Document - African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights: Oral statement on forced evictions in Africa


Public Statement

AI Index: AFR 01/005/2006 (Public)

News Service No: 115

11 May 2006

Embargo Date: 11 May 2006 00:01GMT

African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights: Oral statement on forced evictions in Africa

Chairperson, Commissioners,

Across Africa hundreds of thousands of people each year are forcibly evicted, in many cases being left homeless, losing their possessions without compensation and/or being forcibly displaced far from sources of clean water, food, sanitation, livelihood or education, in violation of regional and international law, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. In most cases these forced evictions are conducted without any due process, consultation or adequate notice. Officials carrying out the evictions often resort to excessive use of force, including beating residents, and demolishing homes as well as destroying properties. Amnesty International has also documented cases where people, often children, have died during or as a result of forced evictions.

Amnesty International has documented cases of forced evictions in Angola, Ghana, Nigeria, Sudan, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. Forced evictions in Angola since 2001 have led to displacement of over 5000 families. Thousands of others have been left homeless and had their homes destroyed. Forced evictions have been accompanied by excessive use of force and other grave violations of human rights. In the most recent case documented by Amnesty International, police and security guards carried out forced evictions in various neighbourhoods of Luanda in March 2006. They reportedly shot at, beat and kicked residents, including a pregnant woman, after residents protested at the demolition of their homes. The government has carried out forced evictions in these neighbourhoods repeatedly since 2004.

In Ghana, hundreds of residents from the Dudzorme Island (in the Digya National Park) were forcibly evicted in late March and early April 2006. Those evicted were not provided with alternative housing or with compensation. On 8 April, some evictees were reportedly forced into an overloaded ferry, which subsequently capsized, leaving around 30 people dead according to official sources, while many others are still unaccounted for.

Since 2000, forced evictions in Nigeria have left over 2 million people destitute and resulted in serious violations of many other human rights, including rights to health, education and the right to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. During three days at the end of April 2005, approximately 3,000 residents of the community of Makoko in Lagos were forcibly evicted from their houses. Bulldozers came in and started demolishing houses, churches, and medical clinics. Amnesty International visited Makoko on 5 May 2005 and spoke with dozens of evictees. None had been supplied with adequate alternative housing and many were deprived of schooling or means of earning a living. Those evicted claimed that they had neither been given prior notice nor consulted on the planned evictions. Some of them, including children, had been beaten up by the law enforcement officials and suffered injuries as a result of the disproportionate force used, others had had all their belongings and houses destroyed by the government forces and received no compensation.

In Sudan, mass forced evictions, including of internally displaced persons (IDPs), in and around Khartoum have been documented by Amnesty International. In August 2005, residents of Shikan camp were forcibly displaced to Fateh III, a desert area which lacked even minimum levels of essential services. Further relocations, most of which may result in forced evictions, are scheduled to take place in the near future. The UN Secretary-General stated, in its report on Sudan of 12 September 2005, "Thousands of people have been forcibly moved to sites in desert areas tens of kilometres outside Khartoum where there are no, or wholly insufficient, life-sustaining services. These relocations, and the violence accompanying them, increase tensions in the greater Khartoum area, violate the right of the displaced to return voluntarily, and in dignity and safety, and also have the potential to undermine the transition towards peace and stability in the whole country."

In Zimbabwe in May 2005, the Government embarked on Operation Murambatsvina, a programme of mass forced evictions and demolition of homes and informal livelihoods, which affected some 700.000 people. The communities affected by Operation Murambatsvina were amongst the poorest and most vulnerable in Zimbabwe. They were given almost no notice before their homes were demolished and no alternative accommodation was provided. Operation Murambatsvina has led to a serious humanitarian crisis. As a direct consequence of the operation hundreds of thousands of people were arbitrarily displaced; they are now living as internally displaced persons (IDPs), scattered across the country, in many cases without access to adequate shelter, food, water or sanitation. At the 38th ordinary session, the African Commission adopted a resolution condemning these and other human rights violations in Zimbabwe and urging the government "to cease the practice of forced evictions throughout the country, and to adhere to its obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and other international human rights instruments."

The UN Commission on Human Rights has considered that "the practice of forced evictions constitutes a gross violation of human rights, in particular the right to adequate housing”" [UN Commission on Human Rights, Resolution 1993/77, para 1] Forced eviction has been defined by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), 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."

Standards relating to the prevention of and protection from forced evictions have been recently developed by the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing. [See Basic principles and guidelines on development-based evictions and displacement, in E/CN.4/2006/41, Appendix.]

Although the jurisprudence of the African Commission reflects a prohibition of forced evictions, there is no direct statement or declaration from the Commission specifically addressing this issue. However, the provisions of the African Charter and the role of African Commission in interpreting its provisions drawing inspiration from international human rights standards offer a good opportunity to take develop principles and standards on forced evictions.

Amnesty International calls therefore on the African Commission to adopt a resolution condemning the practice of forced evictions in Africa and characterizing such practice as a serious violation of the African Charter. Amnesty International also suggests that the African Commission develops principles on prevention of and protection against forced evictions in Africa. Such principles and standards should be based on the African Charter, the Commission's jurisprudence, and the standards elaborated by the UN human rights bodies and experts.

In particular, Amnesty International recommends that the following principles on evictions should be reflected in the African Commission's resolution:

an opportunity for genuine consultation with those affected;

adequate and reasonable notice (of at least 90 days) 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;

evictions not to take place in particularly bad weather or at night unless the affected persons consent otherwise;

provision of legal remedies;

provision, where possible, of legal aid to persons who are in need of it to seek redress from the courts;

evictions should never result in homelessness: evictees should receive just compensation and alternative accommodation;

evictees should be have safe and secure access to food, safe drinking water and sanitation, and medical services.

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