Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
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.
The gendarmerie and police inspection offices investigated abuses perpetrated by their officers. The office of army command conducted investigations of military personnel. These offices investigated formal complaints and, more often, incidents that were widely covered in traditional and social media and triggered a backlash from the public. There were more investigations related to such incidents than in previous years. In isolated cases these investigations led to arrest, conviction, and jailing of accused security force members.
Between January and September, press reported at least 135 deaths during security force operations, including members of the security forces and ordinary civilians, as well as those suspected of crimes. Usually the security forces involved were composed of police and gendarmes, but occasionally they included military personnel and prison guards. There were reports of security forces executing suspected cattle thieves or bandits after capture; in most cases security forces claimed those killed attempted to escape and refused to respond to warning shots. These statements by security forces often could not be substantiated. In isolated cases the government launched investigations, arrested, and jailed the accused security force members.
On August 7, soldiers from the Second Inter Arms Battalion (BIA2) shot and killed two villagers and injured another in Ampamoriana in the Bongolava region. The army command reported an armed confrontation, but villagers reported to the local gendarmerie that they had not heard any gunshots from the villagers. Media reported on August 10 that the army command launched an investigation and dismissed the commander of the BIA2 battalion, his deputy, and the chief of the contingent that carried out the raid. There was no reported trial as of November.
A mass prisoner escape from Farafangana Prison in August resulted in security forces killing 23 detainees. International organizations, local civil society groups, and human rights activists characterized the incident as showing excessive use of force by the security forces. A preliminary investigation by the Ministry of Justice revealed that acts of violence and corruption by prison staff incited detainees to organize the massive prison break. The resulting investigation led to the replacement of the prefet (administrator) of Farafangana, the regional director of the penitentiary administration, and the manager of the prison. As of September authorities took no other action against those responsible for the killings (see also section 1.c., Prison and Detention Center Conditions).
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 during coerced confessions, according to the National Independent Human Rights Commission (CNIDH) in 2019.
Security personnel reportedly used beatings as punishment for alleged crimes or as a means of coercion. There were reports that off-duty and sometimes intoxicated members of the armed forces assaulted civilians. Investigations into these incidents announced by security officials rarely resulted in prosecutions.
On August 1, security forces patrolling in Antohomadinika caught two alleged pickpockets and reportedly forced them into a pool of sewage, made them apologize in front of the large crowd of onlookers, and then handed them over to police investigators.
Impunity was a significant problem in the security forces. Factors contributing to impunity included corruption and a lack of reporting of abuses. Offices that investigated abuses included inspection bodies within the gendarmerie, police, and army command. The government did not provide human rights training for security forces, but it collaborated with international organizations to build security forces’ capacity on specific law enforcement problems such as trafficking in persons and child protection.
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: Lengthy pretrial detentions, inefficiencies in the judicial system, and inadequate prison infrastructure created a serious overcrowding problem. One penitentiary surpassed its official capacity by nearly eightfold. As reported on UNICEF’s website in June, the country’s 82 prisons and detention centers held 27,600 inmates. This population was more than twice the official capacity of 11,000.
Lengthy pretrial detention was pervasive, contributing significantly to overcrowding. Authorities sometimes held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. In August 2019 the CNIDH noted worsening conditions during its visits to 23 of 83 facilities.
Authorities did not always hold juveniles separately from adults, and some children younger than school age shared cells with their incarcerated mothers. According to the Ministry of Justice, 65 percent of the 44 prisons holding juvenile detainees had separate areas for minors in 2018.
Amnesty International stated in April that detainees continued to be affected by problems such as malnutrition, lack of hygiene, and limited access to medical care. Detained persons were crowded in cells without appropriate lighting and ventilation and slept on the ground with no mattress or blanket.
In August the UN High Commission for Human Rights considered the country’s overcrowded detention centers as a “hotbed” for COVID-19 proliferation. Prisons were overcrowded with generally unhygienic conditions, poor food, and no proper access to health care.
The Ministry of Justice recorded 43 deaths between January and October 2019 compiled from all the detention and prison facilities of the country. The most frequent causes of death from physical conditions were tuberculosis, high blood pressure, and gastrointestinal problems. Prison authorities took few remedial actions concerning these deaths.
Ministry of Justice officials indicated that overcrowding at Farafangana Prison contributed to the August violent prison break in which 23 detainees were killed (see section 1.a.).
Administration: While a formal process exists to submit complaints to judicial authorities, few detainees used it due to fear of reprisal. Authorities rarely investigated the complaints they received. Officials authorized weekly visits from relatives and permitted religious observance. Visits outside scheduled days were reportedly possible by bribing guards and penitentiary agents. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported bribes could purchase small privileges, such as allowing family members to bring food for prisoners.
