Amnesty International Report 2004 - Madagascar
|Publication Date||26 May 2004|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2004 - Madagascar , 26 May 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/40b5a1fb8.html [accessed 28 November 2015]|
Covering events from January - December 2003
Security overall stabilized after the 2002 political crisis. Despite government commitments to human rights, judicial proceedings against people associated with the previous government, including those suspected of human rights abuses during the 2002 crisis, were often unfair. Lengthy pre-trial detention coupled with poor prison conditions further undermined the rights of detainees. The government on occasion restricted freedom of expression and assembly.
President Ravalomanana's party, Tiako I Madagasikara (TIM – I love Madagascar), dominated the political scene having won a large majority in parliamentary elections in December 2002. Some political parties that supported TIM in 2002 as part of the coalition KMMR (Marc Ravalomanana Support Committee) returned to opposition.
In March the government issued a document accusing AI of political bias and rejecting the organization's findings that both sides in the 2002 political conflict had committed human rights abuses. The government did not give substantive responses to the cases raised by AI.
In December, after debates between the Senate and parliament, the President issued an amnesty decree in relation to "crimes committed during the 2002 political crisis". The decree applies to anyone sentenced to less than three years' imprisonment and excludes those convicted of murder, torture and corruption.
In March Madagascar presented its report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which had been due since 1998. The Committee raised issues concerning gaps in the monitoring of children's rights, the fight against child labour and the reform of the juvenile justice system. In particular, the Committee recommended that the length of pre-trial detention be shortened and prison conditions improved.
The government promised to fight HIV/AIDS by allocating resources to awareness campaigns and infrastructure. Some members of parliament expressed support for the abolition of the death penalty.
Economic and social rights continued to be of serious concern, despite a government program to reduce poverty. Local and international aid organizations distributed emergency food supplies in the southeast to combat chronic hunger.
Accountability for human rights abuses
No investigations were conducted into the alleged torture of suspected supporters of former President Didier Ratsiraka during the 2002 political crisis by soldiers or supporters of the Ravalomanana government. Among such cases were those of Venance Raharimanana and Said Ibrahim, who said they were tortured after arrest in Mahajanga in June 2002.
- Lieutenant-Colonel Assolant Coutiti, an army officer under the Ratsiraka government, was found guilty of "inflicting injuries wilfully" on two civilians, François Xavier Rakotoarisoa and Ali Sarety, and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment. The two men had been tortured in Antsiranana and Ambanja respectively, northern Madagascar, during the 2002 crisis.
Unfair trials and judicial proceedings
In November the Minister of Justice stated that 59 people had been tried in the capital Antananarivo for offences committed during the 2002 crisis; at least 83 people were awaiting trial; and 113 others had been freed owing to lack of evidence. No details of any convictions or information about those held in the provinces were provided. There were concerns that the trials failed to meet international standards.
- Judicial proceedings against former Prime Minister Tantely Andrianarivo, detained since May 2002 and accused of several offences including embezzlement and "endangering the state", were marred by irregularities. In January he was transferred from the Antanimora prison in Antananarivo to a provincial prison without his family and lawyers being warned; he was transferred back to the capital a few months later. His defence lawyers raised procedural irregularities and argued that he should be tried before the yet to be constituted High Court of Justice. The High Constitutional Court ruled that he should be tried before an ordinary criminal court on grounds of "public order". He was subsequently refused release on bail. After August his health reportedly deteriorated and in December he was transferred to hospital. His trial began on 22 December even though appeals on procedural grounds had not been fully exhausted and his lawyers had only had access to his case file half a day before the trial. He was sentenced to 12 years' forced labour. The President, during his end-of-year speech, announced that he had allowed Tantely Andrianarivo to seek medical treatment abroad.
- Former State Secretary of Public Security Azaly Ben Marofo and his son Antonio were arrested on their return to Madagascar in May. They were detained without charge for six days before the investigation produced witnesses on whom to base charges. They were tried in August and found guilty of "undermining state security". Their lawyers denounced the lack of evidence presented against them at the trial. They were each sentenced to five years' imprisonment.
Poor prison conditions
Prison conditions remained poor and life-threatening. No investigation was conducted into the death in custody of Bernardo Tsano in Tsiafahy prison in July 2002, apparently caused by the poor conditions and lack of medical facilities.
- On 24 October Lieutenant-Colonel Norbert Botomora died in the infirmary of Antanimora prison, reportedly of a heart attack. Other prisoners said that he had asked for help during the night but the guard refused to open the infirmary. The authorities said that security rules prohibit guards from opening the infirmary at night. Lieutenant-Colonel Norbert Botomora had been transferred from Tsiafahy prison, which has no medical facilities, a few days earlier. He had been in pre-trial detention for more than a year on charges of "threatening state security".
Restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression
- In February political activist Liva Ramahazomanana was arrested as she was holding a public meeting critical of the government without authorization. She was subsequently accused of an "attempted coup d'état" with other army officers after it emerged that grenades had been left outside the Defence Ministry. She was sentenced in June to two years' imprisonment for "threatening state security".
- In March demonstrators and security forces clashed in the town of Toliara during a political rally. At least four people were injured by tear gas and gun butts used by security forces. Two members of the security forces were injured. Journalists from TV Plus were also beaten by security forces and had their videotape confiscated. One of them was briefly detained.
Racial violence against Merina community
Unidentified armed people committed acts of violence against people of Merina ethnic origin in provincial towns. The authorities accused an opposition party, the Committee for National Reconciliation, of being behind what appeared to be politically motivated violence.
- In October, after an opposition meeting on the death in custody of Lieutenant-Colonel Botomora (see above), several merchants of Merina origin were harassed or beaten by unidentified people.