Tuesday, December 5, 2006

2006 Housing Rights Awards Media Kit

COHRE MEDIA RELEASE

Nigeria, the Philippines and Greece Cited for Severe Human Rights Violations by Housing Rights Group

Nigeria, the Philippines and Greece, have been named as recipients of the 2006 Housing Rights Violator Awards by the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), for their systematic violation of housing rights and continued failure to abide by their international legal obligations. At the same time, COHRE has presented seven courageous Chinese Human Rights activists with the 2006 Housing Rights Defender Awards.

Each year, COHRE bestows its Housing Rights Violator Awards on three governments or public institutions guilty of particularly serious housing rights violations in the preceding year. COHRE has issued it Violator Awards since 2002.

COHRE’s Executive Director (a.i), Jean du Plessis, said, “Although many governments continue to violate the right to adequate housing, in 2006 Nigeria, the Philippines and Greece stand out for their appalling disregard for this basic human right. The Nigerian Government has forcibly evicted more than two million people from their homes since 2000. Although the Nigerian Constitution affirms that: 'the State shall direct its policy towards ensuring...that suitable and adequate shelter...are provided for all citizens', the Federal Government has consistently neglected its responsibilities and violated its obligations under international law, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. These widespread and ongoing evictions in Nigeria have resulted in the massive displacement of millions of people, with a spiralling effect on health, education, employment and family cohesion.”

“The Government of the Philippines continues to evict hundreds of thousands of people in the name of ‘beautification’ and ‘development’, with the urban poor being the worst affected. More than 145,000 people (29,000 families) have already been evicted from their homes in Metro Manila and Bulacan province since early 2005 due to the rehabilitation of the Philippines National Railway system, referred to as the 'Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project.’ COHRE’s research reveals that most of the evictees have been moved to relocation sites where living conditions are appalling due to a lack of basic services such as potable water, electricity and sanitation facilities. The unsanitary conditions and an outbreak of dengue fever at the Southville relocation site in Cabuyao have claimed the lives of 12 infants and children this year. Forced evictions and demolitions are also being carried out in preparation for the 12th ASEAN Summit to be hosted by the Philippines next week. The evictions and demolition in Metro Cebu have left more than 3,000 people homeless since September 2006,” he said.

Du Plessis added, “Roma communities in Greece continue to face pervasive and persistent discrimination in access to housing. A majority of Roma in Greece live in extremely poor conditions - lacking access to basic services such as water and electricity - and frequently face segregation and forced eviction by local authorities. The conditions in which these communities live are dehumanising and constitute a grave human rights violation by the Government of Greece. It is completely unacceptable for a long-standing member of the European Union (EU) to allow such a situation to continue within its borders. What we are facing here is the blatant and deliberate exclusion of a particular group, creating a third world reality within a wealthy European State. The shacks of the Roma in Patras, Athens or Asproprygos are no different from those in slums in Nairobi or Manila. These evictions clearly indicate that the Greek government is not taking its international legal obligations seriously and is turning a blind eye to local governments' systematic abuse of the human rights of Roma in Greece.”
The Housing Rights Defender Award is presented annually by COHRE to an individual who has shown outstanding commitment to the realisation of housing rights for all people. For the first time since the inception of this award in 2003, it will be presented to a number of housing rights activists rather than a single person. The joint recipients of the 2006 Housing Rights Defender Award are: Fu Xiancai; Ma Yalian; Liu Zhengyou; Huang Weizhong; Chen Xiaoming; Xu Zhengqing; and Zheng Enchong.

Du Plessis, said, “These seven Chinese activists have displayed exemplary commitment, courage and perseverance in their struggles for the land and housing rights of hundreds of farmers, workers and residents in China. They are inspirational examples to every person, community and organisation working for the cause of human rights around the world. The Chinese Government is notoriously oppressive towards human rights activists. Land and housing rights violations including mass forced evictions are common, while legal remedies are scarce for those seeking to assert their rights. The work of these activists, undertaken at grave personal risk to them, their families and fellow activists, has played a catalytic role in bringing to light the unjust practices of the Chinese Government. COHRE is therefore honoured to present the 2006 Housing Rights Defender Award to: Fu Xiancai; Ma Yalian; Liu Zhengyou; Huang Weizhong; Chen Xiaoming; Xu Zhengqing; and Zheng Enchong for their fearless commitment to housing rights in an environment that is hostile to such ideals.”

COHRE’s Housing Rights Protector Award, presented annually to a government or other public institution demonstrating a truly exceptional commitment to the protection and promotion of housing rights, has not been awarded this year as there is no clear worthy candidate.

Du Plessis said, “Despite the widespread recognition of the human right to adequate housing in international law, violations continue to occur on a massive scale both in the developed and developing worlds. This year, COHRE could not identify a government or public institution that is worthy of recognition for its commitment to the protection and promotion of housing rights. There are good legislative, policy and implementation programmes underway in numerous countries, which do promote the cause of housing rights to some degree, but after careful consideration we came to the conclusion that none of these were sufficiently path-breaking to qualify as a convincing candidate for housing rights protector. The dearth of contenders for the 2006 Housing Rights Protector Award is a clear indicator that more convincing and dramatic examples of housing rights protection are needed to make a sustainable impact in successfully addressing the land and housing rights challenges facing countries today.”

A newly released COHRE report, Forced Evictions: Violations of Human Rights – Global Survey No. 10, reveals that nearly 2 million people in Africa and over 2.1 million people in Asia and the Pacific have been forcibly evicted from their homes since 2003. Furthermore, nearly 153,000 people in the Americas and over 16,000 people in Europe have been evicted from their homes in the same period.

“The most disturbing aspect of these numbers, is the fact that they are just a sample, based on our research of media reports, and evictions reported to COHRE either by affected persons or by members of our growing global network of partners in the struggle against forced evictions. The total given is merely the tip of the iceberg. The world is, clearly, in the midst of a housing rights and evictions crisis, caused by the fact that governments in both developed and developing countries are not taking their international legal obligations seriously,” said Du Plessis.”






COHRE/SERAC JOINT MEDIA RELEASE

Nigeria named a 2006 Housing Rights Violator for persistent, widespread forced evictions

Nigeria has been named one of three Housing Rights Violators in 2006, for its extensive record of government-sanctioned mass forced evictions and its ongoing disregard for the human right to adequate housing.

Each year, the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) awards its Housing Rights Violator Awards to three governments guilty of particularly serious and pervasive housing rights violations in the preceding year. COHRE has issued its Violator Awards since 2002. This year, Nigeria shares the Violator Awards with the Philippines and Greece.