In March the government suspended all family and NGO visits to prisons to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, but relatives continued to bring food for detainees without visiting them. Authorities lifted these restrictions in October.
Independent Monitoring: Authorities generally permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by local NGOs and some diplomatic missions.
Improvements: In April, UNICEF began support that included improving nutrition, and providing basic medicines, personal protective equipment, testing kits, sanitary products for women and girls, and disinfection equipment.
Also in April, NGO Grandir Dignement (Grow with Dignity) reported that it set up a detention watch system to protect juvenile detainees, including twice weekly visits.
In June, President Rajoelina announced a pardon of Antanamora Prison detainees to address overcrowding problems, particularly in view of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Prison authorities subsequently released 3,871 detainees. In addition 7,826 detainees had their prison time shortened as part of the pardon announcement but remained in prison to continue serving their reduced sentences.
The prison administration set up specific areas to isolate new inmates and avoid a massive outbreak of COVID-19. In July the minister of justice announced a strengthening of measures to prevent the spread of the disease through testing of all new detainees, 15 days of quarantine, and close monitoring of health conditions.
On September 16, the government replaced the regional director in charge of penitentiary administration and the manager of the prison of Farafangana. The Midi newspaper reported that authorities took this decision after its investigation of the killing of 23 escaped detainees (see section 1.a.).
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.
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 problems 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.
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 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 entitles those who cannot 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 to eight months and regulates the use of the writ, although authorities often exceeded this limit.
Arbitrary Arrest: Security forces arbitrarily arrested journalists, political opponents of the government, demonstrators, human rights activists, and other civilians.
On February 15, the gendarmerie of Ihosy arrested a well known human rights activist on fraud and extortion charges. Civil society organizations described these charges as intimidation designed to suppress his denunciations of corruption among security forces and public officials. By early March authorities released the activist from pretrial detention, and he awaited trial.
Pretrial Detention: As of October 2019, approximately 57 percent of inmates nationwide were in pretrial detention. Pretrial detention ranged from several days to several years. Poor recordkeeping, an outdated judicial system, insufficient numbers of magistrates, and too few courts of first instance contributed to the problem. The length of pretrial detention often exceeded the maximum sentence for the alleged crime. In August the minister of justice observed that the restrictions to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak resulted in the extension of the pretrial detention period for a number of detainees as tribunals intermittently closed or reduced their working hours. The government took no action to remedy these extensions.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, the judiciary was susceptible to outside 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 and personnel hampered judicial effectiveness, and case backlogs were “prodigious,” according to Freedom House.
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.
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 the 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.
Defendants have the right to legal counsel at every stage of the 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, however, that the defendant has the right to refuse an interpreter. If an 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 confess guilt. Defendants have the right to appeal convictions.
There were reports of political prisoners and detainees. Authorities arrested and imprisoned political leaders and activists, ostensibly on charges unrelated to their political positions or for offenses against the public order. Estimates of their number ranged in the single digits. Generally they received the same protections as other prisoners and detainees. The government permitted access to these persons by humanitarian and human rights organizations.
On June 1, the gendarmerie arrested Berija Ravelomanantsoa, a university student leader close to a former administration, for several allegedly insulting posts on social media, charging him with offenses against the public order and the dignity of public officials including the president. On September 30, the Court of Antananarivo sentenced Ravelomanantsoa to 44 months in prison. There were multiple demonstrations and calls from fellow activists and relatives for his release.
On July 16, police arrested former minister of communication Harry Laurent Rahajason, who served under a former president, for a rally on July 13 calling for the release of Berija Ravelomanantsoa. Pending trial he remained in jail despite calls by his wife and daughter for his release for allegedly serious health problems. Opposition leader and President of the Senate Rivo Rakotovao denounced Rahajason’s continued detention as politically motivated. On October 15, the Court of Antananarivo sentenced Rahajason to 44 months in prison for an unauthorized rally and attempted offense against public security.
On April 1, security forces arrested Ny Rado Rafalimanana, a former presidential candidate and well known opposition figure, during a public COVID-19 testing event in Antananarivo while he accompanied a relative trying to receive a test. The Court of Antananarivo charged him the following day with public disorder and “provoking” the security forces. In July the court temporarily released him pending prosecution for this incident and a separate fraud charge.
Amnesty: During an address to the country in May, the president announced a release of journalists in detention to honor Media Freedom Day. The government released an online newspaper journalist and a television presenter whom authorities had charged with defamation and spreading of false news.
