The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Madagascar is a State Party to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 21 governs the right of peaceful assembly, providing that:
The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Madagascar is also a State Party to the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, which allows individuals to petition the Human Rights Committee if they believe the State has violated their human rights as protected under the Covenant.
At regional level, Madagascar is a State Party to the 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. Article 11 provides as follows:
Every individual shall have the right to assemble freely with others. The exercise of this right shall be subject only to necessary restrictions provided for by law in particular those enacted in the interest of national security, the safety, health, ethics and rights and freedoms of others.
Madagascar is not a State Party to the 1998 Protocol on the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Under Article 10 of the 2010 Constitution of the Fifth Republic of Madagascar, the freedom of assembly is "guaranteed to all and may only be limited by the respect for the freedoms and rights of others, and by the imperative of safeguarding the public order, the national dignity and the security of the State."
The primary national legislation governing assemblies in Madagascar is 1960 Ordinance 60-082. This stipulates that public meetings are subject to authorisation from the municipalities and police prefectures several days in advance. Authorisation can be refused if the meeting is likely to disturb public order.
Ordinance 60-082 also prescribes prison sentences and fines for submitting incomplete or incorrect information when requesting the authorisation.
The Legal Framework on Use of Force During Assemblies
The Use of Force
International Legal Rules
Under international law, the duty on the State and its law enforcement agencies is to facilitate the enjoyment of the right of peaceful assembly. According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials:
In the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, where that is not practicable, shall restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary.
All force used by police and other law enforcement agencies must be necessary for a legitimate law enforcement purpose and proportionate to that purpose.
Police use of force is regulated by a 2012 Code of Conduct. According to the Code, force may only be used when strictly necessary and for a legitimate law enforcement purpose. When force is indeed necessary, a police officer must not cause serious pain or suffering or inflict cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment on any person.Art. 38, 2012 Code of Conduct.
The Use of Firearms
International Legal Rules
According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles, in the dispersal of violent assemblies, a law enforcement official may only use a firearm against a specific individual where this is necessary to confront an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a grave and proximate threat to life.
With respect to use of firearms, the police must comply with "laws and regulations in force" and only use a firearm when it is "strictly necessary and proportionate" to do so.Art. 40, 2012 Code of Conduct.Intentional lethal use of firearms is prohibited.Art. 40, 2012 Code of Conduct.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2017 Concluding Observations on Madagascar, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern by reports of breaches of freedom of assembly in the form of "the denial of permits for public protests by trade unions and non-governmental organizations". In addition, the Committee was concerned at reports that "political opponents are systematically denied the right to public protest, even when exercised peacefully". It called on the authorities to
take all necessary steps to ensure that all individuals and political parties fully enjoy the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association in practice and to ensure that all restrictions on the exercise of these rights comply with the strict conditions laid down in the Covenant.
Madagascar has not submitted a national report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights since 2008.
Views of Civil Society
According to Freedom House's 2019 report on Madagascar:
The constitution guarantees freedom of assembly, but authorities routinely decline requests for protests and rallies in the name of public security. Political demonstrators risk violence from security forces. In April 2018, two people were killed and more than a dozen were injured when police fired upon a mass demonstration against proposed electoral laws that would have prevented Rajoelina and Ravalomanana from running in the year’s presidential election. Days later, authorities announced that all political demonstrations were prohibited. Nevertheless, demonstrations took place later in the year, including among Ravalomanana’s supporters, who disputed provisional results showing that Rajoelina had won the presidency.