Jean du Plessis, COHRE’s Executive Director (a.i.), said, “More than two million people have been forcibly evicted in Nigeria since 2000. Although the Nigerian Constitution affirms that: 'the State shall direct its policy towards ensuring...that suitable and adequate shelter...are provided for all citizens', the Federal Government has consistently neglected its responsibilities and has violated its obligations under international law, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”

A newly released COHRE report, Forced Evictions: Violations of Human Rights – Global Survey No. 10, reveals that 800,000 people have been forcibly evicted from their homes in the capital, Abuja, by the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) since 2003. These evictions are an attempt by the Government to redress 30 years of deviations from the city's Master Plan, in which land has been misallocated or developed ‘improperly’. The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, has ordered mass demolitions of businesses and homes, including over 49 informal settlements.

Felix Morka, Executive Director of the Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC) in Lagos, said, “In the process of trying to ensure that Abuja is a safe, well-planned city, the Minister is creating chaos by increasing homelessness and unemployment, and by disrupting access to schools and health clinics for hundreds of thousands of people. The Minister's policy of unmitigated destruction is not merely illegal under international law; it is fundamentally counterproductive to the aims of the Master Plan."

To date, approximately 24 settlements in Abuja have already been demolished, while further demolitions are underway. Belatedly, the Minister has developed a relocation plan for evictees, but only a handful of those evicted have been able to access plots at relocation sites and even fewer have been able to afford to build new homes. Furthermore, the FCDA has not yet followed through on the Minister's promise to provide access to water, electricity, roads, schools and health clinics in the relocation sites.

Whereas in contrast to the relocation sites, the majority of the 49 settlements facing demolition do have access to boreholes, sanitation facilities, schools and health clinics, as the communities have worked closely with local area councils to develop the settlements over a number of years, and have often collectively raised funds and built facilities when government support was lacking. Hundreds of thousands of people, including civil servants, advocates, journalists, retail workers, taxi drivers, and people working in the informal sector, live in these informal settlements, due to a lack of affordable housing in the formal market.

COHRE’s Du Plessis said, "COHRE and SERAC urge President Obasanjo to ensure that the Minister halts all demolitions immediately. No further demolitions should be allowed until such time as an adequate relocation plan has been developed in full consultation with affected people, a detailed enumeration of affected people has been completed and made public, and adequate relocation sites with all relevant facilities have been prepared. If the FCDA finds, during this process, that it does not have the resources to adequately relocate all people, then it should instead focus its efforts on upgrading and regularising the current settlements."

According to COHRE’s Global Survey, a further 12,000 people have been forcibly evicted from their homes in Lagos since January 2005. COHRE’s earlier research also reveals numerous cases of forced evictions in previous years, including an eviction in Rainbow Town, Port Harcourt in 2000, in which some 1.2 million people were evicted from their homes without being provided with alternative housing or compensation.

Du Plessis also added, “These widespread and ongoing evictions in Nigeria have resulted in the massive displacement of millions of people, with a spiralling effect on health, education, employment and family cohesion. The Government of Nigeria should not allow forced evictions to be used as a tool of development. The lack of transparency and consultation with affected residents falls far short of Nigeria’s international legal obligations.”


















COHRE/UPA JOINT MEDIA RELEASE

The Philippines named a Housing Rights Violator for the forced eviction of hundreds of thousands

The Philippines has been named one of three Housing Rights Violators in 2006, for the forced eviction and mass displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, and its blatant disregard for the human right to adequate housing.

Each year, the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) awards its Housing Rights Violator Awards to three governments guilty of particularly serious and pervasive housing rights violations in the preceding year. COHRE has issued its Violator Awards since 2002. This year, the Philippines shares the Violator Awards with Nigeria and Greece.

Jean du Plessis, COHRE’s Executive Director (a.i.), said, “Although the practice of forced eviction has been recognised as a gross violation of human rights, the Government of the Philippines continues to evict hundreds of thousands of people in the name of ‘beautification’ and ‘development’, with the urban poor being the worst affected. More than 145,000 people (29,000 families) have already been evicted from their homes in Metro Manila and Bulacan province since early 2005 due to the rehabilitation of the Philippines National Railway system, referred to as the 'Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project.’ COHRE’s research reveals that most of the evictees have been moved to relocation sites where living conditions are appalling due to a lack of basic services such as potable water, electricity and sanitation facilities. The unsanitary conditions and an outbreak of dengue fever at the Southville relocation site in Cabuyao have claimed the lives of 12 infants and children this year.”

A newly released COHRE report, Forced Evictions: Violations of Human Rights – Global Survey No. 10, reveals that the Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project will be responsible for the forced eviction of 400,000 people (80,000 families) – the largest planned displacement of people in the history of the Philippines.

Teodoro Añana, Deputy Coordinator of the Urban Poor Associates (UPA) in Manila, said, “Although housing rights are protected legally by both the Philippines’ Consitution and the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 (UDHA), the Government of the Philippines has used various intimidatory strategies to evict people, such as pressuring residents to relinquish their rights by signing waivers and then ‘voluntarily’ relocating them to sites that are not fit to be lived in.”

COHRE visited the Southville relocation site at Cabuyao, which is situated adjacent to a garbage dumpsite, in July this year. The garbage dump was still in operation at the time of COHRE’s visit but has recently been closed due to the efforts of local environmental group, Ecological Waste Coalition and the Archbishop of Manila, Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales. However, the dump continues to pose a severe health risk to residents of the Southville relocation site, as it contains highly toxic materials and contaminants. During heavy rains in August this year, floodwaters contaminated by runoff from the dumpsite flooded all the houses at the relocation site and took up to six hours to subside.

Forced evictions and demolitions are also being carried out in preparation for the 12th ASEAN Summit to be hosted by the Philippines in Metro Cebu next week. Nearly 210 people (42 families) were left homeless in September 2006 when police demolished their houses, situated in front of the Shangri-la Mactan Resort and Spa in Mactan Island, to make way for a parking lot to be used by Summit participants. More than 600 homes were also demolished in Mandaue City and Lapu-lapu City since September 2006, in preparation for the Summit. Of the 600 families (3,000 people) rendered homeless by these demolitions, only 100 families were moved to a temporary relocation site. The temporary relocation site has no basic services such as electricity and water.

UPA’s Añana said, “Large international conferences such as the ASEAN Summit are often accompanied by human rights violations, such as the forced eviction of whole communities in host cities. We were hoping that our country would prove the exception, and we therefore deplore these evictions in Metro Cebu.”

Du Plessis added, “Given the Philippines’ increasingly poor human rights reputation, both internationally and domestically, we call on the Government to take concrete steps to prevent any further housing rights violations. The basic human right to housing of the urban poor in the Philippines must be taken seriously by the Government. Economic progress should never be achieved at the expense of the human rights of Philippino society’s poorest and most vulnerable members.”







COHRE/GHM JOINT MEDIA RELEASE

Greece named a Housing Rights Violator for persistently violating rights of Roma communities to adequate housing

Greece has been named one of three Housing Rights Violators in 2006, for persistently violating the right to adequate housing of Roma.

Each year, the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) awards its Housing Rights Violator Awards to three governments guilty of particularly serious and pervasive housing rights violations in the preceding year. COHRE has issued its Violator Awards since 2002. This year, Greece shares the Violator Awards with Nigeria and the Philippines. This is the first time that COHRE presents one of its Violator Awards to an EU country.