The judiciary deals with all civil matters, including human rights cases, and individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights abuses through domestic courts. 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.
On June 18, inhabitants of a site for a new bypass road in Ankadindramamy, Antananarivo complained of losing their land without receiving promised compensation. The inhabitants stated they turned over part of their property in 2018, and authorities informed them in 2019 that all of their property would be required for the project.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law prohibits such actions, but there were reports the government failed to respect these provisions.
The CNIDH reported the continuing arrest and preventive detention of women on the pretext of their supposed complicity in the alleged crimes of male family members being sought by authorities. The CNIDH noted the women were entitled to a presumption of innocence and described the practice as ineffective, because male family members rarely turned themselves in to free the detained women.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, but these “may be limited by respect for the freedoms and rights of others, and by the imperative of safeguarding public order, national dignity, and state security.” The government sometimes restricted these rights. The law includes several provisions limiting freedom of speech and expression, including broad powers of the government to deny media licenses to political opponents, seize equipment, and impose fines.
Freedom of Speech: In accordance with the constitution, the law restricts individuals’ ability to criticize the government publicly.
The government arrested journalists and activists who publicly denounced the misbehavior of public figures. The government often used unrelated charges to prosecute these journalists and activists. Most government actions to restrict freedom of expression occurred within the context of the national response to COVID-19, with journalists arrested or harassed for reporting failures of government officials to combat the disease effectively.
On March 24, acting under the national health emergency decree, the Ministry of Communication and Culture ordered the suspension of all radio programs that allowed the public to call in during live programs. In April, Reporters without Borders noted this was an infringement of the freedom of expression. This notice also required all audiovisual companies to broadcast live a daily program providing official communications from the government’s COVID-19 operation center. The ministry announced in October that all radio programs could resume their live call-in programs.
Freedom of Press and Media, Including Online Media: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views, but not without restriction. The law contains several articles limiting press and media freedoms. For example the law requires the owner of a media company to be the chief publisher. This article may permit candidates for political office, who are also media owners, to use their outlets to advocate against opponents.
The law gives the communications ministry far-reaching powers to suspend media licenses and seize property of media outlets if one of their journalists commits two infractions of the law. The law allows only state-owned radio and television stations the right to broadcast nationally, although this limitation was not always enforced.
The country has numerous independent newspapers. More than 300 radio and television stations operated in the country, although many shifted to live call-in shows in recent years to distance themselves from editorial responsibility for content. Many of them continued to have a national audience, despite the law’s limitations. The opposition had greater access to state-run media.
Violence and Harassment: There were several reports of journalists being harassed for criticizing the government and public services.
On April 4, the government arrested journalist Rahelisoa Arphine, the publication manager of an online journal frequently sympathetic to the opposition, for defamatory speech against the president. On social media Arphine had accused the president of responsibility for citizens’ deaths because of inadequate COVID-19 measures. Over the next month, the court of Antananarivo rejected several requests for temporary release to await trial despite public appeals by the Union of Journalists and Amnesty International. The president ordered Arphine’s release without announcing any charges in early May.
In May authorities in the government-run COVID-19 operations center summoned a correspondent of newspaper l’Express after the newspaper published an article reporting a confirmed case in Toliara. During the investigation a gendarmerie colonel verbally threatened the journalist and ordered her not to publish similar items.
On July 30, Antananarivo mayor Naina Andriantsitohaina ordered media company MBS to leave its leased government property within six months. Nonpayment of the lease, the only reason to terminate the agreement, had not occurred. MBS was owned by former president Marc Ravalomanana.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: Journalists practiced self-censorship, and authors generally published books of a political nature abroad.
In May, African Media Barometer reported that journalists in the country believed they needed to be careful regarding what they said or published due to arrests and lawsuits. Claiming censorship, Member of Parliament Brunelle Razafitsiandraofa in June stated that the minister of communications prevented the broadcast of an interview that Razafitsiandraofa held with the public television channel.
On the night of April 6 to 7, unknown persons damaged the transmitter and antenna of Real TV, although the facility was guarded by soldiers, according to Reporters without Borders. Real TV had planned to rebroadcast a March 25 interview with former president Ravalomanana in which he criticized the government’s COVID-19 response. Real TV remained off the air for several days.
Libel/Slander Laws: Although defamation is not a criminal offense in the communications code, a separate cybercrime law allows for the charge of criminal defamation for anything published online. It is unclear whether the cyber criminality law, which includes prison sentences for online defamation, has precedence over the communications code, since all newspapers are also published online. The fines allowed for offenses under the communications code are many times higher than the average journalist’s annual salary.
