A political crisis sparked widespread human rights violations. Security forces used excessive force against demonstrators, killing dozens of people and injuring hundreds. Members of the opposition were arbitrarily arrested and detained. Freedom of peaceful assembly and expression was denied. The right to a fair trial was not respected. Impunity for human rights violations reigned.
On 17 March, Andry Nirina Rajoelina, former mayor of Antananarivo, proclaimed himself President of the High Transitional Authority (Haute Autorité de la Transition, HAT) following months of tension with the government of President Marc Ravalomanana. Andry Rajoelina publicly accused Marc Ravalomanana of misusing the country’s wealth and called for his resignation. He also organized mass demonstrations against the government. Under pressure, President Ravalomanana transferred his authority to a military directorate which in turn transferred it to Andry Rajoelina. The Malagasy High Constitutional Court validated both transfers of authority. The new President later suspended the National Assembly and Senate, and declared an unlimited “state of exception”, suspending many constitutional rights. The HAT was not recognized by regional and international bodies, and Madagascar was suspended by the African Union.
An International Contact Group convened to find a solution to the political crisis. An agreement was signed in August in Maputo, Mozambique by all political parties involved in the crisis, including Andry Rajoelina and former Presidents Didier Ratsiraka, Albert Zafy and Marc Ravalomanana, but it was not implemented. On 6 October, Eugène Mangalaza was appointed Prime Minister. An additional agreement was signed in November in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In December, President Rajoelina appointed Colonel Camille Albert Vital as Prime Minister.
In March, the HAT established the Commission nationale mixte d’enquête (CNME) as an “operative instrument enabling the HAT to exercise its judicial and security activities relating to unlawful acts committed before, during and after the crisis”. The CNME replaced in practice the prosecutor’s office and the regular judicial system. The CNME was later replaced by the Forces d’intervention spéciale (FIS) with a similar mandate. The two institutions were perceived by many as HAT political bodies used to repress political opponents.
Excessive use of force and unlawful killings
Security forces under both governments used excessive force against demonstrators, resulting in deaths and injuries. No independent and impartial investigations were conducted into such incidents.
- Photojournalist Ando Ratovonirina was among at least 31 people killed by Marc Ravalomanana’s Presidential Guard during a demonstration on 7 February at Ambohitsorohitra presidential palace in Antananarivo. Members of the Presidential Guard fired live ammunition at unarmed demonstrators approaching the palace. Scores of people were also injured.
- In April, at least four supporters of former President Ravalomanana were killed and 70 wounded by HAT security forces during demonstrations in Antananarivo.
Arbitrary arrests and detentions
Political opponents of President Ravalomanana’s government were arbitrarily arrested before the HAT came to power, and after March supporters of former President Ravalomanana were arbitrarily arrested and detained by HAT security forces, especially by members of the CNME and FIS. Some people arrested during demonstrations were held for months without trial.
- On 20 February, Jean Théodore Rajivenson, lecturer at the University of Antananarivo and supporter of Andry Rajoelina, was arrested and charged with endangering state security, participating in unauthorized demonstrations and arson. He was acquitted by an Antananarivo court and released on 19 March.
- On 29 April, Manandafy Rakotonirina, who had been designated Prime Minister by Marc Ravalomanana on 10 April, was arrested by the CNME at Hotel Carlton in Antananarivo along with at least six other people. All were charged with illegal gathering, damage to public property and illegal possession of firearms. Manandafy Rakotonirina was also charged with impersonating the prime minister. On 23 September, he was sentenced to a suspended prison sentence of two years; the other six received suspended sentences of between six and 12 months. They were all released.
- Senator Naike Eliane was arrested on 12 September and accused, among other things, of participating in an unauthorized demonstration. She was released on 22 September. Her trial was continuing.
Freedom of expression – journalists
Media outlets and journalists were targeted by officials before and after the HAT come to power. Journalists received threats via their mobile phones and some went into hiding. In January, the Ravalomanana government closed down Radio Viva; it had already closed Tele Viva on 13 December 2008. Both are owned by Andry Rajoelina. The HAT closed down private television station Tele Mada and Radio Mada, both owned by former President Ravalomanana in March, followed by other pro-Ravalomanana media outlets.
- Evariste Anselme Ramanantsoavi, a journalist with Radio Mada, was arrested by HAT security officers on 5 May and charged with endangering state security and spreading false information. He was released on 20 May after a court sentenced him to a fine of 1 million ariary (around 385 euros). After he appealed, he started to receive anonymous threats by telephone.
On 3 June, an Antananarivo criminal court sentenced in their absence former President Ravalomanana and his Minister of Finance, Haja Nirina Razafinjatovo, to four years in prison and a fine of US$70 million for compensation for alleged abuse of office. The trial was not made public and the defendants could not challenge the accusations.
Amnesty International visit/reports
- Amnesty International delegates visited Madagascar in June.
- Madagascar: Investigate killings by security forces
- Madagascar: Human rights overlooked in resolving the current political crisis, 6 July 2009