Armed forces are brutalizing and summarily executing civilians

25/09/2015
Press release
en fr

(Antananarivo, Paris) FIDH, the National Confederation of Human Rights Platforms (Confédération Nationale des Plates-formes des Droits de l’Homme, CNPFDH-Madagascar) and the GTZ Collective (a collective of associations in the Ihorombe region of southern Madagascar), are concerned over allegations of summary executions of civilians in the south of the country and brutal repression of demonstrations in the capital in the past weeks, and call on governing authorities to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes and violent acts.

On 31 August 2015, members of the Malagasy gendarmerie brutally suppressed a demonstration by students of Ankatso University in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital. One student, Jean-Pierre Randrianamboarina, although unarmed, was severely beaten by ten or more gendarmes, dragged along the ground, thrown into a pick-up truck and driven to the gendarmerie. Over the past few weeks, elements of the "Fahalemana 2015" military operation have allegedly committed serious abuses, including summary executions of villagers, in the southern part of the island. FIDH firmly condemns these serious human rights violations, calls upon the Malagasy authorities to investigate, prosecute and punish the suspected perpetrators, and to ensure full respect of international human rights law and the armed forces’ Code of Conduct, which requires its members to "respect the obligations, rules and principles of Human Rights".

"Over the past few weeks, members of the gendarmerie have shown a disproportionate use of force while army troops have allegedly been responsible for serious crimes against the civilian population. The severe beating of a student in Antananarivo and allegations of summary executions in the southern part of the country reflect serious management shortcomings and abuses by the Malagasy security forces. National authorities must show great firmness towards the suspected perpetrators of these acts and rapidly set up credible and transparent investigations to avoid a recurrence of such human rights abuses and put an end to the impunity of law enforcement agents."
Dismas Kitenge, FIDH Vice President

During a demonstration by students from Ankatso University – where professors have been on strike for over two months – and who are calling for the resumption of classes, a clash took place between demonstrators and security forces on 31 August 2015. These forces proceeded to disperse demonstrators using tear gas, wielding electric prods and truncheons and chasing students through the university campus, thus violating the university’s academic freedom which prohibits access by security forces to the premises of the educational institution without the consent of the university authorities. They resorted to an excessive use of force, brutally kicking and clubbing one of the leaders of the demonstration, Jean-Pierrre Randrianamboarina. According to the information collected, the student suffered several broken bones and bruises but his life is not in danger. He appeared before the Court of Anosy on 2 September on a number of charges, including incitement to offences against public order and to overthrow the government. He received a six-month suspended sentence.

It appears that certain demonstrators did in fact attempt to disturb the peace by setting fire to a call shop and throwing rocks at elements of the gendarmerie. However, nothing should justify such disproportionate use of force, especially since Article 8 of the 2010 Malagasy Constitution states that "no person can be subjected to torture nor to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment", and since Madagascar has ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, all of which prohibit these practices. The Malagasy authorities, in the persons of the President, the Minister of State and the Secretary of State for the Gendarmerie, have publicly condemned these abuses. They must now give substance to their words by guaranteeing respect for freedom of expression and assembly, by ensuring the application of national laws, by complying with their international obligations and by calling for the utmost restraint from law enforcement agents. They must also condemn the declarations of certain senior officials among the Malagasy authorities, such as the president of the committee on security of the National Assembly and of the General in charge of training security forces, and who have respectively justified the gendarmes’ actions and stated that these practices were consistent with the security forces training manual.

Furthermore, since late August-early September, the national press and Malagasy civil society organizations have been denouncing the escalation of violence and the growing number of cases of abuses and summary executions perpetrated by the armed forces deployed in the context of the "Fahalemana 2015" operation in the southern part of the island, and by the armed security units (Détachements Armés de Sécurité – DAS) participating in the operation. This vast military operation was launched in mid-August 2015 to eradicate the wave of cattle thefts by "dahalos" (Malagasy for zebu thieves). The dahalos carry out deadly raids, terrorize villagers and conduct cattle trafficking on a large scale. A number of clashes have occurred between dahalos and the military in the past weeks. Eight soldiers died on 26 August 2015 in an ambush at Ankazoabo-Sud. Since that date, there seems to have been a growing number of assassinations among civilians, and the armed forces are suspected of leading indiscriminate assaults on groups they presume to be dahalos, particularly in the regions of Betsiboka, Androy and Bongolava. Many villagers have fled for safety to forests close to their villages.

"According to our information, a growing number of summary executions of civilians have been perpetrated by Malagasy armed forces in the context of the Fahalemana operation. These allegations are extremely serious and should impel Madagascar’s principal partners to sound the alarm. If the presumed perpetrators are not brought to trial, an International Commission of inquiry should also be set up to shed light on these acts, and, if need be, the African Union, the European Union, the International Organisation of La Francophonie, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the United Nations agencies and Madagascar’s other partners should take measures to ensure that the freedoms and fundamental rights of the Malagasy people are respected."
Andrianirainy Rasamoely, CNPFDH-Madagascar coordinator

In particular, the European Union, Madagascar’s principal partner, should put pressure on the Malagasy authorities – who are bound by Article 9 of the Cotonou Agreement to respect human rights and the rule of law over the entire territory – to honour their commitments. In fact, whereas the armed forces are supposed to be putting an end to abuses by dahalos, it seems that some of these elements are engaging in the same practices. According to local sources, 14 individuals suspected of supplying arms to cattle rustlers were summarily executed by soldiers overnight on 30 - 31 August, in the rural commune of Ankiliabo, in south-west Madagascar. This incident caused such tension in the area that clashes broke out between military soldierss and gendarmes, the latter having opposed these executions. On 2 September, 15 soldiers from the Fahalemana operation also shot three villagers, Razafimahatratra, Ranantsa and Valy, in an extra-judicial killing following a document check of individual cattle documents and authorizations to carry a firearm, in the village of Tsarazaza Maevatanana in the rural commune of Mahatsinjo. The military took away 70 zebu before the territorial authority of national gendarmerie (compagnie territoriale de la gendarmerie nationale) stepped in.

On the basis of information collected by Mr Razafindremakam, president of the GTZ, the CNPFDH recently declared that two cattle thieves were arrested on 3 September 2015 by Ihosy security forces, in the village of Andiolava on National Highway 7. They were taken to the Ihosy military camp and then to the Ihosy aerodrome where they were shot dead and their bodies thrown onto burning tyres. This event was related by a local radio station, "Avec", and residents of the area were present at the scene. Civil society organizations claim to have tried in vain to contact the administrative and legal authorities, as well as the security agencies, who remained "strangely unreachable", according to statements. On their part, the military authorities subsequently declared that two civilians had indeed been killed in disturbing circumstances. Envoys have been sent into the field to attest to the veracity of these accounts.

The Fahalemana operation involves some one thousand men and is the largest military operation to be deployed on the territory in the last ten years. It is scheduled to terminate in December 2015. Senior armed forces and government officials must take swift action to ensure that this operation will not further destabilize the areas it was meant to secure.

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