Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings of criminal suspects. Most killings occurred during security force operations to stem cattle rustling by armed criminal groups in the central, west, and southwest areas as well as during police raids to combat insecurity in urban areas. Villagers sometimes supported government efforts to stem cattle rustling and were responsible for killing cattle rustlers.
In January the National Gendarmerie told the press that in its efforts to combat insecurity, gendarmes had killed 217 presumed thieves in 2017, compared to 220 the year before. Between January and September, media reported 292 deaths from security force actions to combat insecurity, but this number included members of the security forces and civilians as well as presumed thieves According to media, clashes between alleged cattle thieves and the security forces occurred at least monthly. Usually the security forces were composed of police and gendarmes, but occasionally they included military elements. There were isolated reports of security forces executing cattle thieves or bandits after capture. These could not be substantiated and were rarely, if ever, investigated.
In July bandits kidnapped four employees of a then state owned chromite mining company 115 miles north of Antananarivo. After their ransom was paid and they were released, gendarmes deployed to the area, and in mid-August a gendarme was killed in a shootout. Subsequently an army platoon consisting of 30 soldiers reportedly arrested a number of persons the locals identified as suspected bandits, removed their clothing and applied hot, melted plastic to their bodies. At least five were summarily executed, according to a villager’s report to a media outlet.
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, but security forces subjected prisoners and criminal suspects to physical and mental abuse, including torture, according to media reports.
Security personnel used beatings as punishment for alleged crimes or as a means of coercion. Off-duty and sometimes intoxicated members of the armed forces assaulted civilians. In most cases, investigations announced by security officials did not result in prosecutions.
Media outlets reported on August 25 that police took two presumed thieves to Antananarivo’s main public hospital August 23. One of the suspects was dead upon arrival at the hospital and the second one was very weak and died the next day. Both presented injuries including bruises, suggesting they had been the victims of battery. The suspects had been arrested the previous day for alleged involvement in an armed attack in Ankadindramamy that resulted in the death of a police officer.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening due to inadequate food, overcrowding, poor sanitation, and insufficient medical care.
Physical Conditions: Severe overcrowding due to weaknesses in the judicial system and inadequate prison infrastructure was a serious problem. One penitentiary surpassed its official capacity by nearly eightfold. As of August the country’s 84 prisons and detention centers held an estimated 24,590 inmates, of whom 1,729 were female and 22,861 male. The total number of inmates included 785 minors. This figure represented well over twice the official capacity of 10,360 inmates.
Lengthy pretrial detention was pervasive, contributing significantly to overcrowding. On April 25, the National Human Rights Commission (CNIDH) noted that two-thirds of detainees in the country were in pretrial detention, resulting in as many as 180 detainees sleeping in one room. The largest rooms were dormitory-style rooms designed to hold many detainees. Authorities sometimes held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners.
Authorities did not always hold juveniles separately from adults, and some children under school age shared cells with their incarcerated mothers. According to the Ministry of Justice, 53 percent of the 43 prisons holding juvenile detainees had separate areas for minors.
During the second quarter of 2017, Grandir Dignement (Grow Up with Dignity), a nongovernmental organization (NGO) dedicated to the rights of imprisoned youth, identified 828 minors held in the country’s 41 prisons, 39 jails, and two juvenile detention centers. The NGO estimated that 20 percent of the minor prisoners were collocated with adult prisoners during the day, and 5 percent shared dormitories with adults. Girls were always held together with adult female prisoners.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), almost one in two prisoners nationwide suffered from moderate or severe malnutrition. Each inmate received approximately 10.5 ounces of cassava per day, compared with the recommended 26 ounces. The ICRC, in collaboration with the Catholic Chaplaincy for Prisons, treated almost 7,500 prisoners in 14 detention centers for malnutrition during the year, in addition to approximately 2,000 sick prisoners and breastfeeding women.
A deteriorating prison infrastructure that often lacked sanitation facilities and potable water resulted in disease and insect and rodent infestations, although prison officials carried out extermination efforts against insects and rats, minor renovations, and small construction projects with financial support from the ICRC. Access to medical care was limited. Ventilation, lighting, and temperature control were inadequate or nonexistent in many of the smaller facilities hosting fewer than 300 inmates; larger facilities were renovated during the year to address these issues.
The Ministry of Justice recorded 129 deaths in prisons in 2017, none of which were attributed to actions by guards or other staff. The most frequent causes of death were tuberculosis, high blood pressure, and gastrointestinal issues.
Fifteen prisoners tried to escape Antalaha Prison in the northern Sava Region on July 15. During the confrontation between the prisoners and penitentiary agents, two prisoners died and one was seriously injured.
Administration: While a formal process exists to submit complaints to judicial authorities, few detainees used it due to fear of reprisal. Officials authorized weekly visits from relatives and permitted religious observance. Visits outside scheduled days were reportedly possible by bribing guards and penitentiary agents. NGOs reported bribes could purchase small privileges, such as allowing family members to bring food for prisoners.
Independent Monitoring: Authorities generally permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by the ICRC, several local NGOs, and some diplomatic missions. Authorities permitted the ICRC to conduct visits to all main penitentiary facilities and to hold private consultations in accordance with its standard modalities. Authorities also permitted ICRC representatives to visit detainees in pretrial or temporary detention.
Improvements: As of October, 22 of the country’s 41 prisons had established separate areas for boys and men, an increase from 2014 when only 17 prisons had such areas.
Humanity and Inclusion (HI), an NGO that collaborated with the Ministry of Justice penitentiary administration, completed a project called “Prison for a Better Future: From Detention to Reinsertion.” The project addressed the mental well-being of detainees in five detention centers. The project also promoted protection of detainees’ human rights and developed a method for psychosocial support for penitentiary agents, civil society organizations, local communities, and detainees.
Some regional directorates of the penitentiary administration undertook independent initiatives to improve detainees’ well-being. The Antalaha directorate, for example, established agreements with local farmers by which the prisons provided workers from among detainees to farmers, who then allocated part of their harvest to the prison food supply. During the year the administration concluded five such agreements that brought approximately 60 tons of dried foodstuffs including rice, corn, and cassava, to the prisons.
The government allocated an additional two billion ariary ($560,000) to the Ministry of Justice during the year to increase the pace of hearings and conduct a pilot project to improve detainees’ diet. In the pilot project, detainees in two prisons (Toliara and Miarinarivo) benefitted from a new diet providing three kinds of food to detainees and two meals per day, and the ministry stated its intent to expand this to the remaining prisons. The 2019 budget, approved in November, doubled the amount allocated to the penitentiary administration compared with the reporting year.