During this year’s World Habitat Forum, Jackson Doliscar of the Force for Reflection and Action on Housing (FRAKKA) served as a witness before the International Tribunal of Evictions on the Haitian government’s eviction of Place Jeremie in Port-au-Prince. The full session notes can be downloaded here.
The second session of the International Tribunal on Evictions met in Geneva on 28 September 2012 to mark World Habitat Day. A Jury made up of five experts in housing rights drawn from the academic world, NGOs, national and international bodies and activist organisations heard witness accounts from inhabitants concerned by violations to the right to housing in communities from Cambodia, India, Nigeria, Haiti and Brazil. The cases presented to the Tribunal were selected from 40 cases submitted in response to an international call. They were chosen for their emblematic character and the fact that they express a diverse range of evictions cases. They illustrate only a small part of the global picture, since the number of people threatened with evictions for various reasons is estimated at between 60 and 70 million. Following the session, the Jury met to draw up its recommendations, which were read publically at the end of the Inhabitants’ March on the Place des Nations, in front of the Palace of Nations, on Saturday 29 September 2012. The recommendations address the economic and institutional actors responsible for the forced evictions presented as well as to civil society organisations that are supporting the inhabitants concerned. They will be conveyed to these parties as well as to the representatives of their governments in Geneva and other actors the Jury feels to be relevant (United Nations Special Procedures, ESCR Committee, etc.) Application of the recommendations issued by the Tribunal on Evictions will be monitored by the Geneva Habitat Forum 2012 Organization Committee, partner organizations and the people who presented their cases or their organizations/networks on the ground.
Facts and housing rights violations revealed by the witness accounts
The facts presented reveal, at different levels and to different degrees, violations of the legal obligations assumed by the States in question as signatories of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. The violations particularly affect people living on low incomes and women.
Place Jérémie, Port-au-Prince, Haiti
In the case in Haiti presented, the victims’ right to housing has been violated and the communities involved have been subject to forced evictions as established by the following factors:
- the communities concerned did not receive any information and were not engaged in genuine consultation;
- the communities were not offered any rehousing possibilities;
- the people who carried out the eviction or who supported it were not identifiable;
- the eviction took place during the night;
- the people evicted became homeless.
Recommendations for Place Jérémie, Port-au-Prince, Haiti
- Protect against violence and threats of forced evictions.
- Provide effective remedies to those who have been forcibly evicted;
- Respect the rights of people displaced by the earthquake, particularly in terms of their right to return to the places where they were living before the earthquake.
- Introduce participative reconstruction rooted in environmental and economic viability, the prevention of seismic risks and human rights, including in terms of planning, fund allocation and implementation of policies and management mechanisms.
Appendix: The Right to Housing
- The right to housing is a basic human right recognized by a great many international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 25), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (article 11), the Convention on Rights of the Child (article 27), the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (article 14).
- The right to housing must be interpreted broadly to include the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity.
- States are prohibited from carrying out, encouraging or tolerating forced evictions, defined as the permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection.
- An eviction is forced and therefore illegal if it does not incorporate one of the following elements:
- an opportunity for genuine consultation with those affected;
- adequate and reasonable notice for all affected persons prior to the scheduled date of eviction;
- information on the proposed evictions, and, where applicable, on the alternative purpose for which the land or housing is to be used, to be made available in reasonable time to all those affected;
- especially where groups of people are involved, government officials or their representatives to be present during an eviction;
- all persons carrying out the eviction to be properly identified;
- provision of legal remedies;
- provision, where possible, of legal aid to persons who are in need of it to seek redress from the courts.
- An eviction will also be deemed illegal where those evicted are not rehoused in adequate conditions, and if they are not guaranteed a fair and equitable compensation, even when they do not have title deeds.
- Following an eviction, no one must become homeless or victim of violations of other human rights, including the right to education, health, food, water and work. Evictions must not take place in inclement weather, at night, during festivals or religious holidays, prior to elections or during or just prior to school examinations
(Photos by Jackson Doliscar)