In October, I was part of a team of advocates who testified before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights at a thematic hearing on forced evictions being carried out in displacement camps across Haiti. We also filed a Request for Precautinary Measures asking that the Commission direct the State of Haiti to implement a moratorium on forced evictions and to adopt other measures necessary to protect the safety and security of people who live in the camps.
Last week, the Commission granted our Request.
The New York Times has reported that nearly 40,000 people have been evicted from the camps, and another 144,000 face a threat of imminent evictions. The numbers alone are startling, but so too are the details of how these evictions are being carried out.
On fact finding missions to Haiti, we documented cases where entire settlements have been destroyed. In one case, armed police officers invaded a camp with state owned bulldozes late at night and demolished all of the shelters inside. After residents pieced together new shelters, the police and the bulldozers destroyed them again. The police have also beaten and terrorized people while forcing them out of the camps, and have arrested and detained those who protest their eviction. Food, water and medical care are being withheld from camps targeted for eviction, leaving the people inside to starve, or to send their kids out into the streets to hustle for food and water.
The Inter-American Commission underscored “the importance of respecting international human rights obligations in all circumstances, in particular non-derogable rights and the rights of the most vulnerable.” It directed Haitian authorities to:
- adopt a moratorium on forced evictions from the camps
- ensure minimum health and safety standards in alternative settlements;
- provide judicial recourse to people who have been unlawfully evicted;
- implement effective security measures to protect people in the camps, especially women and children;
- train security forces on the rights of displaced persons, especially as it relates to forced evictions;
- and ensure access to the camps by international observers.
The burden is now on Haiti to comply with these directives. But donor countries also have a role to play, given their scope of influence over the reconstruction process. Says Nicole Phillips, staff attorney at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti: “we hope that the international community will also respect these recommendations and assure that their actions do not directly or indirectly support unlawful evictions.”
photo credit: International Action Ties