U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Madagascar
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Madagascar, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa19c.html [accessed 25 April 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
MADAGASCARMadagascar held its second presidential election under the 1992 Constitution in December 1996, following the impeachment and removal of then-President Albert Zafy earlier in the year. The winner, former Second Republic President Didier Ratsiraka, took office in February. The election was widely accepted as free and fair. Under the Constitution, power is divided among: The President, the Prime Minister and his Government, and a bicameral legislature (Senate and National Assembly). A number of institutions provided for in the Constitution, including the Senate, an independent judiciary, some decentralized local governments, and new courts that require Senate appointments had still not been established by year's end. Legislative elections scheduled for August did not take place because of new requirements that voters possess national identity cards. These elections are planned for March 1998. The State Secretary of the Ministry of Interior for Public Security--and, under the State Secretary, the National Police--are responsible for law and order in urban areas. The Ministry of Armed Forces comprises the National Army, including army troops, air force, navy, and the gendarmerie. The gendarmerie has primary responsibility for security except in major cities, and is assisted in some areas by regular army units in operations against bandit gangs and cattle thieves. Military force strength continued to decline slowly, dropping below 20,000 troops. There are also traditional village-level law enforcement groups or vigilance committees, known as dina. There were occasional reports that police and gendarmes committed human rights abuses, as did the dina. Madagascar is a very poor country. The economy relies heavily on agriculture; production of coffee and vanilla fell further, but shrimp exports rose. Rice, the major staple, remained at near self-sufficiency. Manufacturing in export processing facilities increased modestly. The smuggling of vanilla, gold, precious stones, and cattle continued to be major problems. Overall economic performance improved, but three-fourths of the population of 13 million still live in poverty. Foreign economic assistance remains a major source of national income. Living standards are low, with average per capita gross domestic product estimated at $230 per year. Annual inflation stabilized at about 9 percent during 1996 and 1997. Unemployment and underemployment, especially among youth, remained high. The Government implemented a program of economic reform and structural adjustment to foster a stronger market economy. The human rights situation improved somewhat from 1996. There was very little political violence. However, there were occasional reports of police brutality against criminal suspects and detainees, as well as instances of arbitrary arrest and detention. Prison conditions remained harsh and often life threatening. In some prisons, women experienced abuse, including rape. A total of 62 new judges were appointed in an effort to relieve the overburdened judiciary. Nonetheless, suspects were often held in lengthy pretrial detention that often exceeded the maximum sentence for the alleged offense. Dina imposed summary justice in rural areas where the Government's presence was weak, but authorities increased their efforts to bring dina under closer regulation and scrutiny. Women continued to face some societal discrimination.