Jean du Plessis, COHRE’s Executive Director (a.i.), said, “Roma communities in Greece continue to face pervasive and persistent discrimination in access to housing. A majority of Roma in Greece live in extremely poor conditions - lacking access to basic services such as water and electricity - and Roma frequently face segregation and forced eviction by local authorities. The conditions in which these communities live are dehumanising and constitute a grave human rights violation by the Government of Greece. It is completely unacceptable for a long-standing member of the European Union to allow such a situation to continue within its borders. What we are facing here is the blatant and deliberate exclusion of a particular group, creating a third world reality within a wealthy European State. The shacks of the Roma in Patras, Athens or Asproprygos are no different from those in slums in Nairobi or Manila. These evictions clearly indicate that the Greek government is not taking its international legal obligations seriously and is turning a blind eye to local governments' systematic abuse of the human rights of Roma in Greece.”

A newly released COHRE report, Forced Evictions: Violations of Human Rights – Global Survey No. 10, reveals a pattern of forced eviction of Roma in Greece. Since the beginning of 2006, municipal authorities demolished 68 homes in Patras, leaving nearly 340 Roma homeless, and more families live under constant threat of eviction, as the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe recorded during his field visit in September 2006. A further 10 Roma families (50 people) in Hania were rendered homeless when an inter-municipal “ecological” company demolished their homes without a court order and in their absence. Over 200 Roma households in the Votanikos district of Athens have been threatened with eviction to make way for the construction of a football stadium. Also, at least three Roma families of the Aghia Paraskevi community have been evicted, while another eight are under threat of eviction.

Panayote Dimitras, spokesperson for Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), said, “Greece continues to forcibly evict Roma families without providing adequate compensation and resettlement, despite two rulings of the European Committee of Social Rights in 2005 and 2006, which found Greek policies with respect to housing and accommodation of Roma clearly violated Article 16 of the European Social Charter. It is appalling that a particular ethnic minority – the Roma – are being frequently targeted for forced eviction, and that the Government of Greece has made no initiative to ensure that they have equal access to accommodation. It is even more disturbing that Greek authorities harass activists, judges and even international officials who defend Roma rights.”

COHRE’s Du Plessis, said, “It is shocking that Greece shamelessly disregards the decisions of the European Committee of Social Rights and other recommendations that have been issued by the United Nations, strongly urging the government to address the housing situation of the Roma and put a stop to its forced evictions policy.”

Du Plessis added, “Greece’s policy of forcibly evicting Roma communities in a bid to ‘beautify’ and ‘clean up’ the Greater Athens area is inhumane and in violation of international human rights law and the European Social Charter. There is absolutely no excuse for a developed and prosperous EU member state to behave in this racially discriminatory manner.”

Although the Government of Greece launched a number of programmes in the past decade to improve the housing conditions of Roma, a majority of them have been poorly implemented. After failing to implement most of the 1996 National Policy Framework for Greek Gypsies, the Government of Greece launched the Integrated Action Plan in 2001 to alleviate the challenges and hardships encountered by Roma. The 2001 plan was endowed with a budget of 308 million euros and was supposed to provide adequate housing for Roma in Greece. While 90 percent of the budget had been spent by early 2006, only a minimum amount was spent on facilities and basic services. In addition, the housing component was transformed into a large loan programme that has benefited few of the Roma living in informal settlements - as the loans were largely approved for persons in municipalities in which there are no Roma settlements.




COHRE MEDIA RELEASE

Seven Chinese housing rights activists honoured with prestigious international human rights award

Seven Chinese housing rights activists have been named joint recipients of the 2006 Housing Rights Defender Award, for their commitment to and struggle for housing rights in China.

The Housing Rights Defender Award is presented annually by the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) to an individual who has shown outstanding commitment to the realisation of housing rights for all people. For the first time since the inception of COHRE’s Housing Rights Defender Award in 2003, the award will be presented to a number of housing rights activists instead of to a single person. The joint recipients of the 2006 Housing Rights Defender Award are: Fu Xiancai; Ma Yalian; Liu Zhengyou; Huang Weizhong; Chen Xiaoming; Xu Zhengqing; and Zheng Enchong.

COHRE’s Executive Director (a.i.), Jean du Plessis, said, “These seven Chinese activists have displayed exemplary commitment, courage and perseverance in their struggles for the land and housing rights of hundreds of farmers, workers and residents in China. They are inspirational examples to every person, community and organisation working for the cause of human rights around the world. The Chinese Government is notoriously oppressive towards human rights activists. Land and housing rights violations including mass forced evictions are common, while legal remedies are scarce for those seeking to assert their rights. The work of these activists - undertaken at grave personal risk to them, their families and fellow activists - has played a catalytic role in bringing to light the unjust practices of the Chinese Government. COHRE is therefore honoured to present the 2006 Housing Rights Defender Award to: Fu Xiancai; Ma Yalin; Liu Zhengyou; Huang Weizhong; Chen Xiaoming; Zu Zhengqing; and Zheng Enchong for their fearless commitment to housing rights in an environment that is hostile to such ideals.”

A newly released COHRE report, Forced Evictions: Violations of Human Rights – Global Survey No. 10, reveals that over 647,000 people have been forcibly evicted from their homes in China since 2003. Furthermore, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security recently reported that the Chinese Government had requisitioned land from 40 million farmers in the past decade, at the same time admitting a 20 per cent increase in cases of illegal land seizures in the first five months of 2006. The number of public protests has increased from 74 000 in 2004 to 87 000 in 2005, in spite of ongoing cases of police intimidation, arbitrary arrest, and torture of activists.

All seven activists have been subjected to ongoing intimidation, harassment and even beatings for their housing and land rights activities.

For example, Fu Xiancai, who has worked for a decade to obtain appropriate compensation for 1.3 million people forced to relocate from their land and houses due to the Three Gorges Dam Project, has been severely injured and nearly lost his life, as a result of his work. Fu was struck from behind with a heavy object by an unknown person on his way home from an interrogation by the Public Security Bureau (PSB) in June 2006. The assault destroyed three vertebrae in his neck and has left him paralysed from shoulders down. He lost control of all bodily functions except his ability to speak. Just weeks previously, Fu had given an interview to German public broadcaster ARD about the Three Gorges Dam Project and the plight of the affected communities.

Equally disturbing is the fact that the whereabouts of another of the Award recipients, Chen Xiaoming, is not known since he was arrested in February 2006 by police officers from Shanghai’s Luwan District PSB. Chen, who taught himself law in order to contest the government’s actions against the housing rights of the poor, was arrested for meeting with an American diplomat to discuss problems faced by evictees.

