Sign on to this letter, calling for acknowledgment of and adherence to the rights guaranteed to the internally-displaced.
After the earthquake of January 12th, over 2 million survivors left the wreckage of their homes and sought refuge in camps constructed on any open land. The Haitian Government and private landowners have evicted thousands of residents from these encampments without a viable alternative for their relocation, and in some cases with no alternative at all.
The UN and Haitian Government agreed on April 22 to an immediate 3-week moratorium on forced evictions which expired, Thursday, May 13th. Within that period reports of evictions continued. Humanitarian aid, including food, water and sanitation facilities have been cut off in targeted camps (1, 2). In other locations, residents are being harassed and abused by the police. The people most affected by the earthquake, those who have lost their families, homes and livelihoods, now live in fear that they may be violently forced to leave their present settlements without viable options established for relocation (2).
These actions are prohibited under the UN’s Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. The UN Principles, which are based upon international humanitarian law and human rights instruments, establish the framework for protecting the rights of displaced people, including the right to basic services (food, water, shelter, education, medical services, and sanitation) and to be protected from violence (4). When these rights are not upheld, UN agencies are obligated to call on relevant parties to respect them (5). Specifically, the OCHA CCCM Cluster-designated Camp Coordinator is charged with developing an “exit/transition strategy for camp closures while ensuring that responses are in line with ... standards including relevant government, human rights, and legal obligations" (7, 8).
We call for an immediate stop to forced evictions and the development of a human rights monitoring system to ensure that further violence and violations do not take place. A transparent process to relocate camp inhabitants that is rights-based and protects earthquake victims is essential for national recovery to occur in a manner that promotes dignity and is sensitive to the needs expressed by the communities.
Specifically, we call for those responsible, accountable and empowered to put into place:
1. An expansion of coverage and time extension for the moratorium on forced removals: Evictions and/or involuntary removals from all camp settlements must be officially suspended for an additional 90 days to allow alternative options to be explored and agreed upon.
2. An independent monitoring system: The OCHA Protection Cluster, MINUSTAH Human Rights Section and all other stakeholders for human rights, including Haitian civil society, must immediately develop a collaborative system of independent monitors in locations where IDPs face removal from their communities, both voluntary and forced, to address complaints from displaced persons.
3. Genuine community consultation: Community representatives and civil society, especially women and the youth, must be included in all planning processes, promoting culturally-relevant solutions with respect and support for self-determination. No viable or just solutions to the complex issue of resettlement can be determined without dialogue between those most affected and those upon whom it is incumbent to protect the rights of the Internally Displaced Person.