Sustainable ways to make the prevention of torture a reality in Madagascar

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A law, in order to be effective, not only requires an implementing decree but more generally the engagement and coordination between multiple actors. In Madagascar, the poor implementation of the anti-torture law which entered into force in June 2008 is explained by a series of different factors, including the lack of awareness of law enforcement officials as well as weak coordination between them and relevant authorities.

The objectives of the project that the APT is conducting in Madagascar are therefore to promote and facilitate the effective application of the national law prohibiting and preventing torture, by not only providing training courses for law enforcement officials, but also by institutionalizing this knowledge and empowering different national actors.

Thanks to the fruitful cooperation with the Ministry of Justice, the national school for judges and prosecutors and the ACAT-Madagascar, an APT delegation travelled to Antananarivo from 2 to 9 December 2011 to conduct a series of activities and working meetings aimed at creating sustainable ways to make the implementation of the anti-torture law concrete and effective. In particular, the specific objectives of the mission were:

  • To establish a group of national resource persons on the prevention of torture

During the training courses for law enforcement officials that the APT has conducted since 2010 in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and the National School for judges and prosecutors, a group of particularly interested and active participants has been identified and invited to strengthen their skills in relation to the prohibition and prevention of torture. This group of persons, including representatives from all professions concerned by the application of the anti torture law, is now working with the APT and the Ministry of Justice in order to consolidate its competence and take up the role of resource persons on the prevention of torture. This constitutes a gradual process of empowerment and capacity building aimed at creating a pool of national experts on the subject, who can contribute to the prevention of torture in many different ways, such as providing assistance and advice to other law enforcement officials on how to effectively apply the law, organizing technical workshops or awareness raising seminars on the prevention of torture, cooperating and supporting the training institutions for law enforcement officials in the integration of a module on the prohibition and prevention of torture, etc. The group of resource persons on prevention of torture will be coordinated and supported by the Ministry of Justice who will also contribute to assure credibility, full legitimacy and powers to operate at national level in a consistent and systematic manner.

  • To mainstream the teaching of the prohibition and prevention of torture within the training institutions for law enforcement officials

Article 8 of the 2008 law against torture provides that "the State shall ensure that education and information regarding the prohibition of torture are included in the training of personnel responsible for law enforcement, medical personnel, public agents and other persons who may be involved in the custody, interrogation or treatment of anyone arrested, detained or imprisoned in any way whatsoever".

On the basis of this provision and the recommendations of the 2009 seminar, the APT has developed a training module on the prohibition and prevention of torture. The Ministry of Justice called on the Directors of the main training institutions for law enforcement officials to give a firm commitment that the module would be integrated in their curricula. It is in this context that the APT facilitated a working meeting with the Directors who adopted a joint statement committing their institutions as key actors for the promotion of human rights and the prevention of torture. On the other hand, the APT is providing technical support to the teachers of these institutions who will be in charge of delivering the module. In particular, the APT will make sure that the teachers will have the skills to tailor the module on the basis of specific needs and challenges related to different professions (judges, prosecutors, lawyers, police and penitentiary officers) while mainstreaming the universal respect of human dignity. Finally, the APT and the Ministry of Justice will facilitate the cooperation between the teachers and the group of resource persons, in order to encourage the systematization of a collaborative interaction.

  • To finalize a manual on the prohibition and prevention of torture

Thanks to the inputs of two Malagasy magistrates, the APT is drafting a manual on the prohibition and prevention of torture based on the national legislation and international standards. The objective is to provide the resource persons as well as the teachers of training institutions with a useful tool which will facilitate their task, but also, more generally, to produce a user-friendly reference guide that law practitioners could use in their daily work.

  • To coordinate with other relevant actors involved in human rights promotion activities in the country

As stated before, an effective implementation of legal provisions requires joint but coordinated efforts from different actors. The APT is therefore seeking to establish constructive interaction with national and international actors present in the country who could contribute to the objectives of the project thorough specific expertise or support. It is in this context that useful and fruitful meetings were held between the APT delegation and relevant international actors operating in Madagascar, including the ICRC, OHCHR, EU Delegation as well as French Cooperation.