Zheng Enchong, a lawyer who advised victims of forced evictions in Shanghai, had his license to practice law revoked by Shanghai City authorities in 2001, after he had argued for amendments to Article 10 of the People’s Republic of China’s Constitution in order to offer better protection to the land and housing rights of inhabitants. Despite losing his formal license, Zheng continued to assist nearly 500 people who had been forcibly evicted from their homes and/or had failed to receive adequate compensation for their evictions. Zheng was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in 2003 for advising a group of evicted Shanghai residents who were trying to bring a case alleging corruption against Zhou Zhengyi, a prominent Shanghai property developer. Upon Zheng’s release in June 2006, he was placed under de facto house arrest and continues to be subject to harassment.

Meanwhile, both Huang Weizhong and Xu Zhengqing are currently serving three-year prison sentences for their activism. Ma Yalian was sentenced to 18 months in a ‘Re-Education Through Labour' (RETL) camp for publishing an article on the Internet titled “A True Record of Being Turned Away from the National Petitioners and Letters Office and the Petitioners Bureau of the National People’s Congress,” and was released in August 2005 after serving her full term. Liu Zhengyou, who was arrested in June 2006 when he tried to board a flight to Geneva, Switzerland, to attend a human rights training session, and has been subjected to repeated beatings, threats and harassment by the police.

COHRE’s Du Plessis said, “The situation with respect to housing rights in China is desperate, with many millions of people having lost their homes and land over the past decade, in both cities and the rural areas. In spite of a highly oppressive environment, the seven recipients of the 2006 Housing Rights Defender Award have stood up for the rights of those affected, at great personal cost. In presenting this award to these seven people, COHRE recognises and honours their extraordinary courage, determination and dedication to the cause of housing rights.”














COHRE 2006 HOUSING RIGHTS AWARDS – Fact Sheets

2006 HOUSING RIGHTS VIOLATORS:

Nigeria, the Philippines and Greece

COHRE’s annual Housing Rights Violator Awards are presented to governments and other public institutions found to have committed persistent and unjustifiable housing rights violations during the preceding year, in clear contravention of international human rights law and related standards. The Housing Rights Violator Awards are designed to draw attention to some of the world’s worst housing rights abuses.

The recipients of the 2006 Housing Rights Violator Awards – the governments of Nigeria, the Philippines and Greece – are responsible for particularly egregious and pervasive housing rights violations over the past year. Although many countries fail to take their housing rights obligations seriously, COHRE has chosen these three Governments to highlight their particular disregard for the housing rights of those living within their borders.

Several international treaties, conventions and other standards, including the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights, recognise the right to adequate housing as a fundamental human right, to which all persons are entitled.

Despite widespread recognition of the right to adequate housing in international law, violations of the right continue to occur on a massive scale worldwide. Over one billion people live in inadequate housing and a further 100 million are homeless on any given night. Forced evictions render millions more homeless each year. The victims of eviction are almost always poor, and the impact on their lives is highly traumatic.

COHRE has two key aims in presenting its Housing Rights Violator Awards: to raise awareness of the human right to housing and the nature and scale of violations of this right, particularly in the awarded countries; and to engage award recipients in a constructive dialogue with COHRE and other civil society groups to ensure housing rights violations are addressed and the right to housing is in future respected, protected and fulfilled.







NIGERIA: Housing Rights Fact Sheet

The Government of Nigeria is consistently one of the worst violators of housing rights in the world, with over two million people forcibly evicted from their homes in different parts of the country since 2000. Although there have been numerous cases of forced evictions throughout the country in the past year, the most large-scale and egregious evictions have occurred in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, under the orders of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai.

Since El-Rufai’s appointment as Minister by the President in 2003, the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) has been carrying out mass forced evictions in Abuja in an attempt to re-initiate a Master Plan that was approved in 1979. The Plan was designed to guide the creation of the new capital and development of the capital territory until 2000. The Master Plan was developed when the Government decided to move the national capital from Lagos to Abuja. The aim of the Master Plan was to create an orderly capital as a solution to the chaotic, rapidly expanding Lagos. The Master Plan called for the resettlement of people living in traditional villages in the capital territory to neighbouring states. However, the Government never fully carried out the resettlement plan. Instead, those living on the land when the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was created – generally termed ‘indigenes’ – were allowed to remain. These settlements have expanded in the past 30 years as indigenes allocated land or rented housing to non-indigenes who moved to Abuja for employment and were unable to access affordable formal housing. This resulted in the formation of extensive informal, unplanned and unauthorised settlements within the area designated for the capital city

The Land Use Act of 1978 vests all lands in the hands of the Government and does not allow for the private ownership of land by individuals or corporations. According to the Act, the Governor of each state has the power to allocate urban land, and local area councils have the power to allocate rural land. Individuals and private developers must apply for certificates of occupancy that will allow them to use the land for a certain period of time for a fee. In the case of the FCT, there is no Governor. Legally, the President of Nigeria is the only one with the authority to allocate land in the FCT, and the Minister of the FCT, who is a presidential appointment, carries this out on the President’s behalf.

The Land Use Act makes it illegal for indigenes to allocate land without prior government approval. However, this has seldom been enforced. Hundreds of thousands of people live in these informal settlements because they do not have access to affordable housing in the formal market within a reasonable distance to their place of employment.

Since El-Rufai’s appointment as Minister of the FCT in 2003, the FCDA has targeted over 49 such settlements in Abuja for demolition, arguing that land was zoned for other purposes under the Master Plan and, in some cases, has already been allocated to private developers. To date, these evictions have affected approximately 800,000 people, as estimated by local organisations. Although the FCDA argues that this number is inflated, they have not released their own figures from their enumerations of the informal settlements.

The FCDA has demolished homes, schools, clinics, churches, mosques, and businesses without adequate consultation with communities, and without providing adequate notice, compensation, or adequate resettlement. The evictions have resulted in the massive displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from entire communities with a spiralling effect on health, education, employment, and family cohesion. Some of the demolitions were accompanied by violence perpetuated by heavily armed security operatives towards residents and owners of businesses. Approximately 21-24 of the 49 targeted settlements in Abuja have been demolished by the FCDA in the past three years. Evictions commenced as early as 2003, but the most contentious demolitions began in late 2005 and have been ongoing.

The FCDA draws a distinction between indigene and non-indigene residents when carrying out evictions and demolitions. The demolitions have targeted homes in which non-indigenes live, regardless of whether the buildings were owned by indigenes or non-indigenes. The FCDA has not demolished homes in which indigenes live, except in some cases, where enumerations were not completed and indigene homes were destroyed as well.

The FCDA has a policy to provide full resettlement to indigenes, in keeping with the original intentions of the Master Plan. However, there is no such policy for non-indigenes living in Abuja. After a public outcry in late 2005, the Minister began discussions about evictions with a “human face.” Prior to this, many non-indigene residents were forcibly evicted before an enumeration process took place. Since late 2005, the FCDA has been attempting to enumerate non-indigenes before demolitions and has offered those affected with access to a plot of land in relocation sites that are currently under construction. However, non-indigenes must pay 21,000 Naira (approximately $ US 170) for administrative fees, and a further 600 Naira (approximately $ US 4.88) per square metre of land. Thus access to a 500 square metre plot would cost 321,000 Naira (approximately $ US 2,612). They would further be required to build a home based on certain planning standards within 2 years or lose their rights to the relocation plot. In a country where over 70 percent of the population lives under a dollar day, this is a difficult feat, particularly for those who have recently had their homes and possibly much of their property destroyed.


