Rights Groups File Request with IACHR on Evictions of Displaced Haitians

Posted on June 17, 2011

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Haiti Earthquake

Press Release: Haiti Government Continues Evicting Earthquake Survivors from Displaced Persons’ Camps despite Human Rights Commission Orders (IJDH-BAI, Center for Constitutional Rights, TransAfrica Forum, Riptide Communications)

16 June 2011 Comments: 0
For Imme­di­ate Release:

CONTACT:
Mario Joseph, Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux, mario@ijdh.org, +011 (509) 3701 9879 (Haiti)
Nicole Phillips, Insti­tute for Jus­tice & Democ­racy in Haiti, nicole@ijdh.org, +001 (510) 715‑2855
Ali­son Roh Park, Cen­ter for Con­sti­tu­tional Rights, apark@ccrjustice.org, +001 (212) 614‑6480
Nora Ras­man, TransAfrica Forum, nrasman@transafricaforum.org, +001 (202) 553‑7186
David Lerner, Rip­tide Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, +001 (212) 260‑5000

Gov­ern­ment Con­tin­ues Evict­ing Earth­quake Sur­vivors from Dis­placed Per­sons’ Camps despite Human Rights Com­mis­sion Orders

Amid Warn­ing Signs in New Pres­i­dency, Rights Groups Inten­sify Efforts to Enforce Gov­ern­ment Com­pli­ance, Pro­tect Vic­tims with New Request

June 16, 2011, Wash­ing­ton D.C. – Today, the Cen­ter for Con­sti­tu­tional Rights (CCR), Insti­tute for Jus­tice & Democ­racy in Haiti (IJDH), Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux (BAI), You.Me.We., and TransAfrica Forum jointly filed a request to the Inter-American Com­mis­sion on Human Rights (IACHR) to take fur­ther action on the increas­ingly urgent issue of forced evic­tions tak­ing place in Haiti’s dis­place­ment camps hous­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of earth­quake survivors.

The rights groups’ request fol­lows up on the pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures issued by the IACHR to the Gov­ern­ment of Haiti in Novem­ber 2010 call­ing for a mora­to­rium on evic­tions in dis­place­ment camps, among other mea­sures to pro­tect those ren­dered home­less by the Jan­u­ary 12, 2010 earth­quake.  The groups’ orig­i­nal request, filed on behalf of vic­tims from five dis­place­ment camps, came amidst wide­spread evi­dence of gov­ern­ment bru­tal­ity, threats and coer­cion that accom­pa­nied forced evic­tions of the makeshift set­tle­ments of dis­placed persons.

Forced evic­tions in camps – often car­ried out by state agents – have risen in the seven months since the mea­sures were to be imple­mented, and the sit­u­a­tion has grown even more urgent since Haiti’s new Pres­i­dent Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly took office in May.  Martelly has faced crit­i­cism for his pledge to close all camps within six months with­out pro­vid­ing a con­crete plan for re-housing those cur­rently liv­ing in camps.  In his first few weeks in office, gov­ern­ment offi­cials have already unlaw­fully closed at least three camps, forc­ing 1,000 res­i­dents out of their pro­vi­sional shel­ter with­out pro­vid­ing them with any alter­na­tive hous­ing.  On May 19th, Pres­i­dent Martelly announced to a set­tle­ment of 100,000 res­i­dents on the out­skirts of Port-au-Prince that they would be evicted in the com­ing weeks in order to make room for a fac­tory.  He made no men­tion of alter­na­tive housing.

The Hait­ian government’s fail­ure to com­ply with the orig­i­nal pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures and the new government’s con­tin­u­a­tion of inhu­mane and ille­gal prac­tices prompted the rights groups to file for an update to the orig­i­nal mea­sures.  “The Hait­ian gov­ern­ment has an oblig­a­tion to imple­ment the Commission’s direc­tives,” explained Mario Joseph, Man­ag­ing Attor­ney of Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux. “The fail­ure to do so demon­strates the government’s dis­re­gard for its oblig­a­tions under inter­na­tional law.”

