Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1987

Madagascar is governed by a president and a parliament (the
National Popular Assembly), both elected by direct universal
suffrage, which together choose the Supreme Revolutionary
Council. President Didier Ratsiraka has broad constitutional
powers, and his position is further strengthened by the
influential role played by his political party, AREMA, which
holds an overwhelming majority in the National Popular
Assembly. Elections are actively contested within the
controlled political framework sanctioned by the Government.
This framework permits political activity only by the seven
parties making up the National Front for the Defense of the
Revolution. The political orientation of the seven parties
ranges from moderate and pro-Western to pro-Soviet. The
President chairs the Supreme Revolutionary Council, composed
of political and regional leaders and representatives of the
military forces. The Council approves basic policy and
guidelines, convenes and adjourns the National Popular
Assembly, and passes laws when the Assembly is not sitting.
The Malagasy internal security forces are composed of the
urban police force and the National Gendarmerie, the latter
has jurisdiction in the provinces. On occasion, the National
People's Army has also been used for internal security
In 1987 continuing vigorous debate in the Assembly over the
recurrent stagnation of the economy and conseguent unrest led
four of the parties within the National Front to form an
opposition alliance. This alliance, in an unprecedented move,
voted against the national budget in the 1986 session, lending
further credence that a genuine opposition in Malagasy
politics may be evolving.
The Malagasy Constitution adopted in 1975 made "socialism" the
State's political philosophy. This led to the nationalization
of a major portion of the economy. The private sector was
reduced to a secondary, albeit still important, role. The
economy subsequently deteriorated as production declined,
foreign debt rose, and unemployment grew, especially among the
youth (60 percent of the population is under age 25). In
recent years, however, the Government has taken steps toward
liberalizing the economy. Reform measures in the production
and marketing of rice have, for example, begun to show
positive results.
Although fundamental liberties and individual rights are
guaranteed by the Constitution, several of these rights, such
as freedom of the press and freedom of assembly, are
restricted in practice or are subject to exclusionary clauses
in most laws. Rights such as the inviolability of the home
and due process may also be disregarded in cases involving
state security.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
Freedom from:
     a. Political Killing
While there were recurring rumors of politically motivated
killings, there has been no conclusive evidence to
substantiate such rumors. For instance, in May 1986, the
Minister of Defense, his Secretary General, and the Director
of OMNIS (the Military Office of Strategic Industries) were
killed in a plane crash along with eight other people. While
there is no evidence that the plane was sabotaged, the
Government launched an official inquiry into the matter, the
findings of which have yet to be published. Amnesty
International in its 1986 Report (covering 1985) called on the
authorities to investigate the death of Father Sergio Sorgone,
a Roman Catholic priest, who may have been killed for political
reasons by members of the TTS, a paramilitary youth group which
supports the Government, as well as the deaths of four other
priests who may have been victims of political killings. More
recently, the near fatal stabbing in September of a senior
opposition party official and member of the Supreme
Revolutionary Council, Dr. Radio Celestin, has once again
stirred rumors of political crime.
In 1987 there was no further violence involving members of the
TTS and the "kung-fu" movement. Following street fighting in
1984, the victorious kung-fu groups began to play a vigilante
role in Antananarivo's poorer districts and thus represented a
threat to the State. The ensuing clashes in August 1985
between the military and the kung-fu adherents resulted in,
according to the official count, 20 dead, 31 wounded, and 208
arrested. In their suppression of the kung-fu threat, the
military entered some homes without court orders and ransacked
them, shot some suspects on sight, and arrested others without
formal charges.
     b. Disappearanceppearance
There were no confirmed cases of politically motivated
disappearance in 1987.
     c. Torture or Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishmenture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment
While there were no documented cases of physical torture
occurring in Madagascar, some organizations in the security
apparatus, notably the state secret police, have a reputation
for ruthless methods. The kung-fu prisoners have allegedly
suffered from very cruel treatment while in detention. There
have also been credible reports of the alleged use of torture
by the armed forces in the Government's campaign against
outlaw bandits in Madagascar's southwest.
Malagasy prisons are increasingly inhumane in terms of living
conditions. Some prisoners are not fed regularly, medical
care is not provided, infections are commonplace, prisoners
rarely have the opportunity to wash, and clothing is not
provided. The death toll rises significantly among prisoners
during the cold winter months.
     d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, Exile or Forced Laborrary Arrest, Detention, Exile, or Forced Labor
Persons suspected of activity against the State may be legally
detained incommunicado for 15 days, subject to indefinite
extension if considered necessary by the Government.
Indefinite extension is frequently deemed necessary. In the
past, certain defendants involved in security cases were
detained without being brought to trial for periods ranging
from 20 months to over 5 years. Such extended periods of
pretrial detention are exceptions and are usually limited to
cases involving national security.
