In the aftermath of the failed coup attempt in Madagascar on November 17th, the main political opponent of the current regime and former judge of the International Court of Justice Raymond Ranjeva, and his daughter, Riana Ranjeva, are being accused by the Malagasy police for allegedly plotting with the army mutiners.
Madagascar has been marred in a two-year long political crisis that has jeopardized its economy and showed a worrying trend of comtempts for human rights and freedom of speech. Ten journalists of Radio Fahazavana were held in jail from may to september 2010 and dozen of political opponents are still held in the penitentiary of Tsiafahy without trials.
The context of the arrests of Raymond Ranjeva and his daughter are still unclear. The official charges held against the former ICJ Judge are that he is a "threat to national security" . As to his daughter, she is accused of having contempted the police officers that raided her home.
Raymond Ranjeva on the political crisis in Madagascar
A close relative to Raymond Ranjeva has accepted to shed some light on the situation and explain the implications of the recent wave of political arrests for Madagascar' s democracy. A petition has also been circulating to denounce the arrests:
GV: Could you tell us the circumstances of the arrest of Judge Ranjeva and his daughter?
Answer: Just after the end of the so-called mutiny that took place in an army base located 15 kms from Antananarivo, we heard some rumors that the regime has the intention to accuse Judge Ranjeva of being the political leader of this action. We did not take these rumors very seriously. Then, on Sunday, November 21, the police raided Judge Ranjeva's home, where his daughter also resides. Armed police officers searched the residence for evidence of the alleged plot against the transitional government. They found copies of a document written by Judge Ranjeva that delineates a proposal for an exit to the political stalemate in Madagascar. The document is a called "Vonjy Aina" (mg) and it has been made publicly available online for months. The day after, Monday 22, the daughter of Judge Ranjeva and her husband were summoned by the police officers. They were examined during 3 hours. Then, the husband was released, his spouse remained in custody. When he heard that each and everyone of the questions related to "Vonjy Aina", Judge Ranjeva willingly came to the police station. He said to the investigators that he was ready to answer to their questions and to deny the accusation brought against him. He was told that as the business-day was finishing, there was not enough time left for his examination. He was summoned for the day after, but, meanwhile, his daughter was held in custody. Ms. Ranjeva spent the night in the police station. On Tuesday 23, first hour, Judge Ranjeva came again to the police station. He was examined for 12 hours and, during that time, his daughter was held elsewhere in the police station and he was not informed either she would be released or not. Eventually, the father and his daughter left the police station. Three days later, on Friday 26, Judge Ranjeva and his daughter appeared before the prosecutor. There, Ms. Ranjeva was formally accused of having insulted the police officers that raided her home, on Sunday 21. Her trial is to take place on Tuesday, November 30. She was put into provisional detention, waiting for her trial. As for Judge Ranjeva, he is accused of being the leader of the mutiners. No date has been set, but, unlike his daughter, he remains free waiting for his trial.
GV: If we were to understand the process of the arrest correctly, is it accurate to say that Riana Ranjeva-Ratsisalovanina was arrested because she had copies of this document at home ? Is there anything in the document that could be interpreted as "a threat to national security" and was there evidence of an intent to distribute "Vonjy aina"?
A.: Initially, Ms. Ranjeva was summoned and held in custody from Monday 22 morning till Tuesday 23 evening because copies of "Vonjy Aina" were found in her house. During her examination, Ms. Ranjeva was only asked questions directly related to "Vonjy Aina". It was only on Friday 26 evening that, astonishingly, Ms. Ranjeva was formally charged of having allegedly insulted the police officers during the house search that happened on Sunday 21. Firstly, given that the father and the daughter live in the same house, it's not exactly a surprise to find copies of the document there. Secondly, if one reads the document, it is a reflection on the current state of the affairs in Madagascar and the solution Judge Ranjeva proposes. Nowhere in the document would one find that a military intervention was suggested. Judge Ranjeva has never opined that the army gets involved in the matter of the government. As to the arrest of his daughter, let me say this again, everyone can download a copy of "Vonjy Aina" online for free. It is difficult to understand why owning a print copy of this document would constitute a " threat to national security".
GV: Was Riana Ranjeva-Ratsisalovanina mistreated at all when she was held at the police station ?
A: I was told that she was treated correctly and her basic needs were met while she was at the police station.
GV: As far as you know, when will the trials take place for the father and his daughter and will they be released till then?
I was told that Ms Ranjeva's trial should start on November, 30th. She will remain in detention until then. As for Judge Ranjeva, the date of his trial has not yet been set. For the time being, he is free.
GV: It must be a trying time for the family?
A: Indeed, it is certainly stressful but, more disturbingly, in Malagasy political history, it is the very first time that a family member of a political opponent is being specifically targeted in order to silence him. These recent events go beyond the scope of personal view and feelings. We have reached a point in Madagascar where the democratic debate is repressed, where people are denied the expression of dissent opinion towards the current government with arbitrary arrests. These practices are indicative that Madagascar is heading to the wrong direction, to an era of authoritarian ruling where people are bullied into submission and silence. It is very worrisome; our country is rapidly slipping towards dictatorship.
A message in French from the interviewee:
Cet après-midi, le tribunal de première instance d’Antananarivo a reconnu Mme Riana Ranjeva coupable d’outrage à agents publics (article 224 du Code pénal). Elle a été condamnée à 1 mois d’emprisonnement avec sursis. Elle est donc libre ! C’est l’essentiel.
Les propos que des militaires lourdement armés ont trouvé offensants étaient : « Mialà teo ianareo fa izaho tsy mila miaramila mitazona basy ety amin’ny vavahadiko, izaho ihany koa tsy mila miresaka amin’ny olona manao fanamiana. » (Trad. : Éloignez-vous de là car je ne veux pas de militaires qui brandissent leurs armes devant mon portail et je ne veux pas parler à des gens en uniforme.) Cette citation est sortie du procès-verbal d’enquête préliminaire dressé par les enquêteurs le 26 novembre 2010, cinq jours après les faits, qui s’étaient déroulés le dimanche 21 novembre 2010, quand les militaires étaient venus pour perquisitionner, en menaçant de leurs armes, les habitants de la maison.
Ce sont les agents publics offensés qui sont les auteurs de ce procès-verbal.
Les mêmes offensés avaient, juste après la perquisition, dressé un premier procès-verbal. Dans celui-ci, daté du dimanche 21 novembre 2010 au soir, ils ne pipaient mot d’un tel incident. Ils auraient donc mis cinq jours pour comprendre qu’ils étaient insultés quand elle leur disait, en utilisant les mots ci-dessus, qu’elle ne voulait pas, devant son portail, des militaires qui brandissaient des armes.