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ALLEGED MASS FORCED EVICTIONS IN ZIMBABWE COULD CONSTITUTE GROSS RIGHTS VIOLATION, HUMAN RIGHTS EXPERT SAYS

3 June 2005

The following statement was issued today by Miloon Kothari, Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on the right to adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living:

The Special Rapporteur on adequate housing today addressed an urgent appeal to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Zimbabwe urging the Government to immediately halt the mass forced evictions reportedly taking place in the country.

The Special Rapporteur reminded the Zimbabwean authorities of their obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which the country ratified in 1991.

He drew attention in particular to General Comments no. 4 (1991) and no. 7 (1997) of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which state that “forced evictions are prima facie incompatible with the provisions of the Covenant and can only be carried out under specific circumstances”, imposing certain requirements which State parties to the Covenant must respect, including the need for States to take the following steps:

· First, States must ensure, prior to carrying out any eviction, that all feasible alternatives are explored in consultation with the affected persons, with a view to avoiding, or at least minimizing, the need to use force;

· Second, legal remedies or procedures should be provided to those who are affected by eviction orders, along with adequate compensation for any property affected, both personal and real;

· Third, in those cases where evictions are considered justified, they should be carried out in strict compliance with the relevant provisions of international human rights law and in accordance with the general principles of reasonableness and proportionality.

· Additionally, evictions should never result in rendering individuals homeless or vulnerable to the violations of other human rights. Governments must therefore ensure that adequate alternative housing or resettlement is available for all those affected before executing an eviction order.

The Special Rapporteur further reminded the Government of Zimbabwe that United Nations Commission on Human Rights resolutions (for example, unanimously adopted resolution 1993/77) have clearly stated that “the practice of forced eviction constitutes a gross violation of human rights”. Zimbabwe is a member of the Commission.

The Special Rapporteur urged the Government to reply to his 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 human rights instruments it has ratified.