Cape Town — The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) of South Africa will investigate Madagascar's former president Marc Ravalomanana for crimes against humanity. The decision comes four months after survivors of the 2009 Antaninarenina massacre laid a complaint against their ex-leader.
A group of survivors, organized as the Association of Martyrs of Antaninarenina Square, claims that Ravalomanana instructed his guards to open fire on a peaceful demonstration on 7 February 2009.
The events in Madagascar's capital, Anatananarivo, claimed 43 lives and injured 170 people. Evidence suggests the death toll might be higher as bodies were removed from the scene by government troops, and attacks on civilians continued into the night.
Ravalomanana's regime was toppled shortly after the bloodshed. He then fled to South Africa, where he currently resides in exile in the Sheraton Hotel in South Africa's administrative capital of Pretoria.
The NPA, in a letter requesting the investigation and prosecution of Ravalomanana, wrote: "The basis for my decision is the fact that the material supplied creates reasonable suspicion that crimes against humanity may have been committed and that the subject of the investigation is present in South Africa."
The prosecutor referred to a dossier that accompanied the Martyrs' probe request. The file comprised sworn affidavits, graphic video footage and international reports on what happened in Madagascar three years ago.
"The purpose of this investigation is to enhance the evidential value of the material provided, and to obtain additional evidence," the letter says.
Ravalomanana to stay in South Africa
South Africa is a signatory of this declaration that gave way to the International Criminal Court. As such, any former head of state residing in South Africa who is suspected of crimes against humanity can be investigated and prosecuted by the national authorities.
The prosecutor's letter says: "It is common cause that the subject of the investigation did not himself participate in any of the incidents mentioned in the material. His liability would only be established on the basis of command responsibility, as set out in the international Rome Treaty."
"The decision means that Ravalomanana can't leave South Africa to cooperate with the investigation," says David Erleigh, the Martyrs' lawyer in South Africa. "It also obliges the South African government, which has hosted Mr. Ravalomanana as their guest for the past three years, to fully support the investigation."
The former leader has been intending to return to his island nation. Last month he met Madagscar's current President Andry Rajoelina in the Seychelles for reconciliation talks, which were mediated by South Africa's President Jacob Zuma.
At the time of this posting, RNW is trying to get a comment from a spokesperson for Ravalomanana.