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Madagascar

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

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.).

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.

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:

Internet Freedom

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.

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

Not applicable.

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.

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