Further evictions in Nigeria

Lagos

More than 12,000 people have been forcibly evicted from their homes in Lagos since January 2005. The most recent of these evictions occurred in April 2006 when the State Task Force on Environment demolished over 300 homes at Ogunbiyi village in Ikeja, Lagos, leaving 3,000 people homeless. Some of the residents at Ogunbiyi were given five days notice, while others were given no warning at all. More than 1,000 people were evicted during the night of 6 December 2005 from publicly-owned apartment buildings in Lagos by police and military officers, as part of Nigeria’s policy of privatising public housing. Approximately 3000 residents of the slum community of Makoko were evicted in April 2005. The residents were not given prior notice of the planned evictions and were not provided with alternative housing or compensation for the destruction of their homes. The Federal Ministry of Housing and Urban Development demolished hundreds of homes in Aboru Abesan, Ikeja, rendering 6,000 people in January 2005.

Port Harcourt

The Rivers State Government began demolishing homes of the Agip Waterside Community in February 2005 leaving 5,000 – 10,000 people homeless. Most of those affected by the eviction were members of the Ogoni people. Residents were given insufficient notice and were not provided with alternative accommodation or compensation.

Some 1.2 million people were forcibly evicted by the Rivers State Government in July 2000 from Rainbow Town, Port Harcourt – a settlement dating from the 1960s. The State Government used land conflicts and purported illegal occupation as justification for the evictions and demolished settlements in the area to build modern housing units. To date the State Government has not provided alternative housing or compensation to the 1.2 million people who were rendered homeless.

International Legal Obligations

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) in a landmark decision on forced evictions in Nigeria in October 2001, found that the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights guaranteed the right to adequate housing, including the prohibition on forced eviction (see SERAC and CESR v. Nigeria, ACHRP 2002). In this case, the African Commission incorporated the substance and jurisprudence of international human rights law on the prohibition of forced eviction into the implied right to adequate housing in the African Charter. However, this important decision has not yet been reflected in Nigerian jurisprudence or practice.

Under international human rights law, including the African Charter, which has been ratified by Nigeria, evictions can only be considered as lawful if they are deemed necessary in the most “exceptional circumstances.” If such “exceptional circumstances” exist, then certain procedural protections and due process requirements have to be adhered to, including that States must ensure, prior to any planned evictions, and particularly those involving large groups, that all feasible alternatives are explored in consultation with affected persons. Furthermore, and in any event, eviction shall not result in rendering individuals homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights. Governments are legally obligated to ensure that adequate alternative housing and compensation for all losses is made available to affected persons.


Nigeria: Facts at a glance


· The Government of Nigeria is one of the worst violators of housing rights in the world, with over two million people forcibly evicted from their homes since 2000.

· The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) has forcibly evicted more than 800,000 people from their homes in Abuja since 2003.

· More than 12,000 people have been forcibly evicted from their homes in Lagos since January 2005.

· More evictions connected to the Government’s privatisation plans are expected in the near future in Lagos, and will likely affect another 20,000 people.

· The Rivers State Government began demolishing homes of the Agip Waterside Community in February 2005 leaving 5,000 – 10,000 people homeless. Residents were given insufficient notice and were not provided with alternative housing or compensation.

· The Rivers State Government forcibly evicted some 1.2 million people in July 2000 from Rainbow Town, Port Harcourt – a settlement dating from the 1960s. To date, the State Government has not provided alternative housing or compensation to those who were rendered homeless.

· Over 70% of the population of Nigeria live below $1 (PPP) a day, as reported by the United Nations MDGInfo 2006

· The most recent available census figures for Nigeria are from 1991. At that time, the Federal Capital City (FCC) had a population of 107,069 and the Federal Capital Territory had a population of 378,671. The FCT Minister and FCDA officials have stated publically that the FCT has a population of 6 or 7 million and that Abuja is the fastest growing city in the world. This is often used to justify demolitions, as the Master Plan intended a limit of 3.1 million persons in the FCC. However, there have been no official figures released to support these estimates of population size or growth rate.




THE PHILIPPINES: Housing Rights Fact Sheet

The Philippines continues to evict hundreds of thousands of people in its cities in the name of ‘beautification’ and ‘development’. Landless urban poor are the worst affected by forced evictions throughout the Philippines. Although housing rights are protected legally by both the Philippines’ Constitution and the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 (UDHA), the Government of the Philippines continues to use various strategies such as pressuring residents to relinquish these rights by signing waivers and then ‘voluntarily’ relocating them to sites that are not fit to be lived in.

The number of evictions in Metro Manila has increased significantly since 2005 due to the rehabilitation of the Philippines National Railway system referred to as the Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project. Most of those affected by this infrastructure ‘development’ project are informal settlers who have lived along the railway tracks for a few decades. Once completed, the Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project is expected to alleviate existing traffic congestion in Metro Manila, improve transport between the airports and seaports of the Manila-Clark-Subic economic triangle, and provide easy access to Central and Northern Luzon’s new economic growth areas. The Project will also be responsible for the forced eviction of 80,000 families (400,000 people) – the largest planned displacement of people in the history of the Philippines.

To date, nearly 29,000 families (145,000 people) have been moved (22,000 families from the Northrail tracks and 7,000 from the Southrail tracks) to several relocation sites far (approximately 40 km) from Metro Manila. COHRE’s research reveals that the living conditions at most of the relocations sites are appalling due to a lack of basic services such as potable water, electricity and sanitation facilities. Local NGOs in Manila report that most of the families who were moved from the Northrail tracks had to live in tents for several months at the relocation sites.

Under international human rights law and Philippines law those facing eviction have the right to consultation and adequate relocation. The site they are moved to must already have: potable water, electricity, sewerage facilities and an efficient solid waste disposable system and access to transportation facilities. It is also preferable that the relocation sites are situated in near-city and in-city areas close to the evictees’ sources of livelihood. However, the living conditions at several of the relocation sites clearly indicate that the Government of the Philippines has fallen far short of fulfilling its obligations to those who have been relocated due to the Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project.

COHRE’s research reveals that there have been numerous problems associated with the relocation process. These include: a lack of consultation with affected families; carrying out evictions and relocations before the sites are habitable; insufficient Government loans to affected families for the construction of homes; lack of livelihood opportunities for those who have been relocated because the sites are far away from Metro Manila; and situating one of the relocation sites adjacent to a mammoth garbage dump.

