Amid escalating tensions following the Malagasy government’s reiteration of a ban on political protests, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa Deprose Muchena said:
“The ban on public protest imposed by the Malagasy government should not be used to target protesters or to criminalize freedom of peaceful assembly and expression. Malagasy authorities must respect their domestic and international obligations to create an environment for protesters to exercise their human rights.
“Equally, freedom of expression must also be respected by the opposition. People who do not choose to join anti-government demonstrations, such as the schoolchildren who have reportedly been forced from their classrooms to protest, should not face intimidation or harassment.”
Tension between the Malagasy government and opposition has been building since the start of April and culminated in a deadly clash in the capital Antananarivo on 21 April when two protesters were killed and 17 others were injured.
The unrest was sparked by changes to the country’s electoral laws, including a clause requiring candidates to provide a detailed criminal record which would disqualify some opposition candidates. The country’s constitutional court later scrapped some of the contested articles, including the one requesting a detailed criminal record.
On 27 April, the government announced a “permanent decision” to ban all political protests everywhere outside the capital in order to “protect the public order and the security of people and goods”.