There were several reports of government authorities using libel, slander, or defamation laws to restrict public discussion. Journalists and citizens faced police investigation and legal prosecution for defamation and infringement of public order for posting criticism of government performance and public services on social media.
National Security: Authorities cited the need to protect national security when deterring criticism of government policies on COVID-19.
On August 25, media reported that the gendarmerie arrested 20 Facebook users for cybercrime during the March-to-August health emergency period. The gendarmerie accused them of spreading false news and defamation, allegedly “destabilizing” acts, and “threats to state security.” Half of the accused were in pretrial detention; the others were released without charges. Authorities also arrested more prominent figures on similar grounds, such as the well known singer Rolf.
Actions to Expand Freedom of Expression, Including for Media: In August the High Constitutional Court upheld prohibitions on the publication of information discussed during closed-door meetings, although it stressed these situations should be rare, and it declared unconstitutional previous limits on publishing reports or other documents created by government institutions.
The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.
The law prohibits insulting or defaming a government official online. According to Reporters without Borders, “the law’s failure to define what is meant by ‘insult’ or ‘defamation’ leaves room for very broad interpretation and major abuses.” The law provides for punishment of two to five years’ imprisonment and fines for defamation.
Public access to the internet was limited mainly to urban areas. Political groups, parties, and activists used the internet extensively to advance their agendas, share news, and criticize other parties. Observers generally considered the internet (not including social media) to be among the more reliable sources of information.
There were isolated incidents of government restrictions on academic freedom. In April, Professor Stephane Ralandison, dean of the Faculty of Medicine of Toamasina, wrote an article on LinkedIn voicing his scientific reservations over the COVID-19 organics remedy promoted by President Rajoelina. On May 28, the gendarmerie arrested him for the article and his alleged connection to the suicide of another Toamasina doctor being treated for COVID-19. The gendarmes released him without charge. On June 1, gendarmes reportedly brought him to the capital for a hearing and then re-released him.
The constitution and law provide for peaceful assembly and association, but the government restricted peaceful assembly.
The constitution and law provide for freedom of peaceful assembly, but authorities often restricted this right. The government required all public demonstrations to have official authorization from municipalities and police prefectures, but these rarely gave authorization to opposition parties. Security forces regularly impeded opposition gatherings throughout the country and used excessive force to disperse demonstrators.
Several times security forces used tear gas and discharged their weapons into the air to disperse demonstrations by university students, supporters of political opponents, and other groups. There were several demonstrations held by different groups protesting the restrictive measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Demonstrators generally retaliated by throwing stones at security forces or set up roadblocks, which often resulted in injuries and arrests.
On July 13, a number of individuals demonstrated in Ambohipo, Antananarivo, to demand the release of Berija Ravelomanantsoa, a university student movement leader arrested in June (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners). Security forces dispersed the demonstrators and removed roadblocks set up by the protesters. Security forces arrested three demonstrators for disturbing the peace, holding unauthorized rallies, and infringing health emergency measures.
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
d. Freedom of Movement
The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.
The law prohibits citizens from leaving the country to work abroad in countries deemed “risky,” as a measure to reduce trafficking in persons. Because destination countries are not specifically identified in the decree, citizens may be prevented from leaving the country to work abroad at the discretion of border agents.
The government health emergency measures to prevent the proliferation of COVID-19 included travel restrictions within, to, and from the country.
In-country Movement: At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country in March the government suspended all internal flights as well as ground transportation linking the different regions of the country. As the pandemic eased, the government relaxed these measures and allowed interregional travel again in September.
Foreign Travel: The government issued an exit ban to several individuals known to be close to the opposition or to the former regime. Authorities often justified such measures as necessary for investigative needs.
On February 4, the public prosecutor of the Court of Appeal of Antananarivo issued an exit ban against Ny Rado Rafalimanana, a candidate during the last presidential elections. Some media asserted this decision was motivated by his refusal to obey gendarmes who banned him from entering Ambatondrazaka two days earlier, where he had been directing aid to flood victims, circumventing the government’s instruction that all donations go through the national risk and disaster management bureau.
In March the government suspended all international flights to and from the country as part of the anti-COVID-19 national response. In June the government started repatriating citizens from abroad.
e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons
Authorities generally cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in assisting the small number of refugees in the country.
Access to Asylum: The law does not include provisions for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees.
Freedom of Movement: Refugees and asylum seekers reported that UNHCR-issued asylum seeker certificates were not recognized by government officials, especially security forces. Police frequently detained some asylum seekers and tore up their documents, rendering them more vulnerable to arrest or expulsion.