In a normal criminal case, the accused must be charged or
released within 3 days of arrest. Defendants in ordinary
criminal/civil cases are generally charged formally within the
specified time frame, and upon being charged, are permitted
legal counsel. Counsel is readily available, and courtappointed
counsel is provided for indigents.
Thirty-seven of the kung-fu adherents, including one woman,
have been imprisoned without trial since August 1985 at
Arivonimamo prison. At the end of 1987, no trial had been
scheduled, and they had not been charged. In its 1987 Report
(covering 1986), Amnesty International expressed concern about
these detentions, and stated that some may be "prisoners of
Forced labor is not practiced in Madagascar.
     e. Denial of Fair Public Trial of Fair Public Trial
The Malagasy Constitution provides for an independent
judiciary. In practice, the judiciary seems to function
without outside influence from the executive.
The judiciary has three levels of trial courts: lower courts
for civil and criminal cases in which limited sentences may be
levied, a Court of Appeals which includes a Criminal Court for
cases in which sentences of 5 years or more may be imposed,
and a Supreme Court. The judiciary also has a number of
special courts designed to handle specific kinds of cases
under the jurisdiction of the higher courts. A High
Constitutional Court, with a totally separate and autonomous
status, watches over the constitutionality of laws, decrees,
and ordinances and ensures the legality of elections. A High
Court of Justice, charged with prosecuting malfeasance in the
Government, is provided for in the Constitution but has never
come into existence. A Military Court has jurisdiction over
all cases involving national security. The trial for the
kung-fu adherents could take place in either the Military
Court or the Criminal Court of the Court of Appeals.
     f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home or Correspondencerary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
The State does not generally intervene in nonpolitical aspects
of the lives of the people. The home is inviolable under
Malagasy law, and intrusions into an individual's residence,
except in political or sensitive cases, must be made under the
authority of a search warrant. However, in their suppression
of kung-fu gangs, the military entered some homes without
court orders and ransacked them.
Although government economic policies limit the choices,
Malagasy citizens may make their own decisions, without
government coercion or interference, in such matters as
changing jobs or residence, marriage, having children, and
joining permitted political parties or social organizations.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
     a. Freedom of Speech and Pressof Speech and Press
Private citizens have limited freedom to criticize government
officials and policies without fear of arrest by the local
authorities, but such criticism must be carefully worded.
Direct criticism of the President or the "Socialist
revolution" is not tolerated.
Madagascar has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa,
and Malagasy citizens attach great importance to the press.
What is printed in the newspaper often has an impact on the
nation's policymaking apparatus. Critical examination of a
range of policy issues such as economic management,
transportation, and education can be found in the printed
press. However, censorship is prescribed by the Government
and executed by the Ministry of Interior. Copies of the daily
newspapers are submitted to the censors prior to printing.
When censorship is enforced, the newspaper leaves blank those
columns where the offending articles would have appeared. In
instances of violations of censorship, the Ministry has and
occasionally uses its administrative authority to suspend
publication. There is one government-owned newspaper. The
two major independently owned newspapers are Madagascar Matin
and Midi Madagasikara . Several other dailies and weeklies are
published by party groups and independent publishers, including
the outspoken and candid Catholic newspaper, Lakroa.
The Government owns the radio and television stations.
     b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Associationof Peaceful Assembly and Association
The rights of assembly and association are restricted.
Permits are required to hold public meetings and can be denied
by the Government if officials believe that the meeting poses
a threat to the State or endangers national unity. Persons
and groups belonging to parties of the National Front are
permitted to organize and assemble. Nevertheless, since
political activity by groups outside the National Front is
prohibited, dissenting political opinion is limited.
The first half of 1987 witnessed a resurgence of major student
unrest in the form of massive, violent demonstrations and
student strikes sparked by student opposition to educational
reform measures announced by the Government in late 1986.
Although the right to organize labor unions is recognized,
unions are not important either politically or economically.
The labor force, about 4.9 million workers, is mostly agrarian
(85 percent). Union labor accounts for less than 5 percent of
the total. Unions are permitted to strike and conduct wage
negotiations, but because of the depressed economy, strikes
have been few, and trade unions relatively quiescent. Most
unions are affiliated with National Front parties.
Madagascar is an active member of the Madagascar delegation to
the International Labor Organization (ILO) and was a
participant in discussions regarding the rights of seamen to
organize trade unions at the 74th annual meeting of the ILO in
September 1987. Unions are affiliated with regional and
international labor bodies such as the International
Confederation of Free Trade Unions and World Federation of
Trade Unions.
     c. Freedom of Religionof Religion
The Government is secular, and there is no official religion.
