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Press briefing notes on Madagascar

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Rupert Colville   
Location: Geneva 
Date: 28 August 2020

We are very concerned by reports of excessive use of force by security forces at a Madagascar jail on 23 August when 22 inmates were killed and eight injured during a mass escape. The prison breakout occurred amid concerns the country’s squalid and overcrowded detention facilities are a hotbed for the spread of COVID-19.

Security forces opened fire on inmates attempting to escape from Farafangana prison in the country’s south-east. Reports said 88 inmates out of 380 escaped; 41 inmates were re-captured and 25 remain on the run.

We remind the Malagasy authorities that the use of force must strictly comply with the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality and non-discrimination.

This is the seventh prison outbreak in the country since the outbreak of the pandemic.

As with many other jails, the conditions at Farafangana are deeply troubling. The prison is overcrowded, conditions are generally unhygienic, the food is poor and inmates lack proper access to healthcare. Our Office has previously engaged with the authorities to express concerns about conditions in the country’s jails, and the resultant dangers of overcrowding during the pandemic.

States have the duty to protect inmates’ physical and mental health and well-being, as set out in the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules).

At the start of the pandemic the High Commissioner had called on all States to reduce the populations of overcrowded prisons. She had specifically urged the release of at-risk groups such as pregnant women, people with disabilities, elderly prisoners, those who are sick, minor and low-risk offenders, people nearing the end of their sentences, and others who could safely be reintegrated into society and to apply non-custodial measures at the pre-trial stage.

We will continue to work with Malagasy authorities to ensure that they conduct thorough, prompt, independent and impartial investigations into the circumstances of the killings and injuries during the prison escape, including allegations of excessive use of force violations by state security forces.

ENDS

For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville - + 41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org or Jeremy Laurence - + 41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.orgor Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / mhurtado@ohchr.org

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