In Madagascar, attacks on human rights defenders and whistleblowers are on the rise. A draft law on the protection of human rights defenders was prepared in 2018 by the Malagasy Ministry of Justice, with the support of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and submitted to a first consultation of civil society, but no real progress has been made since. In order to re-launch the process towards the adoption of such a law, civil society and the High Council for the Defence of Democracy and the Rule of Law have both organised successive workshops aimed at revising and adopting a draft law in line with international standards.
The workshop, co-organised by ISHR and Transparency International – Madagascar, took place online on 22 and 23 March 2021. It gave civil society the opportunity to review and improve the draft laws suggested by the Ministry of Justice and the High Council for the Defence of Democracy and the Rule of Law (HCDDED) ahead of the workshop organised the following days by the HCDDED which aimed at validating a draft law entirely based on the Model Law for the Recognition and Protection of Human Rights Defenders which will then be submitted to the authorities.
In her presentation of the Model Law, developed by ISHR, Adelaide Etong Kame, Africa Programme Manager at ISHR, stressed that “the primary objective of the Model Law is to provide defenders with an effective and comprehensive tool to claim their rights and protect their work”.
Given the prominence of the attacks and restrictions faced by whistleblowers in Madagascar, participants also had the opportunity to benefit from the intervention of Me Henri Thulliez, Director of the Platform for Whistleblower Protection in Africa, who discussed with participants the importance of protecting whistleblowers and the desirability of integrating whistleblower protection within the draft law. “Integrating the protection of whistleblowers in such a law would protect them from any reprisals that often prevent them from acting,” said Mr Thulliez.
The participants were also able to interact with Marthe Pedan Coulibaly, Coordinator of the Ivorian Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, who shared with them the experience of civil society in Côte d’Ivoire which led to the adoption of a specific law on defenders in 2014 and the adoption of its implementing decree in 2017. “The participation of civil society in the process of drafting, adopting and implementing the law is essential. Efforts are ongoing to ensure that the voice of civil society is reflected in the text of the law and to ensure that the State does not take advantage of it to further restrict the rights of defenders in the country,” said Marthe Pedan Coulibaly.
Finally, the participants made numerous amendments to the text of the law, including the addition of a definition of whistleblower that does not exist in Madagascar’s legal corpus, the right to access information, specific protection for defenders working to protect the environment, and the protection of defenders against online defamation and harassment.
All of these concerns were shared on 24, 25 and 26 March at the workshop organised by the HCDDED to finalise the draft law for the protection of defenders in Madagascar.
ISHR and Transparency International – Madagascar reiterate their willingness to continue to work with the authorities towards the adoption of the national law for the protection of human rights defenders in Madagascar, and the designation of an effective protection mechanism for defenders.ISHR