Press Release: Human Rights Groups Denounce Haitian Govt.’s Unlawful Evictions of Homeless Earthquake Survivors

Posted on July 22, 2011

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Press Release: Football over Families: Human Rights Groups Denounce Haitian Government’s Unlawful Eviction of Homeless Earthquake Survivors from Stadium (IJDH-BAI)

21 July 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Con­tacts:

Mario Joseph, Av., Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux, mario@ijdh.org, 509‑3701-9879 (French)

Jeena Shah, Esq., Insti­tute for Jus­tice and Democ­racy in Haiti, jeena@ijdh.org, 509‑3610-2781 (English)

Beat­rice Lind­strom, Esq., Insti­tute for Jus­tice and Democ­racy in Haiti, beatrice@ijdh.org, 509‑3610-2847 (English)

Foot­ball over Fam­i­lies: Human Rights Groups Denounce Hait­ian Government’s Unlaw­ful Evic­tion of Home­less Earth­quake Sur­vivors from Stadium

Hait­ian Gov­ern­ment Uses Eco­nomic Coer­cion to Ille­gally Evict Fam­i­lies Dis­placed by the Earthquake

Port-au-Prince, July 21, 2011 –The Insti­tute for Jus­tice & Democ­racy in Haiti (IJDH) and the Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux (BAI) denounce the Hait­ian government’s unlaw­ful evic­tion ear­lier this week of a camp of dis­placed earth­quake sur­vivors tak­ing refuge in a sports sta­dium park­ing lot in down­town Port-au-Prince. The government’s removal of 514 fam­i­lies from the sta­dium with­out pro­vid­ing them with ade­quate due process pro­tec­tions and suit­able hous­ing alter­na­tives vio­lates both Hait­ian and inter­na­tional law, includ­ing an order by the Inter-American Com­mis­sion on Human Rights man­dat­ing the Hait­ian gov­ern­ment to pro­tect its dis­placed pop­u­la­tion from forced evictions.

On Mon­day, agents of Mayor Jean-Yves Jason used bull­doz­ers and trac­tors to raze the last remain­ing tents of the camp in Sylvio Cator Stadium’s park­ing lot to clear it in time for a soc­cer match, accord­ing to an inves­ti­ga­tion by human rights mon­i­tors with IJDH and BAI. The sta­dium was on the Martelly administration’s list for the six “most vis­i­ble” dis­place­ment camps to be closed within Pres­i­dent Martelly’s first 100 days in office.

Under the watch of a large, well-armed police and pri­vate secu­rity pres­ence, gov­ern­ment agents threat­ened to forcibly remove those fam­i­lies who remained in the sta­dium after the government’s arbi­trary dead­line of July 18. While some fam­i­lies received com­pen­sa­tion – a check for 10,000 gour­des (US $250) – to leave the sta­dium, many did not. Sev­eral fam­i­lies, how­ever, who did receive checks told IJDH and BAI lawyers that the amounts were grossly insuf­fi­cient to meet their fam­i­lies’ hous­ing needs, but they accepted the pay­ments nonethe­less. “A pop­u­la­tion suf­fer­ing with­out access to health­care, potable water, san­i­ta­tion and other ser­vices will accept money in the short-term out of des­per­a­tion,” said BAI Man­ag­ing Attor­ney Mario Joseph, “espe­cially when they know there is no alter­na­tive.” The money was reported to have come from both the Martelly admin­is­tra­tion and the local mayor’s office.

“The offer of small sums of money, in the face of sky­rock­et­ing rents and a dearth of low-income hous­ing options, and unac­com­pa­nied by com­pre­hen­sive assis­tance to find ade­quate hous­ing, amounts to eco­nomic coer­cion,” explained IJDH-BAI hous­ing rights attor­ney, Jeena Shah. “In addi­tion to vio­lat­ing the right to hous­ing rec­og­nized by the Hait­ian Con­sti­tu­tion, it fails to serve as a durable solu­tion to dis­place­ment as required under inter­na­tional law.” Sim­i­lar meth­ods pre­vi­ously used by the gov­ern­ment have merely resulted in dis­placed fam­i­lies leav­ing their camps to move to the street, other camps, pre­car­i­ous ravines, or houses ren­dered unin­hab­it­able by the earthquake.

Some fam­i­lies were relo­cated from Sylvio Cator Sta­dium to a small patch of land des­ig­nated by the gov­ern­ment for reset­tle­ment. Fam­i­lies who arrived at the relo­ca­tion site, located in a par­tic­u­larly dan­ger­ous sec­tion of Port-au-Prince, found it devoid of potable water, san­i­ta­tion facil­i­ties, and secu­rity. Instead, they found a rubbish-strewn field equipped with a small num­ber of grossly inad­e­quate tents – they appeared to house a max­i­mum of 2–3 per­sons, while the aver­age fam­ily size is 5, stood no more than 4 feet tall, and were not rain­proof. The gov­ern­ment charged dis­placed peo­ple a tenth of their relo­ca­tion allowance for their new shel­ter, if they were given one at all. In the mid­dle of the field also stood a large, dilap­i­dated house flooded with almost a foot of filthy water and trash, threat­en­ing to act as a breed­ing ground for disease.

“The con­di­tions we observed at the relo­ca­tion site were shame­fully inad­e­quate to meet the needs of dis­placed fam­i­lies,” said IJDH-BAI attor­ney, Beat­rice Lind­strom. “And given that Haiti is in the midst of a rag­ing cholera epi­demic and hur­ri­cane sea­son, the con­di­tions were no less than inhu­mane and amount to a gross vio­la­tion of human rights.”

IJDH and BAI join a cho­rus of Hait­ian and inter­na­tional rights orga­ni­za­tions in urg­ing Pres­i­dent Martelly to put durable hous­ing solu­tions at the cen­ter of his recon­struc­tion agenda and to ensure that all mem­bers of his gov­ern­ment, includ­ing the may­ors of Haiti’s cities, do the same. The Martelly admin­is­tra­tion and the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity must pri­or­i­tize the well-being of Haiti’s most vul­ner­a­ble cit­i­zens. The recon­struc­tion of Haiti can­not afford their exclusion.

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Posted in: Haiti, Imperialism, UN, US, USAID