Country Listing

Maldives Table of Contents


Penal System

The Malagasy Penal Code is based primarily on French penal codes and procedures and has been somewhat influenced by Malagasy customary law. The Malagasy Penal Code affords the accused most of the rights and protections granted under French and Western laws. The most severe punishments are death and forced labor for life.

Madagascar has three levels of courts. Lower courts are responsible for civil and criminal cases carrying limited fines and sentences. The Court of Appeals includes a criminal court for cases carrying sentences of five years or more. The Supreme Court functions as the highest court in the country. Also, there is a separate and autonomous Constitutional High Court that reviews laws, decrees, and ordinances and monitors elections and certifies their results. A military court has jurisdiction over all cases that involve national security.

Madagascar has a nationwide prison system. Each province has a central prison for inmates serving sentences of less than five years. At the seats of various courts, there also are at least twenty-five lesser prisons for individuals serving terms of less than two years and for prisoners awaiting trial. Courts at the local (subprefecture) level maintain jails for lesser offenders serving sentences of up to six months. Women normally serve long sentences in the Central Prison (Maison Centrale) in Antananarivo.

Conditions in Malagasy prisons are harsh. Cells built for one often house up to eight prisoners. Family members of prisoners need to augment the inadequate daily food rations. Prisoners without relatives often go for several days without food. Inmates also suffer from numerous medical problems that are not usually treated, including malnutrition, infections, malaria, and tuberculosis. Children normally live in prisons with their mothers, and female inmates engage in prostitution in collusion with guards.

Data as of August 1994