24 June 2005
The following statement was issued today by a group of ten-UN experts:
1. The undersigned Special Procedures mandate holders of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights are deeply concerned by the recent mass forced evictions in Zimbabwe, and related human rights violations.
2. Since 18 May 2005 Zimbabwean authorities are reported to have forcibly evicted an estimated 200,000 people from Harare and 29 other locations across Zimbabwe, with some reports stating that up to a million people may face eviction if the operation continues. On 3 June the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing issued an urgent appeal to the Government on these violations.
3. The evictions have targeted especially informal traders and families living in informal settlements, including women with HIV/AIDS, widows, children with disabilities and HIV/AIDS orphans. Many evictees, including women, are reported to have been beaten by police. The evictees have been given no prior notice, no opportunity to appeal and no opportunity to retrieve property and goods from homes and shops before their destruction. In one single eviction, carried out during the night of 26 May 2005, allegedly more than 10,000 people were forcibly driven from their homes in the informal settlement of Hatcliffe Extension in northern Harare. Government trucks have transported some people to transit camps, far away from public facilities or from any commercial or other employment opportunities. With the exception of a few inadequate transit camps, there is no evidence that the Government has explored any alternatives to the evictions or offered adequate alternative housing and most evictees have been left completely homeless.
4. On 18 June 2005, a peaceful demonstration against the evictions, organized by Women of Zimbabwe Arise, a human rights NGO, was reportedly stopped by police who allegedly arrested 29 women. This recent report comes after several years of reports of widespread violations against human rights defenders, including beatings, arbitrary arrests and detention, violations of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression.
5. Due to the wide-spread demolitions and displacement, there have been numerous reports of consequential interruption of already limited HIV prevention, care and treatment programmes. In a country with over 24% HIV prevalence, decreasing access to health services can severely increase mortality rates of people living with HIV as well as increase HIV transmission.
6. At 09.00 a.m. on the 23 June 2005, the mandate holders received reports of bulldozers preparing to destroy informal housing in Dzivarasikwe suburb. Later in the day such destruction was confirmed.
7. The Special Procedure mandate holders:
· Deplore and demand an end to the Government’s campaign of forced evictions, and the conditions under which it has been conducted that have violated not only the rights to adequate housing but also the related rights to health, including an increase in HIV/AIDS cases, food, water, education, the right to earn a livelihood, as well as the right to physical integrity of women and other victims of violence, and the right of persons to defend human rights.
· Express their deep concern at the rapidly deteriorating situation of respect for civil, political, economic and social rights in Zimbabwe, and their concern that the forced evictions of so many people may soon lead to critical health and economic concerns that will be a major threat to life for the most directly affected Zimbabweans.
· Urge the Government to begin now to scrupulously meet its human rights responsibilities, particularly with regard to the situation of those people who have already been displaced, as defined in General Comment number 7 of the of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1993/77, with special attention to the disproportionately severe impact of forced evictions on some groups under vulnerable situations, such as women (Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2005/25).
· Call upon the Government to immediately meet its human rights responsibilities, particularly with regard to the situation of those people who have already been displaced.
· Urge the Government to reply to the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing appeal on an urgent basis, providing detailed information on the events and on the measures taken to ensure compliance with Zimbabwe’s international law obligations under the various human rights instruments it has ratified.
· Welcome the Secretary General’s appointment of Ms. Anna Tibaijuka as his Special Envoy to look into the mass evictions and urge the Special Envoy to focus not only on the humanitarian situation created by the evictions but also on the grave human rights implications raised by the evictions, and Zimbabwe’s legal responsibility in this regard.
· Urge the Secretary General to remain alert to the deterioration in the wider human rights situation.
· Will continue to monitor the ongoing human rights situation in Zimbabwe.
The statement was issued by Ms. Yakin Erturk, Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Ms. Charlotte Abaka, Independent Expert on Liberia, Mr. Paul Hunt, Special Rapporteur on the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health, Mr. Vernor Munoz Villalobos, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Mr. Ambeyi Ligabo, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Mr. Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on Torture, Mr. Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People, Ms. Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders, Mr. Miloon Kothari, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living and Ms Gabriela Pizarro, Special Rapporteur on Migrants.