Under the relocation scheme, the Government provides each family with a loan (payable in 25- 30 years with 6 – 9 % interest per annum), which ranges from between US $ 500 to US $ 4000 per family. In many cases the loan is not sufficient to construct a house. Large numbers of houses visited by COHRE at the Southville relocation site in Cabuyao (home to 7,000 families) are incomplete with no roofs and dirt floors. Research shows that the distance between the relocation sites and the residents’ sources of livelihood in Metro Manila have caused severe hardship for many families. According to the Urban Poor Associates (UPA) more than 70 percent of families in Southville, Cabuyao, have a family member who works in Metro Manila. It also found that the incidence of hunger in the relocation sites was double that experienced by communities living adjacent to the railway tracks.

COHRE visited the Southville relocation site in Cabuyao, which is situated adjacent to a garbage dumpsite, in July this year. The garbage dump was still in operation at the time of COHRE’s visit but has been closed since. However, the dump continues to pose a severe health risk to residents of the Southville relocation site as it contains highly toxic materials and contaminants. During heavy rains in August this year, floodwaters contaminated by run off from the dumpsite flooded all the houses at the relocation site and took up to six hours to subside. According to Ecological Waste Coalition, residents of the Southville relocation site are exposed to ‘high levels of contaminants that are released through dump fires, landfill gas migration and surface and underground leachate migration.’ Six infants from the Southville relocation site have died this year of pneumonia, sepsis and diarrhoea. Six children also died from a dengue outbreak at the site last month, with a further 18 being infected with the virus due to the serious health hazards posed by the dumpsite, and lack of safe drinking water and poor drainage facilities and sanitation.

Forced evictions and demolitions of homes have also been carried out in preparation for the 12th ASEAN Summit to be held in Metro Cebu, next week. Forty two (210 people) families were left homeless when their houses situated at the front of the Shangri-la Mactan Island Resort and Spa in Mactan Island, were demolished by the police in late September. The cleared land will be used as a parking lot for Summit participants. Reports indicate the demolitions were violent with police using water cannons and truncheons to disperse the barricade put up by those trying to resist the demolitions. Scores were hurt, including women and children and 12 were arrested and detained during the demolitions. More than 600 homes were also demolished in Mandaue City and Lapu-lapu City since September 2006, in preparation for the Summit. Of the 600 families (3,000 people) rendered homeless by these demolitions, only 100 families were moved to a temporary relocation site. The temporary relocation site has no basic services such as electricity and water. These evictions clearly reveal that large international conferences such as the ASEAN Summit are almost always accompanied by human rights violations such as the forced eviction of whole communities in host cities.


The Philippines: Facts at a glance

· The Government of the Philippines is in violation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 11), the Constitution of the Philippines (Article XIII, Section 10) and the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 (Section 28).

· The Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project will be responsible for the forced eviction and displacement of 80,000 families (400,000 people) – the largest planned displacement in the history of the Philippines.

· To date, nearly 29,000 families (145,000 people) have been moved (22,000 families from the Northrail tracks and 7,000 from the Southrail tracks) to several relocation sites far (approximately 40 km) from Metro Manila. COHRE’s research reveals that the living conditions at most of the relocations sites are appalling due to a lack of potable water, electricity and sanitation facilities.

· Large numbers of houses visited by COHRE in July at the Southville relocation site in Cabuyao (home to 7,000 families) are incomplete with no roofs and dirt floors. Research shows that the distance (approximately 30 – 40 km) between the relocation sites and the residents’ sources of livelihood in Metro Manila have caused severe hardship for many families.

· According to the Urban Poor Associates (UPA) more than 70 percent of families in Southville, Cabuyao, have a family member who works in Metro Manila. It also found that the incidence of hunger in the relocation sites was double that experienced by communities living adjacent to the railway tracks.

· Six infants from the Southville relocation site have died this year of pneumonia, sepsis and diarrhoea. Six children also died from a dengue outbreak at the site last month, with a further 18 being infected with the virus due to the serious health hazards posed by a nearby garbage dumpsite and lack of safe drinking water and poor drainage and sanitation facilities.

· Forty two families (210 people) were left homeless when their houses situated at the front of the Shangri-la Mactan Island Resport and Spa in Mactan Island, were demolished by the police in preparation for the 12th ASEAN Summit to be held next week.

· More than 600 homes were also demolished in Mandaue City and Lapu-lapu City since September 2006, in preparation for the Summit. Of the 600 families (3,000 people) rendered homeless by these demolitions, only 100 families were moved to a temporary relocation site. The temporary relocation site has no basic services such as electricity and water.






GREECE: Housing Rights Fact Sheet

The Government of Greece has continuously failed to curtail ongoing widespread anti-Romani abuses by local authorities, particularly in the area of housing. Roma in Greece continue to face pervasive and persistent discrimination in access to housing. A majority of Roma in Greece live in extremely poor living conditions lacking access to basic services such as water and electricity, and frequently face segregation and forced eviction by local authorities.

According to data from the Greek Police, between 1 January 1996 and 30 June 2006, police officers took part in 79 forced evictions of Roma ordered by courts (and many more without court orders), and lodged 323 lawsuits against Roma for illegal settlements under the Sanitary Regulations. While authorities are meant to provide some form of alternative accommodation under this law, it rarely occurs and no criminal proceedings have ever been brought against any local authority for failure to provide such suitable accommodation.

Greece continues to forcibly evict Roma families without providing adequate compensation and resettlement despite two rulings of the European Committee of Social Rights in 2005 and 2006, which found Greek policies with respect to housing and accommodation of Roma to clearly violate Article 16 of the European Social Charter. These rulings are among the first in Roma rights to find an entire field of policy and practice by a European government illegal.

Since the beginning of 2006, municipal authorities demolished 68 homes in Patras, leaving nearly 340 Roma homeless. A further 10 Roma families (50 people) in Hania were rendered homeless when an inter-municipal “ecological” company demolished their homes without a court order in their absence. In addition, over 200 Roma households in the Votanikos district of Athens have been threatened with eviction to make way for the construction of a football stadium. Also, at least three Roma families of the Roma community of Aghia Paraskevi have been evicted, while another eight are under threat of eviction.

Patras municipal authorities carried out a “cleaning operation” in August 2004 against Albanian Roma living in Riganokampos, on a plot of land belonging to the University of Patras. The Municipality offered compensation to two Greek Roma families to transfer their sheds to a neighbouring plot of land. However, no such arrangements were made for the 35 Albanian Roma families, a majority of whom were away from their homes for seasonal agricultural work in other parts of Greece. Thus, the Albanian Roma families were forcibly evicted without adequate compensation or notice.

Forty Greek Roma families and 20 Albanian Roma families (with legal residency status in Greece) in the area of Marousi (Greater Athens) were forcibly evicted from their homes in 2002, to make way for the construction of facilities for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, without being provided with effective adequate compensation or resettlement.