The update includes the orig­i­nal mea­sures, which called for a mora­to­rium on all evic­tions – law­ful and unlaw­ful – until a com­pre­hen­sive hous­ing pol­icy is imple­mented.  It also calls for new direc­tives, such as train­ing for gov­ern­ment offi­cials on the ille­gal­ity of forced evic­tions and their respon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect inter­nally dis­placed per­sons, along with eight other recommendations.

Vince War­ren, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Con­sti­tu­tional Rights, stated, “Inter­nally Dis­placed Per­sons have the right to live in the camps while a com­pre­hen­sive hous­ing plan is put into prac­tice.  We are talk­ing about a pop­u­la­tion that has no-where else to go. The evic­tions tak­ing place are ille­gal under both Hait­ian law and inter­na­tional law, and we hope the Inter-American Com­mis­sion on Human Rights will inter­vene and urge this new gov­ern­ment of Haiti to enact a mora­to­rium on evic­tions immediately.”

The update also requests the IACHR to urge the gov­ern­ment to build the capac­ity of its pub­lic hous­ing agency to ensure the needs of its dis­placed pop­u­la­tion are met. “The Hait­ian gov­ern­ment can best pro­tect dis­placed per­sons from forced evic­tions by facil­i­tat­ing their access to ade­quate and afford­able hous­ing,” said BAI attor­ney Jeena Shah.

Nicole Lee, Pres­i­dent of TransAfrica Forum, stated, “Eigh­teen months later, peo­ple remain in camps because they still have no other options.  These most recent forced evic­tions remind us of the need for a com­pre­hen­sive hous­ing strat­egy that involves Hait­ian civil soci­ety orga­ni­za­tions and includes safe and secure long-term hous­ing, job oppor­tu­ni­ties, access to mar­kets and infra­struc­ture development.”

The groups also point out the role that the U.S. admin­is­tra­tion can play to help Haiti avoid evic­tions. “The U.S. has dis­bursed about a quar­ter of the funds pledged to rebuild Haiti,” said Nicole Phillips, Staff Attor­ney at the Insti­tute for Jus­tice & Democ­racy in Haiti. “We must make good on our finan­cial com­mit­ment so that recon­struc­tion can begin and Haitians can have a place to live besides dilap­i­dated camps.  We must also ensure that the assis­tance we do pro­vide does not sup­port forced evic­tions or other harass­ment of dis­placed people.”

The fil­ing can be seen in its entirety here: http://ijdh.org/archives/19215.

The Cen­ter for Con­sti­tu­tional Rights is ded­i­cated to advanc­ing and pro­tect­ing the rights guar­an­teed by the United States Con­sti­tu­tion and the Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attor­neys who rep­re­sented civil rights move­ments in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and edu­ca­tional orga­ni­za­tion com­mit­ted to the cre­ative use of law as a pos­i­tive force for social change.

Founded in 1995, the Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux (BAI) is the only pub­lic inter­est law firm in Haiti. With the sup­port of the Insti­tute for Jus­tice & Democ­racy in Haiti, the BAI uses lit­i­ga­tion, advo­cacy, doc­u­men­ta­tion and grass­roots empow­er­ment to advance the rule of law and chal­lenge the unjust struc­tures that vio­late the human rights of Haiti’s poor major­ity. Visit HaitiJustice.org. Fol­low @IJDH.

Founded in 1977, TransAfrica Forum is the old­est and largest African Amer­i­can human rights and social jus­tice advo­cacy orga­ni­za­tion pro­mot­ing diver­sity and equity in the for­eign pol­icy arena and jus­tice for the African World.  TransAfrica works with human rights, labor and women’s orga­ni­za­tions in Haiti to ensure more just and equi­table U.S. for­eign pol­icy towards all Haitians.

You.Me.We is dis­as­ter relief orga­ni­za­tion that defends human rights in the after­math of sud­den on-set disasters.

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Down­load full press release:Press Release on IACHR Update Let­ter (6–16-11).pdf