with their incarcerated mothers. According to the Ministry of Justice, 53 percent of the 43 prisons holding juvenile detainees had separate areas for minors.

During the second quarter of 2017, Grandir Dignement (Grow Up with Dignity), a nongovernmental organization (NGO) dedicated to the rights of imprisoned youth, identified 828 minors held in the country’s 41 prisons, 39 jails, and two juvenile detention centers. The NGO estimated that 20 percent of the minor prisoners were collocated with adult prisoners during the day, and 5 percent shared dormitories with adults. Girls were always held together with adult female prisoners.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), almost one in two prisoners nationwide suffered from moderate or severe malnutrition. Each inmate received approximately 10.5 ounces of cassava per day, compared with the recommended 26 ounces. The ICRC, in collaboration with the Catholic Chaplaincy for Prisons, treated almost 7,500 prisoners in 14 detention centers for malnutrition during the year, in addition to approximately 2,000 sick prisoners and breastfeeding women.

A deteriorating prison infrastructure that often lacked sanitation facilities and potable water resulted in disease and insect and rodent infestations, although prison officials carried out extermination efforts against insects and rats, minor renovations, and small construction projects with financial support from the ICRC. Access to medical care was limited. Ventilation, lighting, and temperature control were inadequate or nonexistent in many of the smaller facilities hosting fewer than 300 inmates; larger facilities were renovated during the year to address these issues.

The Ministry of Justice recorded 129 deaths in prisons in 2017, none of which were attributed to actions by guards or other staff. The most frequent causes of death were tuberculosis, high blood pressure, and gastrointestinal issues.

Fifteen prisoners tried to escape Antalaha Prison in the northern Sava Region on July 15. During the confrontation between the prisoners and penitentiary agents, two prisoners died and one was seriously injured.

Administration: While a formal process exists to submit complaints to judicial authorities, few detainees used it due to fear of reprisal. Officials authorized weekly visits from relatives and permitted religious observance. Visits outside scheduled days were reportedly possible by bribing guards and penitentiary agents. NGOs reported bribes could purchase small privileges, such as allowing family members to bring food for prisoners.

Independent Monitoring: Authorities generally permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by the ICRC, several local NGOs, and some diplomatic missions. Authorities permitted the ICRC to conduct visits to all main penitentiary facilities and to hold private consultations in accordance with its standard modalities. Authorities also permitted ICRC representatives to visit detainees in pretrial or temporary detention.

Improvements: As of October, 22 of the country’s 41 prisons had established separate areas for boys and men, an increase from 2014 when only 17 prisons had such areas.

Humanity and Inclusion (HI), an NGO that collaborated with the Ministry of Justice penitentiary administration, completed a project called “Prison for a Better Future: From Detention to Reinsertion.” The project addressed the mental well-being of detainees in five detention centers. The project also promoted protection of detainees’ human rights and developed a method for psychosocial support for penitentiary agents, civil society organizations, local communities, and detainees.

Some regional directorates of the penitentiary administration undertook independent initiatives to improve detainees’ well-being. The Antalaha directorate, for example, established agreements with local farmers by which the prisons provided workers from among detainees to farmers, who then allocated part of their harvest to the prison food supply. During the year the administration concluded five such agreements that brought approximately 60 tons of dried foodstuffs including rice, corn, and cassava, to the prisons.

The government allocated an additional two billion ariary ($560,000) to the Ministry of Justice during the year to increase the pace of hearings and conduct a pilot project to improve detainees’ diet. In the pilot project, detainees in two prisons (Toliara and Miarinarivo) benefitted from a new diet providing three kinds of food to detainees and two meals per day, and the ministry stated its intent to expand this to the remaining prisons. The 2019 budget, approved in November, doubled the amount allocated to the penitentiary administration compared with the reporting year.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, but authorities did not always respect these provisions. Authorities arrested persons on vague charges and detained many suspects for long periods without trial. According to international media reports, women are routinely arrested for crimes their male relatives are accused of, allegedly because they should have known and are thus considered an accomplice.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The national police, under the authority of the Ministry of Public Security, are responsible for maintaining law and order in urban areas. The gendarmerie, under the Ministry of National Defense, is responsible for maintaining law and order in rural areas. Since 2015 the military has remained active in rural areas, particularly to maintain order in areas affected by cattle rustling and banditry.

The government did not always exercise law enforcement effectively outside the capital. Security forces at times failed to prevent or respond to societal violence, particularly in rural areas.

Government institutions lacked any effective means to monitor, inspect, or investigate alleged abuse by security forces, and impunity was a problem. Victims may lodge complaints in the local court of jurisdiction, although this rarely occurred.

The law gives traditional village institutions authority to protect property and public order. In some rural areas, a community-organized judicial system known as dina resolved civil disputes between villagers over such issues as alleged cattle rustling. Dina procedures sometimes conflicted with national laws by imposing harsh sentences without due process or by failing to protect the rights of victims. For example, the dina system of the Toliara region, adopted in 2016, states that prosecution for wrongful death is unnecessary in cases where a presumed criminal is killed during a robbery. Other dina systems prescribe capital punishment, although it has been abolished at the national level. For example, a newspaper reported on April 28 that the town of Tolongoina in the region of Vatovavy Fitovinany had set up a local dina to crack down on the frequent cases of vanilla theft. The agreement provided for the decapitation of any thief caught red-handed stealing vanilla.