Although the Government of Greece launched a number of programmes in the past decade to improve the housing conditions of Roma, a majority of them have been poorly implemented. After failing to implement most of the 1996 National Policy Framework for Greek Gypsies, the Government of Greece launched the Integrated Action Plan in 2001 to tackle issues and hardships encountered by Roma. The 2001 plan was endowed with a budget of 308 million euros and was to provide adequate housing for Roma in Greece. This included 100 new organised Roma settlements with 4,000 new homes, the improvement of 1,100 existing homes, 60 camping sites for itinerant Roma and approximately 80-100 social support centres for Roma. While 90 percent of the budget had been spent by early 2006, only a minimal amount was spent on services, and the housing component was instead transformed into a large loan programme that has benefited few of the informal settlements.

Reports indicate that housing loans were given to persons not living in settlements and seemingly even those who do not identify as Roma. The loans were largely taken up in municipalities where there are no Roma settlements, while there were very few loan approvals in municipalities that were home to settlements with appalling living conditions (such as the Municipality of Attica). Furthermore, no social medical centres were established in sizable and destitute settlements in Aspropyrgos – Attica, or Palatanaki – Lamia.


Greece: Facts at a glance

· There are approximately 300,000 individuals of Roma origin living in Greece. Tent dwellers account for a large number of Roma who live in some 52 improvised and dangerous encampments throughout Greek territory.

· A study by the Public Urban Planning and Housing Enterprise (DEPOS) of Greece in 1999 revealed that 38 percent of Roma lived in sheds and tents, while the remainder lived in poorly built ‘houses.’

· According to data from the Greek Police, between 1 January 1996 and 30 June 2006, police officers took part in 79 forced evictions of Roma ordered by courts (and many more without court orders), and lodged 323 lawsuits against Roma for illegal settlements under the Sanitary Regulations.

· Since the beginning of 2006, municipal authorities demolished 68 homes in Patras, leaving nearly 340 Roma homeless. A further 10 Roma families (50 people) were rendered homeless when an inter-municipal “ecological” company demolished their homes without a court order in their absence.

· At present, over 200 Roma households in the Votanikos district of Athens are threatened with eviction to make way for the construction of a football stadium.

· Forty Greek Roma families and 20 Albanian Roma families (with legal residency status in Greece) in the area of Marousi (Greater Athens) were forcibly evicted from their homes in 2002, to make way for the construction of facilities for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, without being provided with adequate compensation or resettlement.






COHRE 2006 HOUSING RIGHTS DEFENDER AWARD – FACT SHEET

Seven Chinese Housing Rights Activists

COHRE’s Housing Rights Defender Award is presented annually to an individual who has shown outstanding commitment to the realisation of the housing rights for all people. Nominees for the award must be committed to non-violence and independent of any governmental affiliation.

For the first time since the inception of COHRE’s Housing Rights Defender Award in 2003, it will be presented to a number of housing rights activists instead of to a single person. The recipients of the 2006 Housing Rights Defender Award are: Fu Xiancai; Ma Yalian; Liu Zhengyou; Huang Weizhong; Chen Xiaoming; Xu Zhengqing; and Zheng Enchong.

These seven Chinese human rights activists have been campaigning for decades for the housing rights of hundreds of thousands of Chinese farmers and residents who have been forcibly evicted from their homes. The recipients of the 2006 Housing Rights Defender Award have been working tirelessly for many years in China - an environment where mass housing rights violations are common and legal remedies scarce for those seeking to prevent forced evictions and assert their housing rights.

Fu Xiancai, is an activist who has worked tirelessly to obtain appropriate compensation for 1.3 million people forced to relocate after the commencement of the Three Gorges Dam Project in 1997. Fu wrote 50 complaints and travelled 15 times to Beijing to persuade local authorities to compensate those affected by the construction of the dam. He even took his lobbying to the international level by sending a petition signed by 650 villagers to relevant United Nations bodies in the hope that the international community would assist them in obtaining appropriate compensation.

Fu and his family were subjected to repeated harassment, threats, assaults and injuries by criminal elements connected to local authorities since April 2005. Fu gave an interview to German public broadcaster ARD in May 2006 about Beijing’s failure to compensate 1.3 million people forced to relocate due to the Three Gorges Dam Project. Fu was called in for questioning a few weeks later by Wang Xiankui, squad leader of the Zigui County Public Security Bureau (PSB). Fu was questioned about the interview with Das Erste and warned that this kind of “oppositionist” view “would not have good consequences” for him and his family.

Fu’s tireless efforts as a housing rights activist were halted in June 2006 when he was struck from behind with a heavy object by an unknown person on his way home from the PSB interrogation session. The attack destroyed three vertebrae in his neck and left him paralysed from shoulders down. He lost control of all bodily functions except his ability to speak. An investigation, carried out by the same PSB which questioned and harassed Fu, claimed that several nationally recognised forensic pathologists had concluded that his injuries were self-inflicted. The police reportedly told Fu not to appeal this decision.

Ma Yalian began her activism when she became a victim of forced eviction due to a redevelopment plan in Shanghai. Ma was sentenced to spend a year at a Re-Education Through Labour (RETL) camp in August 2001 for her repeated complaints to authorities, and open criticism of the Chinese Petitioning System. While at the camp, Ma was beaten so badly that both her legs were broken, leaving her disabled. Upon her release, Ma continued her activism and was arrested in 2004 for her role in petitioning the government to address grievances involving forced evictions. Following this incident, she published an article on the Internet titled “A True Record of Being Turned Away from the National Petitions and Letters Office and the Petitions Bureau of the National People’s Congress.” Ma’s article provided an eyewitness account of ill treatment of petitioners by police and civil servants in front of the main entrance of the Petitions Office in Beijing. As a result of this article, the Re-Education Through Labour Management Committee sentenced her to 18 months in a RETL camp for “disturbing social order and security.” Ma was released in August 2005 after serving her full term.

Liu Zhengyou has been an activist and petitioner in Hongqi Township of Zigong City since 1993. Liu has been actively petitioning on behalf of 30,000 farmers who were displaced during a landgrab by local officials in 1993 for the construction of a “New High Tech Development Zone.” The farmers, led by Liu, have continued to petition against local officials for having received neither compensation nor resettlement. Despite using every available avenue of potential redress in the past 13 years – six attempts to file lawsuits, four appeals against courts’ refusal to hear the case, and one petition to higher levels to have the refusals reviewed – the displaced farmers led by Liu have not had any success in having their grievances heard. Liu has been subject to beatings, harassment and threats by the Chinese authorities for his activism. Liu was arrested in June 2006 when he tried to board a flight to Geneva, Switzerland, to attend human rights training session offered by the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR).

