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26 May 2006

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

“In my capacity as Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, I continue to receive troubling information on a new wave of forced evictions in connection with the construction of the Lyari Expressway in Karachi, leading to the destruction of thousands of houses since the beginning of this year. Reportedly, the Karachi City Government is planning to demolish and evict inhabitants of another 6,000 housing units in 20 different informal settlements throughout the city, including in Gulberg, North Nazimabad, Saddar, Jamshed, Gulshan-e-Iqbal and Liaquatabad. When completed, the Lyari Expressway project allegedly will have rendered an estimated 250,000 people homeless.

The pattern of lack of prior notice, absence of information-sharing and no possibility of participation in the decision-making process for those affected seems to have been repeated in the majority of the recent cases of forced evictions and demolitions of homes in Karachi. The affected families, already among the poorest of the poor, are generally allegedly left to fend for themselves on the streets without basic shelter. In cases where relocation has been offered, the relocation sites are reportedly located far away from livelihood opportunities and are lacking in civic services. The evictions have allegedly been accompanied by the excessive use of force by the police and local authorities, and reports of related death and injury have been received. As Special Rapporteur, I have on several occasions formally shared my concerns with the Government of Pakistan about the manner in which evictions connected with the implementation of the Lyari Expressway project have reportedly been undertaken.

Whatever the aim of these ‘development-based’ evictions, they often have common features that contravene nationally and internationally recognized human rights standards. As a general rule, forced evictions affect the poorest, and the socially and economically most vulnerable and marginalized sectors of society, and intensify inequality, social conflict and segregation. It has been acknowledged by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights resolutions that ‘the practice of forced eviction constitutes a gross violation of human rights’. Under international human rights law evictions shall only be carried out under exceptional circumstances. States have an obligation to ensure, among other things, prior consultation with the affected communities, with a view to avoiding, or at least minimizing, displacement; to ensure that legal remedies or procedures are available and accessible to those who are affected by eviction orders, along with adequate compensation for any property affected; and, in those cases where evictions are considered justified, ensure that they 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.

In this context, I wish to remind the authorities of Pakistan of recently developed guidelines, which have been previously drawn to their attention, aimed at assisting States in developing policies and legislation to prevent forced evictions. It is strongly recommended that displacement should be minimized; proper project and eviction impact assessment studies be undertaken; and that comprehensive resettlement and housing policies be developed.

I therefore call for an immediate halt of all forced evictions; for the concerned authorities to carry out open and genuine consultations, including through public hearings, with the affected persons, to ensure that evictions do not result in homelessness; and for the Government to take immediate steps to comply with its human rights obligations and to promptly act on this appeal.”

The Special Rapporteur’s report, including the “Basic principles and guidelines on development-based evictions and displacement” (E/CN.4/2006/41) can be found at: http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/housing/annual.htm

For more information on the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur, please consult the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/housing/index.htm

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