Campaign for the Rights of those Displaced by Earthquake. On 18 July 2010 the Haiti Support Group launched its campaign in support of the over one million people living in over 1,000 makeshift camps in and around the capital Port-au-Prince.
Many of these people, apart from having lost family members, their house and all their belongings, are now exposed to awful living condition, sexual violence and expulsion from their camps. The HSG wrote the following letter to Prime Minister Bellerive and UN Secretary General’s Special Representative Edmond Mulet. Please write to them along similar lines or simply referring to and attaching the HSG letter. You can download the letter here.
London, 18 July 2010
Dear Prime Minister Bellerive
Dear Mr Mulet
The Haiti Support Group, a UK-based solidarity organisation, would like to express its grave concern in relation to the situation of those internally displaced by the earthquake of 12 January and make some practical recommendations. According to our contacts on the ground in the Port-au-Prince area, internally displaced Haitians (IDPs) have three urgent needs:
1. Proper shelter and proper living conditions,
2. Protection against crime (notably rape) and
3. Protection against forcible removal.
Living conditions in the camps
We recognise the efforts to establish better camps. However, we fail to understand why six months after the earthquake and the donation of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid money not more has been done to provide proper shelter in safe locations.
One key obstacle has been the apparent lack of suitable land. However, there is suitable land available both in and near to Port-au-Prince, and the requisition or expropriation of private property for the public interest, in situations such as these, is permitted by international law. The Haitian constitution also provides for such measures.
We understand that because of land ownership issues, only a few dozen transitional homes have gone up in the capital, where more than half of the 1.3 million homeless still live in tents and flimsy structures made mostly from tarps and bed sheets.
We urge the government of Haiti to requisition suitable property as a matter of urgency and that aid money to pay compensation is made available if required for this purpose through UN channels.
Protection against crime
We welcome the 7 May announcement by MINUSTAH of joint UNPol and PNH patrols in the camps. We understand that there has been a slight amelioration of the situation in relation to those camps that have support from NGOs.
However, rape and sexual violence are still far too common. The women’s organisation KOFAVIV has recorded at least 265 cases of rape in 15 camps, or 17.6 incidents per camp, in the period 12 January to date. This is likely to be only a fraction of the total number of rapes occurring. We urge you to make provision for security in the camps an urgent priority and allocate more staff to this task.
Relocation of IDPs
We are extremely concerned at reports that private owners are continuing to evict IDPs from their property without any alternative accommodation being provided and in flagrant violation of human rights law.
Whilst human rights law does not generally apply directly to private individuals and institutions, the GoH has the binding obligation to ensure that the rights of IDPs are not violated by private entities. This obligation is not being honoured by tolerating evictions contrary to the UN Principles of Internal Displacement (many of which reflect binding human rights obligations of the GoH, arising from other human rights instruments).
The failure of the GoH to protect the IDPs from forced evictions needs to be urgently rectified. We note that under Haitian law, a court must approve any evictions. We are disappointed that a three-week moratorium announced by the GoH at the end of April has not been renewed and that IDPs continue to be evicted with nowhere to go.
We urge the GoH and the UN to work together to ensure that no more forced evictions take place in violation of the UN Principles. We look forward to hearing how you are planning to address these issues.
Chair, Haiti Support Group