There is no discrimination on the basis of religious
affiliation, and persons are free to follow the faith of their
choice. Missionaries and clergy are generally permitted to
operate freely, and the Government has so far made no effort
to restrain those Christian churches which have become more
active in criticizing government policies. Over half of the
population is either Catholic or Protestant, with the remainder
following traditional Malagasy religious beliefs or other
faiths .
     d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreignof Movement Within the Country, Foreign
Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Government has imposed no restriction on travel within the
country. Official approval must be obtained for trips outside
the country, but there has been only one known instance in
which approval was denied due to the person's political
views. Foreign travel is impeded by the difficulty in
obtaining foreign currency. The Malagasy franc is not
convertible abroad, and the Government limits the amount of
hard currency that can be obtained for foreign travel. There
is no refugee population in Madagascar.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Gonvernment
The electorate's choice is constrained by the nature of the
political system, since the only political parties allowed to
operate in Madagascar are those which are members of the
National Front. However, there exists a range of ideological
and policy views among the seven Front parties, and there are
viewpoints within this spectrum which are at odds with the
policies of the administration. Thus, the electoral process
provides the voters a chance to choose among candidates
expressing differing views in local and regional elections, as
well as in the Assembly and presidential campaigns. The 137
members of the National Popular Assembly are elected by
universal suffrage for 5-year terms. The last election was in
1983. (The Supreme Revolutionary Council, in October,
extended the terms of Assembly deputies by 9 months, according
to official reports, for economic reasons.) The President is
elected to a 7-year term with the next election falling due in
1989. The electoral process, although not completely free
from irregularities, has been essentially straightforward in
recent elections. The political system in Madagascar also
reflects a considerable degree of regional balance.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The Government has not cooperated with groups wishing to
investigate alleged human rights violations and has denied
visas to Amnesty International representatives. When the
President's opponent in the 1982 election campaign called for
supervision of the elections by Amnesty International, the
President rejected the proposal as being derogatory to
national sovereignty. In the absence of private human rights
groups, the Christian churches in the country have taken the
lead in advocating human rights. Although the Government is
sensitive to criticism emanating from this guarter, it has not
officially responded to guestions or criticisms from the
churches or any other group.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
While there appears to be no customary practice of
institutional or systematic discrimination on the basis of
ethnic grouping in Madagascar, a serious outbreak of violence
and plunder of Indian-owned property across Madagascar
occurred in March. This prosperous community estimated at
some 18,000 persons of Indian origin, referred to locally as
"karana," is essentially engaged in commerce. The "karana"
are generally considered by the Malagasy as not prone to
integration due to a variety of religious and cultural
reasons. While no Indians were killed in these riots, several
looters were killed, many wounded, and property damage was
great. The looting reportedly began when allegations
circulated that Indian retailers were involved in rice
speculation and illegal transactions in scarce items such as
cooking oil and sugar. The simultaneous outbreak of these
riots in cities across the island and limited damage outside
the Indian community have fueled rumors that these incidents
were carefully coordinated and organized. The Chinese and
French communities also have experienced some resentment from
the Malagasy mainly because of their success in commerce.
These groups have occasionally been the target of local
government policies favoring Malagasy nationals.
Madagascar has what is essentially a matriarchal society. A
highly visible role for women has long been recognized as an
integral part of the country's sociological framework. Women
have a lengthy tradition of involvement in high-level
political activity, and currently women are members of the
Cabinet, the Supreme Revolutionary Council, and the Assembly.
Women are also active and play major roles in the various
political parties. Women have a prominent role in the
business and economic life of the country, with many of them
managing or owning business concerns or filling management
positions in state industries. Education at all levels is
open to women. However, women in rural areas and among the
poor face a greater degree of hardship. In addition to the
responsibilities associated with child rearing and household
management, economic necessity forces these women to engage in
farm labor or other similar activities. These conditions stem
more from socioeconomic factors than from a discrim.inatory
bias against women in Malagasy society.
The Malagasy Work Code and its enforcing legislation set forth
the working conditions required for employees. The Work Code
describes a child as any person, regardless of gender, under
the age of 18. The minimum age for employment is 14, but the
use of child labor is prohibited in those areas where there is
apparent and imminent danger. There is a 44-hour workweek in
nonagricultural and service industries. There are also
provisions for holiday pay, sick and maternity leave, and
insurance. Malagasy law distinguishes between agricultural
and nonagricultural work. The average minimum wage is about
15 cents per hour. The Work Code has rules concerning
building safety, machinery and moving engines, operational
safety, and sanitation standards. It appears that in
practice, the rules and regulations of the Code are adhered to
by employers and are enforced by the authorities. Labor
inspectors carry out regular visits to industrial work sites.
Violations of safety, sanitary, operational, and other work
code provisions are the subject of reports by these
inspectors. If the violations are not remedied within a
specified time frame, the violators are legally charged and
subject to various penalties