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Madagascar: Extreme prison overcrowding needs urgent fix, UN experts

02 May 2023

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.

* Church-affiliated private homes that house people with mental health disorders and practice exorcism among other methods of treatment.


For more information and media requests, please contact:

Secretariat of the Subcommittee:
Bardia JEBELI at [email protected], or
Joao Nataf at [email protected]

Media section:
Vivian Kwok at [email protected], or
UN Human Rights Office Media Section at [email protected]


The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture monitors States parties’ adherence to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which to date has been ratified by 92 countries. The Subcommittee is made up of 25 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties. The Subcommittee has the mandate to visit States that have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, during the course of which it may visit any place where persons may be deprived of their liberty and assist those States in preventing torture and ill-treatment. The Subcommittee communicates its observations and recommendations to States through confidential reports, which it encourages countries to make public.

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