Employment: Refugees and asylum seekers did not have access to employment, because without a resident visa they were unable to get a work permit.
Access to Basic Services: Refugees and asylum seekers received no support from the government, but the government did not interfere with support provided by UNHCR via a local NGO. Refugees and asylum seekers complained that the amount of support they received was insufficient because they could not work and received no government support. Hospitals and service providers charged refugees higher rates as foreigners, making basic medical care unaffordable to refugees.
The law gives men and women equal rights to pass their nationality to their children and more protection to women and children against the loss of their nationality. The law grants women the right to transmit nationality to their children regardless of a woman’s marital status. The loss of citizenship for any reason mentioned in the law does not affect the spouse and the children of the deprived person.
The provisions of the previous nationality code resulted in as many as 15,000 stateless persons from the minority Muslim community, many belonging to families that had lived in the country for generations. Muslim leaders estimated the previous law affected as much as 5 percent of the approximately two million Muslims in the country. Members of the wider Muslim community suggested a Muslim-sounding name alone could delay one’s citizenship application indefinitely.
Requests for nationality certificates continued. Statelessness remained a problem for those who remained ineligible for nationality.
Some members of the South Asian community–who failed to register for Indian, Malagasy, or French citizenship following India’s independence in 1947 and Madagascar’s independence in 1960–were no longer eligible for any of the three citizenships; this circumstance applied to their descendants as well.
All stateless persons may apply for a foreign resident card, which precludes the right to vote, own property, or apply for a passport, thus limiting international travel. Stateless women may obtain nationality by marrying a citizen and may request citizenship before the wedding date, but women cannot confer citizenship on a stateless husband. Stateless persons continued to have difficulty accessing education, health care, employment, and buying land, and lived in fear of arrest.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides for criminal penalties for official corruption, but the government did not implement the law effectively. Corruption was pervasive at all levels of government; however, the government increased focus on combating corruption, leading to multiple convictions.
Corruption: Corruption investigations by the Independent Anti-Corruption Bureau (BIANCO) led to several cases going to trial at the Anti-Corruption Court (PAC) and convictions and imprisonments of former and sitting government officials for embezzlement and bribery.
The government took legal and disciplinary measures against working-level civil servants in the gendarmerie, police, and judiciary for bribery, involvement in natural resource smuggling, and diverting government assistance intended for vulnerable households affected by COVID-19 restrictions.
Several times members of civil society and the opposition called for transparent management of COVID-19 crisis response funds, most of which were provided by donors.
In early August, Facebook users and media denounced a 216 million ariary ($57,000) contract for information technology equipment involving the wife of the director of the COVID-19 operations center, believing the purchase price to be unreasonably high and the agreement tainted by nepotism. The BIANCO director general stated that maintaining a peaceful environment during the COVID-19 crisis was more important than starting an investigation, although media reported in September that BIANCO began an investigation after a civil society complaint to the PAC.
Financial Disclosure: The law requires regular income and asset declarations by individuals in the following positions: prime minister and other government ministers; members of the National Assembly and Senate; members of the High Constitutional Court; chiefs of regions and mayors; magistrates; civil servants holding positions of or equivalent to ministry director and above; inspectors of land titling, treasury, tax, and finances; military officers at the company level and above; inspectors from the state general inspection, the army’s general inspection, and the national gendarmerie’s general inspection; and judicial police officers. The names of those who make declarations are made public; however, the contents of the declarations are not public, and there are no sanctions for noncompliance.
As of September, according to the High Constitutional Court website, the prime minister, 15 out of the 25 members of his cabinet, and 165 of the 214 members of parliament had declared their assets.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights
Numerous domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were not always responsive to their views, but authorities allowed international human rights groups to enter the country, work, and consult freely with other groups. Authorities reacted to accusations of human rights abuses more frequently and positively than during previous years.
Some authorities reacted defensively to domestic and international criticism of the killing of escaped prisoners from Farafangana Prison in August (see section 1.a.).
Several domestic NGOs worked on human rights, but few had the capacity to work effectively and independently.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The CNIDH is composed of 11 commissioners, each elected by members of a different human rights organization and given a mandate to investigate cases of, and publish reports on, human rights abuses. The government dedicated a budget for the commission to operate. In addition some international organizations and diplomatic missions provided some equipment. The previous members’ mandate expired on October 13, and no new members were elected as of November; COVID-19 restrictions delayed these elections. The CNIDH was independent and somewhat effective. The CNIDH issued several communiques highlighting human rights abuses perpetrated by government officials and launched investigations on outstanding incidents. Nevertheless, its actions were limited; investigations did not lead to concrete sanctions or convictions.