2010 Human Rights Report: Madagascar
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
April 8, 2011
Madagascar, with a population of more than 20 million, is ruled by an unelected and illegal civilian regime that assumed power in a March 2009 coup with military support. Andry Nirina Rajoelina adopted the title of president of the transition, at the head of a loose coalition of former opposition politicians, and intends to remain in this position until elections are held. Former president Marc Ravalomanana, democratically elected in 2006 is in exile, and the parliament has remained suspended since then. In defiance of a negotiated agreement with the African Union (AU) and local political leaders, the regime failed to establish a legitimate transitional administration that would oversee free and open elections for the restoration of a legal government. Military leaders continue to assert their autonomy from the current political leadership, despite their tacit support of Rajoelina's de facto government. On November 17, the de facto regime held a unilateral and internationally unrecognized constitutional referendum that sparked an attempted coup by a small group of military leaders, which was resolved after almost three full days of negotiations. There were instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently of civilian control.
The following human rights problems were reported: unlawful killings and other security force abuses; harsh prison conditions, sometimes resulting in deaths; arbitrary arrest and detention; lengthy pretrial detention; censorship; intimidation and arrest of and violence against journalists; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, and assembly; curtailment of the right of citizens to choose their government; official corruption and impunity; societal discrimination and violence against women, and trafficking of women and children; and child labor, including forced child labor.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, under both the Ravalomanana government in 2009 and Rajoelina's de facto government during the year. Police and gendarmes continued to use unwarranted lethal force during pursuit and arrest.
For example, on May 20, during a Religious Leaders' Movement (HMF) protest, an armed confrontation between dissident factions of the gendarmerie's Intervention Force (FIGN) and the joint armed forces sent with the Special Intervention Force (FIS) by the de facto regime resulted in the death of a religious leader, the death of a member of the FIS, and about a dozen injured among the armed forces and civilians. There were no further developments by year's end.
On September 22, the Police Intervention Force in Toamasina shot and killed two persons accused of armed attacks after they reportedly opened fire on police. There were no further developments by year's end.
On August 28, former president Ravalomanana was tried in absentia, convicted, and sentenced to forced labor for life for the February 2009 killings by presidential guards of at least 30 protesters outside Ambohitsorohitra Palace. Ravalomanana continued to claim his innocence while exiled in South Africa.
There were no further developments in the following 2009 deaths that resulted from actions by security forces: the January deaths of 150 to 300 persons nationwide during riots; the January death of at least 44 persons trapped in a burning department store in Antananarivo; the January killing of a boy outside the MBS television station; and the April shooting deaths of two protesters by security forces.
There were no further developments in the series of small explosions in the capital between April and August 2009, for which the pro-Ravalomanana opposition was blamed.
On November 11, Fetison Rakoto Adrianairina and Zafilahy Stanislas, leaders of the opposition group supported by former president Ravalomanana, and Pastor Edouard Tsarahame, a leader of the opposition group supported by former president Zafy, were arrested on charges of holding an unauthorized demonstration. Subsequently, they were moved to different prisons and eventually to an undisclosed location. Their lawyers and family were not permitted to see them or know of their whereabouts from November 20 to 25. Their trial was postponed to January 23, 2011, because the defendants did not appear for the original November 23 trial date despite being held under custody in an undisclosed location at the time.
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; however, security forces subjected prisoners to physical and mental abuse.
For example, on November 20, proregime forces arrested a group of military officers who had led an attempted coup that started on November 17. A few days after their arrest, it was reported that most of the attempted coup leaders showed signs of physical abuse and two of them, General Raeolina and Colonel Coutiti, were in critical condition after beatings. A November 21 medical report conducted by the chief doctor at Tsiafahy prison on General Raeolina revealed that he had severe deep bruising in the face and chest and had been in and out of consciousness, likely as a result of physical abuse by the arresting officers. Colonels Andriamihoatra and Jadifara, both involved in the coup attempt and arrested on November 20, received medical exams on November 21 also revealing potential physical abuse by arresting officers.
On April 29, six persons were injured when Antsiranana police opened fire on a funeral procession that passed in front of the central police station. The funeral procession was protesting the death of Ninjaka Olivier, who was allegedly beaten to death two days earlier by police. There were no further developments by year's end.
There were no further developments in the following 2009 cases: the March detention and harsh treatment of Pastor Lala Rasendrahasina; the 2009 arrest and pistol whipping of a member of parliament by Gendarme Commanders Charles Andrianatsoavina and Lylison Rene Urbain; and the September FIS shooting of a woman in the leg in Antananarivo.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening under both the Ravalomanana and Rajoelina regimes. Severe overcrowding due to weaknesses in the judicial system and inadequate prison infrastructure remained a serious problem; pervasive pretrial detention continued.
On March 11, a presidential pardon released 1,424 prisoners over the age of 70.
As of June the country's 83 prisons and detention centers held approximately 18,647 prisoners. This total included approximately 736 women and girls and 424 juvenile males. Of those detained, 7,964 were in pretrial detention.
Chronic malnutrition, which affected up to two-thirds of detainees in some prisons, was the most common cause of death. The Ministry of Justice's goal in 2008 to raise prisoners' daily food ration (typically dry manioc, rice, or cassava) had not been implemented, and the situation worsened due to budget shortfalls as a result of the ongoing political crisis and the suspension of some foreign assistance. Families and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) supplemented the daily rations of some prisoners.
For example, in June and July there were four reported deaths in Taolagnaro prison due primarily to malnutrition. In 2009, 34 deaths were recorded in the first 10 months. However, NGOs and media sources indicated that there was substantial underreporting of prison deaths. The total number of deaths in all prisons during the year was unavailable.
Malnutrition and a lack of hygiene made detainees vulnerable to disease, including epidemics. Deteriorating prison infrastructure--including a lack of sanitary facilities and potable water--resulted in skin disease, insect infestation, and other health risks. Access to medical care was limited, although NGOs reported limited success in targeted sanitation activities at several facilities in the north. Ventilation, lighting, and temperature control in facilities were inadequate, indeed hardly existed.
Church leaders and some NGOs reported that rape was commonplace in ... (Suivre le lien)