Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

Amnesty International Report 2003 - Madagascar

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 28 May 2003
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2003 - Madagascar , 28 May 2003, available at: [accessed 19 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Covering events from January - December 2002

Head of state: Marc Ravalomanana (replaced Didier Ratsiraka in May)
Head of government: Jacques Sylla
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice
International Criminal Court: signed

Disputed presidential elections in December 2001 sparked a major political crisis as well as unrest and localized fighting. Against this background there were numerous human rights abuses, including unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary detentions and unfair trials.


On 22 February, after weeks of demonstrations by his supporters in the capital Antananarivo in protest at the official election results, Marc Ravalomanana, main challenger to outgoing President Didier Ratsiraka, declared himself President. Didier Ratsiraka established his government in the eastern port of Toamasina, with the backing of five of the six provinces' governors, while Marc Ravalomanana's supporters installed his nominated ministers in the government offices in Antananarivo. The erection of blockades and the destruction of bridges by Ratsiraka supporters effectively isolated the inland capital from the coastal provinces. Ravalomanana supporters were then targeted by members of the security forces and supporters loyal to Didier Ratsiraka in some provinces. Human rights abuses were committed in April during fighting between both sides in Fianarantsoa province.

After a recount of the votes, the High Constitutional Court declared Marc Ravalomanana the winner. He was sworn into office as President on 6 May. Didier Ratsiraka contested the decision and four provincial governors declared their "independence" from the capital. Marc Ravalomanana sent the army to take control of the provinces by force. Hundreds of people were arrested by the army on suspicion of having supported Didier Ratsiraka, who fled to France on 7 July. At the end of the year, some of those arrested had been tried and others were awaiting trial – in most cases the judicial proceedings did not respect international standards of fairness.

Parliamentary elections, a condition set by international mediators of the crisis, were held on 15 December, although many opposition party members remained in detention. According to international observers, there was no violence despite isolated incidents of intimidation of opposition candidates. President Ravalomanana's party, Tiako'I Madagascar, and allies won 125 seats out of 160 in Parliament.

Unlawful killings

Dozens of people were killed during the unrest. Some were apparently extrajudicially executed. Others were killed by security forces during demonstrations or unrest in circumstances suggesting excessive use of force.

  • On 2 March, Olivier Ratsimba and Lalason Rajaobelina, supporters of Marc Ravalomanana in the island of Nosy-Be, part of the northern province of Antsiranana, were separately arrested in their homes and beaten severely by armed security officers and supporters of Didier Ratsiraka. When Lalason Rajaobelina woke up in a car driven by his attackers, Olivier Ratsimba was lying unconscious next to him. Both men and then the car were subsequently thrown over a cliff. Lalason Rajaobelina survived but Olivier Ratsimba was killed. An investigation was reportedly opened into the incident.
  • On 14 March, officers of the Organe Mixte de Conception, a body in charge of maintaining order comprising army and police forces, opened fire on suspected looters in Morarano district of Toamasina, killing at least two people. Officers had reportedly been ordered to fire on looters, in contravention of international law which sanctions intentional lethal use of firearms only when law enforcement officials or others are faced with the imminent threat of death or serious injury. Tension had been mounting in the town amid growing unrest between rival supporters of Didier Ratsiraka and Marc Ravalomanana.

Dozens of people were tortured or ill-treated by security officers and Ratsiraka supporters during unrest in the provinces. Some suspected Ratsiraka supporters were also tortured or ill-treated during arrest by Ravalomanana's armed forces.
  • On 23 June, 73 itinerant dealers were ambushed on their way back to Ambilobe, Antsiranana, from the capital, by pro-Ratsiraka military and security officers, reportedly aided by local men. They were beaten, tied to each other with ropes and transferred in a military truck to the city of Antsiranana, capital of the province.

    They were detained in the "2nd RFI" military camp next to the office of the governor, where they were beaten with gun butts and stones, threatened with death, humiliated and robbed of their personal belongings. Some were forced to stand the whole night with a grenade on their head. The following day, they were tied to the front bars of the governor's office for a whole day, apparently to serve as "hostages" as Ravalomanana's armed forces were making their way to the city. The pro-Ratsiraka soldiers finally let them go after forcing some of them to pay a "ransom".
  • On 15 June police agent Said Ibrahim was arrested without a warrant and tortured by Ravalomanana supporters in a room in the office of the newly installed Ravalomanana provincial chief in Mahajanga. Said Ibrahim was reportedly blindfolded, beaten with gun butts, stripped and forced to drink his own urine. He was transferred to Tsiafahy, a detention centre in Antananarivo, on charges of "participating in blockades".
Arbitrary arrests and detentions

There were numerous reports of arbitrary arrests and detentions of suspected Ravalomanana supporters by Ratsiraka supporters during the unrest. Once Ravalomanana's army retook control of the provinces, many suspected Ratsiraka supporters were arbitrarily arrested or detained by soldiers who do not legally have powers of arrest.
  • In April at least 19 people were arrested by Ratsiraka security forces and supporters in separate instances in Antsiranana province because of their perceived support for Marc Ravalomanana during the elections. All were tortured during arrest and transferred to Camp Pardes in Antsiranana. The tribunal in Antsiranana was unable to charge them with a recognizable criminal offence. Most were later transferred back to their home towns. Some were released without charge; others were charged by local tribunals, apparently under pressure by provincial security forces. They were not tried. At least one of them, Jonathan Odilon Venor, died in October, apparently from injuries sustained as a result of torture.
  • On 27 May, Tantely Andrianarivo, Prime Minister in the Ratsiraka government, was arrested from the Prime Minister's residence by security forces loyal to Marc Ravalomanana. He was briefly taken to a police station, then placed under house surveillance for almost five months. He was neither charged nor given regular access to lawyers during this time. On 7 or 8 October, his lawyers were finally able to visit him. On 21 October he was charged with several offences, including "attempt against the security of the state" and "misappropriation of public funds". He was transferred to the Antanimora prison in Antananarivo the same day.
Unfair trials

Hundreds of suspected Ratsiraka supporters and members of the security forces were arrested after Ravalomanana's army took control of the provinces. Most were charged with offences ranging from "attempt to undermine the internal security of the state" to "participation in blockades". Some were prisoners of conscience. In most cases, the judicial proceedings fell short of international standards of fairness: some defendants were tortured during arrest and denied legal counsel during interrogation and proper medical assistance.
  • On 14 June Venance Raharimanana, an educator, was arrested by Ravalomanana army soldiers in Mahajanga and transferred to Antananarivo. He was beaten with gun butts on his face and head on his arrival, and then held incommunicado. The next day he was taken to hospital by his family who had managed to locate him. He was later charged with "propagating false news" and "inciting to crimes", under the pretext that he would have supported the governor of Mahajanga's declaration of independence of the province. Requests to transfer him to hospital were ignored, despite the serious injuries he sustained as a result of beatings during arrest. He was found guilty in an unfair and summary trial on 23 August and sentenced to a two-year suspended jail sentence. While held he was a prisoner of conscience.
Restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression

Media offices were attacked and demonstrations were repressed violently during the unrest.
  • On the night of 23 February, unidentified armed men attacked the Madagascar Broadcasting Service (MBS) radio station, owned by Marc Ravalomanana in Fianarantsoa. The office was burned down and three guards were seriously injured in the attack. On 27 February, the Tsiokavao radio station was burned down by Ravalomanana supporters in reprisal for the attack on the MBS.
AI country visits

AI delegates visited Madagascar from 14 to 28 August.
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