Human Rights Context
The political situation in Madagascar has been characterised by violent unrest and struggles for power since the country gained independence in 1960. In January 2009, many people died as a result of violence that took place in Antananarivo and elsewhere in the country and more than 25 people were reported to have been killed on 7 February 2009 when security forces fired on a gathering of protestors outside one of the country’s presidential palaces. The protest was staged by supporters of the then elected mayor of Antananarivo, Mr. Andry Rajoelina, who had declared an intention to overthrow the government. In March 2009, President Marc Ravalomanana fled the country in the midst of a popular uprising and power was conferred to Mr Rajoelina, who is now President of the transitional government in power. Demonstrations have been held intermittently by the ex-President Ravalomanana’s supporters to show disapproval.
The instability of Madagascar’s political situation has resulted in an economic downturn in the country and international donors have been reluctant to continue with development aid, amid insecurities of how the money will be spent. However, the `Feuille de route` or ‘the roadmap’, was signed on 16 September 2012, essentially an agreement between parties to the political dispute, to work towards the holding of democratic elections in 2012. OHCHR will offer support to the Government in re-establishing a democratic system of governance and ensuring that the human rights of the Malagasy people are observed.
Extreme poverty levels have been worsened in Madagascar by the instability in the country’s governance. 70 per cent of the population is estimated to live below the poverty line. As a result of the events of 2009, the Malagasy people have been denied their basic economic, social and cultural rights. There are high unemployment rates amongst the country’s population. People, particularly children, are suffering malnutrition. Homelessness is also on the increase in the country and homeless people are more prone, amongst other things, to experiencing violence.
Women and young girls are suffering the effects of heightened poverty levels by becoming more susceptible to sexual exploitation and more likely to become involved in prostitution and sexual tourism. This problem was highlighted in the stakeholder’s information compiled for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the country carried out in February 2010. Amendments to the country’s Criminal Code and in particular, provisions concerning violence against women in 2000 and trafficking in persons in 2007 have not prevented such practices from escalating. Domestic violence against women in Madagascar is also an issue of concern.
Freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of association are not respected in Madagascar. This has persisted since the country’s last government administration; restrictions on the freedom of speech are viewed to have contributed to the overthrow of the government in the 2009 uprising. Many incidents of arbitrary arrests and detentions have been reported and to date, democratic elections have not been held in Madagascar since the events of 2009. Currently, the only radio and television stations in the country are government owned and the Communications Act is yet to be amended. Politicians are reported to have, on occasions, been imprisoned on falsified common law charges.
Currently, there is little protection against child exploitation in Madagascar. Inter-ministerial programmes that were organised to address this issue and trafficking in persons have not been affective. However, national plans to combat child labour and violence against children have been developed and a Commission has been established to works towards ensuring that laws pertaining to children’s rights are in compliance of laws with international obligations.
Malagasy law provides for capital punishment and this may be administered in the form of beheadings. However, a bill to abolish the law on beheadings has been submitted to Parliament but has yet to be enacted into law. Despite some progress having been made in improving prison conditions prison conditions remain cramped and overcrowded for the majority of inmates. Segregation of the sexes and of children from adult prisoners, is also not consistently carried out at all prisons.
Six of the nine core international human rights treaties have been ratified by Madagascar. Ratification by Madagascar of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance 2006, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2006 and accession to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families of 1990, currently remains outstanding. The Malagasy constitution states in the preamble that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights and conventions defining the rights of women and children are integral parts of Malagasy law. In addition, international conventions ratified by Madagascar are also recognised by the constitution. Therefore there is scope for full compliance with international law obligations by Madagascar. Legislation was passed in 2008 which established a National Human Rights Council (NHRC). However the Council is not yet operational.
Since June 2011, OHCHR deployed a Human Rights Adviser, Mr. Oumar Kane (Mauritania) to work with the Resident Coordinator’s Office in Antananarivo. In 2011-2012, the Human Rights Adviser will continue to work with the Government on treaty body reporting and to follow up on the implementation of the UPR recommendations. Madagascar will submit its initial report to the Committee against Torture (CAT) in November 2011. In addition, the Human Rights Adviser (HRA) will carry out capacity-building programs for civil society, women groups and the youth to increase their human rights awareness as well as knowledge of the international human rights mechanisms. As per his mandate, the HRA will continue to monitor and report on the human rights situation. The HRA will also work with the UN Country Team to ensure human rights mainstreaming throughout the various agency programs in-country.
The priorities of the HRA will include:
- Strengthening capacity of State institutions, UN System and civil society on human rights protection, reporting mechanisms and documentation. This will, inter alia, entail training the human rights treaty reporting group of Madagascar, to ensure that effective and timely reporting to the treaty bodies is achieved and raising awareness of human rights amongst the law enforcement agencies.
- Supporting efforts towards State institutions building, such as the setting up of the National Human Rights Commission, including the preparation of documentation that will facilitate the setting up of the NHRC;
- Transitional Justice as indicated in the ‘Feuille de Route”;
- Providing training to civil society on monitoring prison conditions and training on human rights monitoring in the context of elections.