Huang Weizhong has represented hundreds of farmers in petitions against low levels of compensation for farmland expropriated in the villages of Chengxiang District, Putian City in 2003. Local authorities requisitioned land in 10 villages, affecting more than 10,000 farmers. The villagers were compensated at 2,900 Yuan per mu of expropriated land, and then sold it to luxury residential developers for 92,800 Yuan per mu. Huang used all available avenues including administrative review, administrative litigation and petitioning to appeal against the low levels of compensation, but was unable to find effective redress at the local provincial or Supreme courts. Huang was found guilty of “gathering crowds to disturb public order” in May 2006 after he went to Beijing to represent approximately 660 farmers on their appeals against low levels of compensation. He was sentenced to three years in prison and is currently appealing his conviction.

Chen Xiaoming became a housing rights activist when his house was expropriated in the Xuhui District of Shanghai in 1994. As a result of this, Chen quit his job and taught himself Chinese law to contest the government’s actions against the housing rights of the poor. He successfully sued the government in 1995 using Administrative Procedure Law. Chen has used his knowledge and experience to help victims of forced evictions get redress by documenting their cases, testing and building state legal procedures, writing letters to the Chinese authorities and putting government violations of people’s rights under accountability through admissive lawsuits. Chen’s current whereabouts are not known since he was arrested in February 2006 by police officers from Shanghai’s Luwan District PSB. He was arrested for meeting with an American diplomat to discuss problems faced by evictees.

Xu Zhengqing is a long time anti-government activist and petitioner for residents’ rights. Xu became a victim of forced eviction when the government expropriated his home without compensation. Xu has represented his own case and those of more than 500 other victims of forced evictions in numerous appeals and as a result, been subjected to detentions, beatings and harassment by the police. Xu was arrested in January 2005 while boarding a bus heading to Beijing. Xu and 20 other petitioners were informed by the police that the bus was broken and was asked to disembark before he could pay the fare. Xu was detained for seven months before he was sentenced to three years in prison in September 2005 for causing “serious” disruption of public order by failing to pay a bus fare and creating congestion in the corridor of a train.

Zheng Enchong, is a lawyer who advised victims of forced evictions in Shanghai. Zheng had his license to practice law revoked by Shanghai City authorities in 2001 after he argued it was necessary to amend Article 10 of the People’s Republic of China’s Constitution, which stated that “The state may in the public interest take over land for its use in accordance with the law” from collective owners. Despite the loss of his license, Zheng continued to provide legal advice to nearly 500 people who had been forcibly evicted from their homes and/or had failed to receive adequate compensation for their evictions. Zheng was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in 2003 for advising a group of evicted Shanghai residents who tried to bring a case alleging corruption against Zhou Zhengyi, a prominent Shanghai property developer. Upon Zheng’s release in June 2006, he was placed under de facto house arrest and continues to be subjected to harassment.





Organisational Profile: Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE)


The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions is an independent international human rights organisation dedicated to securing economic, social and cultural rights, with a special focus on housing. COHRE’s work concentrates on preventing planned forced evictions and creating conditions in which people all over the world can enjoy access to safe, affordable and secure housing.

COHRE was founded in 1994 and now has some 60 staff members working from offices in Accra (Ghana), Colombo (Sri Lanka), Duluth (USA), Geneva (Switzerland), Melbourne (Australia) and Porto Alegre (Brazil).

In it twelve years of existence, COHRE has played a principal role in addressing eviction issues, land and housing rights in dozens of countries. COHRE works closely with key civil society organistions around the world and has assisted in halting numerous forced evictions, which if carried out would have added several million people to the world’s homeless population. COHRE has been instrumental in reshaping international law standards on evictions issues and housing rights, through the adoption of over 50 new international standards on these issues.

COHRE has contributed to the establishment of major institutions such as the United Nations (UN) Housing Rights Programme, the Housing and Property Directorate in Kosovo, the Commission on Land, Housing and Property Rights in Sri Lanka and many others. COHRE has consultative status with the Economic, and Social Council of the UN and consultative status with the Council of Europe (COE) and the Organisation of American States (OAS).

Since 1994 COHRE has received generous financial support from the Ford Foundation, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Swedish NGO Foundation for Human Rights, the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United National Trust Fund in support of Actions to Eliminate Violence Against Women (UNIFEM), Netherlands Ministry of Housing (VROM), CordAid (Netherlands), Misereor (Germany), the Swiss Development Corporation (SDC), the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs and others.

www.cohre.org

Philippines, Nigeria and Greece: 2006 worst housing rights violators


** NEWS RELEASE *** NEWS RELEASE *** NEWS RELEASE **

Philippines, Nigeria and Greece: 2006 worst housing rights violators

In a press conference held today December 5, 9:00 AM (4:00 P.M. Philippine time) at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), a prestigious international housing rights NGO, named Nigeria, Philippines and Greece as recipients of the group's 2006 Housing Rights Violator Awards. It accused the recipients of severe human rights violations for systematically violating housing rights and continued failure to abide by local and international legal obligations.

“Although many governments continue to violate the right to adequate housing, in 2006 Nigeria, Philippines and Greece stand out for their appalling disregard for this basic human right,” COHRE Executive Director Jean du Plessis said in a statement.

“The Nigerian Government has forcibly evicted more than two million people from their homes since 2000. Although the Nigerian Constitution affirms that: 'the State shall direct its policy towards ensuring...that suitable and adequate shelter...are provided for all citizens', the Federal Government has consistently neglected its responsibilities and violated its obligations under international law, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,” he said.

In Greece, Roma (at times called gypsies) communities continue to face pervasive and persistent discrimination in access to housing. A majority of Roma in Greece live in extremely poor conditions - lacking access to basic services such as water and electricity - and frequently face segregation and forced eviction by local authorities, he said.

“It is completely unacceptable for a long-standing member of the European Union (EU) to allow such a situation to continue within its borders. What we are facing here is the blatant and deliberate exclusion of a particular group, creating a third world reality within a wealthy European State. The shacks of the Roma in Patras, Athens or Asproprygos are no different from those in slums in Nairobi or Manila,” he said.

In the Philippines, more than 145,000 people (29,000 families) have already been evicted from their homes in Metro Manila and Bulacan province since early 2005 due to the rehabilitation of the Philippine National Railway system referred to as the 'Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project.’, he said.

“COHRE’s research reveals that most of the evictees have been moved to relocation sites where living conditions are appalling due to a lack of basic services such as potable water, electricity and sanitation facilities. The unsanitary conditions and an outbreak of dengue fever at the Southville relocation site in Cabuyao have claimed the lives of 12 infants and children this year. Forced evictions and demolitions are also being carried out in preparation for the 12th ASEAN Summit to be hosted by the Philippines next week. The evictions and demolition in Metro Cebu have left more than 3,000 people homeless since September 2006.”

Three Catholic Bishops, including Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, have criticized the government’s eviction practices along the railroad, according to the Urban Poor Associates (UPA). -30-

COHRE and Urban Poor Associates (UPA) will hold a joint media conference:

What: the Philippine Government, recipient of 2006 Worst Housing Rights Violator

When: December 6, 2006 (Wednesday), 10:00 AM

Where: Newsdesk Café,# 8 Scout Madriñan corner Scout Tobias Streets, South Triangle, Quezon City

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