Madagascar: Extreme prison overcrowding needs urgent fix, UN experts

Geneva, 02 May, 2023.- The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture has expressed alarm at the overcrowding in Madagascar’s prison facilities, which it observed during its first visit to the country.

“The extreme overcrowding we witnessed in prisons, close to 1000% in some of them, needs immediate action from the Malagasy authorities,” said Juan Pablo Vegas, who headed the delegation.

“With half of its prison population in pre-trial detention, Madagascar should reconsider its criminal policies and enact urgent measures, including alternatives to imprisonment, to reduce this grave level of overcrowding that constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions of detention, contrary to international law standards,” said Vegas, adding that, “This must be a priority.”

During its visit to Madagascar from 16 to 27 April, the Subcommittee visited 30 places of deprivation of liberty in different parts of the country, including prisons, police and gendarmerie stations, Tobys* and psychiatric establishments. The Subcommittee conducted confidential and individual interviews with people deprived of their liberty, prison and police officials, as well as health personnel.

The SPT also met with government authorities, the National Assembly, the judiciary, representatives of civil society and the National Independent Commission for Human Rights (CNIDH), which has been designated as the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), in addition to the UN agencies present in the country.

“While the CNIDH is designed on paper as the country’s independent monitory body, the Malagasy government needs to take further steps to make it functional in preventing torture, ill-treatment and improving detention conditions. We are concerned about the lack of budget, which makes it difficult for this monitory body to work independently. We recommend that Madagascar adopt all necessary legislative and administrative acts to grant the watchdog all the required human and financial resources to carry out its tasks,” Vegas concluded.

Following its visit, the Subcommittee will share a confidential report with the government of Madagascar, which will include its observations and recommendations on how to prevent torture and ill-treatment of people deprived of their liberty. The Subcommittee encourages the Malagasy government to make this report public, which will facilitate a transparent national dialogue to implement the Subcommittee’s recommendations.

The SPT delegation was composed of Juan Pablo VEGAS (Head of Delegation – Peru), Hamet Saloum DIAKHTE (Senegal); Hamida DRIDI (Tunisia); and Julia KOZMA (Austria) and it was accompanied by two human rights officers from the secretariat of the Subcommittee.

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