In May the national police published a booklet entitled “Serve and Protect,” developed with the support of the ICRC, that serves as a guide to police officials for protecting human rights.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires arrest warrants in all cases except those involving ‘hot pursuit’ (the apprehension of a suspect during or immediately after a crime is committed), but authorities often detained persons based on accusations only and without judicial authorization. The law requires authorities to charge or release criminal suspects within 48 hours of arrest, but they often held individuals for significantly longer periods before charging or releasing them. Defendants have a right to counsel, and the law entitled those who could not afford a lawyer to one provided by the state. Many citizens were unaware of this right, and few requested attorneys. Defendants have the right to know the charges against them, but authorities did not always respect this right. Authorities frequently denied bail without justification. Magistrates often resorted to a mandat de depot (retaining writ) under which defendants were held in detention for the entire pretrial period. The law limits the duration of pretrial detention and regulates the use of the writ, with a theoretical maximum of eight months for criminal cases. Family members generally had access to prisoners, although authorities limited access for prisoners in solitary confinement or those arrested for political reasons.

Arbitrary Arrest: Security forces arbitrarily arrested journalists, political opponents of the government, demonstrators, and other civilians.

In August the CNIDH reported gendarmes arrested seven persons in the Sava Region for contesting their eviction from their village in Moratsiazo, where they had lived for five years. The court imprisoned the men in Antalaha; two young children and their mother were held in the Sambava police station.

Pretrial Detention: In April the CNIDH noted that two-thirds of detainees in the country were in pretrial detention. According to the Ministry of Justice, as of August 58 percent of the prison population (14,222 of 24,590 inmates) was in pretrial detention. Pretrial detention ranged from several days to several years. Poor recordkeeping, an outdated judicial system, insufficient magistrates, insufficient courts of first instance and lack of resources contributed to the problem. The length of pretrial detention often exceeded the maximum sentence for the alleged crime.

On March 1, the NGO Action des Chretiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture (Action by Christians to Abolish Torture) developed and published a manual to help law enforcement agents reduce the rate of pretrial detention with the aim of decreasing prison overcrowding and improving respect for the rights of prisoners.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law provides for the defendant’s right to file an appeal concerning his or her pretrial detention with no specific provision concerning his or her right to prompt release and compensation. The law states that a defendant must be released immediately if a prosecutor approves a temporary release requested by the defendant.

Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judiciary was susceptible to executive influence at all levels, and corruption remained a serious problem. There were instances in which the outcome of trials appeared predetermined, and authorities did not always enforce court orders. Lack of training, resources, and personnel hampered judicial effectiveness, and case backlogs were “prodigious,” according to Freedom House. Judges reported instructions from the executive to release accused sex offenders who were often, but not always, foreign citizens from donor countries.

The law reserves military courts for trials of military personnel, and they generally follow the procedures of the civil judicial system, except that military jury members must be officers. Defendants in military cases have access to an appeals process and generally benefit from the same rights available to civilians, although their trials are not public. A civilian magistrate, usually joined by a panel of military officers, presides over military trials.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, but the courts have the authority to direct that a trial be closed to protect the victim or to maintain public order. Trials were often delayed. Prolonged incarceration without charge, denial of bail, and postponed hearings were common. The law provides for a presumption of innocence, but authorities often ignored this right. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, and the law provides free interpretation as necessary, from the moment charged through all appeals.

Defendants have the right to legal counsel at every stage of proceedings. Many citizens were unaware of their right to counsel, however, and authorities did not systematically inform them of it. Defendants who did not request or could not afford counsel generally received very limited time to prepare their cases. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials, to present and confront witnesses, and to present evidence. Authorities generally respected such rights if defendants had legal representation. The law provides the right to an interpreter for the judicial police, examining magistrate, and the defendant’s legal advisor but does not mention any such right for the defendant, nor whether it is a free service. The law stipulates that the defendant has the right to refuse an interpreter. In practice, if an external interpreter must be hired, it is at the defendant’s expense. Legislation outlining defendants’ rights does not specifically refer to the right not to be compelled to testify or not to confess guilt. It does include the right to assistance by another person during the investigation and trial. Defendants have the right to appeal convictions.

By law, the above rights apply to all defendants, and there were no reports that any groups were denied these rights.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

Alain Ramaroson remained in jail at years end. The leader of an opposition party, Ramaroson was arrested in August 2016 and accused of forgery in a land dispute with one of his family members. After several refusals of his attorneys’ requests for temporary release and after several postponements, a first trial was held in July 2017, and he was sentenced to one year in prison and a 900 million ariary ($252,000) fine. In August 2017 the court rendered a judgement related to another charge and sentenced him to 30 months in prison and a 200 million ariary fine ($56,000). The media reported that persons seeking to visit him were required to obtain prior approval from the ministry.

There were no reports of any other cases of politically motivated arrests or detentions.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

The judiciary deals with all civil matters, including human rights cases, and individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts. Courts lacked independence, were subject to influence, and often encountered difficulty in enforcing civil judgments. There is no prohibition against appealing to regional human rights bodies, but there was no known case of an appeal. The legal system does not recognize the jurisdiction of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

During the year, media reported several similar cases of forced evictions of entire communities in various parts of the country, supported by security forces, to the benefit of foreign investors. There were no reports that the evicted persons in any of these cases received any restitution.

There was no report of government action to seize private properties for public use during the year.

The law prohibits such actions, but there were a few reports the government failed to respect these provisions.

On May 20, for example, five soldiers belonging to a unit from Antsirabe seized 15 zebu cattle from a courtyard and burned a house in the district of Manandriana, Amoron’i Mania. The soldiers had allegedly received an anonymous tip that the resident was a cattle rustler and had gone to the village to arrest him. When they found no one in the suspect’s presumed house, they burned it and seized the zebus.

Human Rights Reports
Edit Your Custom Report

01 / Select a Year

02 / Select Sections

03 / Select Countries You can add more than one country or area.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future