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Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing
Forced evictions constitute gross violations of a range of internationally recognized human rights, including the human rights to adequate housing, food, water, health, education, work, security of the person, freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and freedom of movement.
Forced evictions are often linked to the absence of legally secure tenure, which constitutes an essential element of the right to adequate housing. Forced evictions share many consequences similar to those resulting from arbitrary displacement, including population transfer, mass expulsions, mass exodus, ethnic cleansing and other practices involving the coerced and involuntary displacement of people from their lands and communities.
Forced evictions can be broadly defined as the permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection.
As a result of forced evictions, people are often left homeless and destitute, without means of earning a livelihood and often with no effective access to legal or other remedies. Forced evictions intensify inequality, social conflict, segregation and invariably affect the poorest, most socially and economically vulnerable and marginalized sectors of society, especially women, children, minorities and indigenous peoples.
The obligation of States to refrain from, and protect against, forced evictions from home(s) and land arises from several international legal instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (art. 11, para. 1), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (art. 17, 23 and 27) the Convention on the Rights of the Child (art. 27, para. 3), the non-discrimination provisions found in article 14, paragraph 2 (h), of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and article 5 (e) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
In its resolution 1993/77, the Commission on Human Rights stated that the "practice of forced eviction constitutes a gross violation of human rights, in particular of the right to adequate housing".
General Comment No. 7 on forced evictions
In 1997, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights issued its General Comment n° 7 on forced evictions.
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The general comment specifies that evictions should only be carried in exceptional circumstances, and in full accordance with relevant provisions of international human rights and humanitarian law. States should adopt legislation to prohibit forced evictions and ensure that, prior to carrying out any evictions, all feasible alternatives are explored in consultation with the affected persons. Furthermore several procedural protections should be applied before any eviction is carried out, including genuine consultation with those affected; adequate and reasonable notice for all affected persons prior to the scheduled date of eviction; the provision of legal remedies; and legal aid to persons who are in need of it to seek redress from the courts. The Committee furthermore underlined that individuals affected by evictions orders have a right to adequate compensation for any loss of property and that evictions should never result in individuals being rendered homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights.
Basic principles and guidelines on development-based evictions and displacement
In 2007, the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing presented to the Human Rights Council a set of "Basic principles and guidelines on development-based evictions and displacement" (A/HRC/4/18, Annex I) setting out in more detail international human rights standards that must be upheld in such contexts.
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Unofficial translations into other languages:
Bengali | Gujarati | Hindi | Japanese | Kannada | Kazakh | Khmer | Marathi | Myanmar | Oriya | Portuguese | Serbian | Tajik | Telugu | Tamil | Tetum | Turkish | Urdu
The Basic Principles and Guidelines have been developed to assist States in developing policies and legislation to prevent forced evictions at the domestic level. They provide detailed guidance to States, regional and local Governments and other actors on the procedural standards that should be upheld prior to, during and after evictions and specify required remedies for any evictions carried out, such as resettlement and rehabilitation; monitoring and follow up.
Guideline no.6 in the Guidelines for the implementation of the right to adequate housing (2020) (A/HRC/43/43) specifies that:
a) Forced evictions as defined under international human rights law must be prohibited in all circumstances, regardless of ownership or tenure status of those affected. Victims of forced evictions must receive adequate compensation, reparation and access to housing or productive land as appropriate;
(b) National laws governing evictions must be compliant with human rights norms, including the principle of respect for human dignity and the general principles of reasonableness, proportionality and due process, and should equally apply to those living in homeless encampments. Access to justice must be ensured throughout the process and not just when eviction is imminent. All feasible alternatives to eviction must be explored, in consultation with affected persons. If, after meaningful engagement with those affected, relocation is deemed necessary and/or desired by the community, adequate alternative housing of similar size, quality and cost must be provided in close proximity to the original place of residence and source of livelihood. Evictions must not render people homeless. Access to justice must be ensured throughout the process and not just when eviction is imminent;
(c) In instances of mortgage foreclosure or rent arrears, evictions should only occur as a last resort and after a full exploration of alternative means to resolve outstanding debt, such as through emergency housing benefits, debt rescheduling or, if required, relocation to more affordable housing units meeting adequacy standards;
(d) States should implement programmes to prevent evictions through measures such as rent stabilization and controls, rental assistance, land reform and other initiatives to promote land and tenure security in urban and rural settings. Preventive measures should also be adopted to eliminate the underlying causes of eviction and displacement, such as speculation in land, real estate and housing. No relocation of indigenous peoples is permitted without their free, prior and informed consent.
COVID-19 Guidance Note of the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing on prohibition of evictions (2020)
This guidance note calls for a ban of all evictions during the Covid-19 pandemic and for a reasonable period thereafter and includes particular recommendations for States, local Governments and other actors.
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The Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons (Pinheiro Principles) (2005), E/CN.4/Sub.2/2005/17, Annex
UN Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples (2007),A/RES/61/295, articles 10, 19, 20 (2) and 23.
UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas (2019), A/RES/73/165, Article 17.4 and 24.
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998)
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court reiterates several crimes under international law, including displacement of the civilian population, deportation or forcible transfer of population as a crime against humanity or war crime (articles 7.1. (d); 8.2 (a) vii, 8.2. (b) (viii), 8.2 (e) viii) and various housing related war crimes, such as intentionally directing attacks against civilian objects, destroying or seizing of property, attacking and bombarding towns, villages, dwellings and buildings which are undefended, or the pillaging of a town or place (articles 8.2. (b) ii, v, xvi and 8.2. (e) i, v, xii). Similar provisions are contained in the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions.
Forced evictions may violate article 17, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which specifies “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.” Forced evictions may also violate the protection of the family and the right to enjoy one’s culture (articles 23 and 27 ICCPR). In Greorgopoulos et al. v. Greece (CCPR/C/99/D/1799/2008) the Human Rights Committee found that the demolition of shed inhabited by a Roma family and prevention of construction of a new home by municipal authorities amounted to a violation of articles 17 (interference with home), 23 (protection of family) and 27 (right to enjoy one culture) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Committee has also ruled in Liliana Assenova Naibidenova et. al. v. Bulgaria (CCPR/C/106/D/2073/2011) that an eviction of an impoverished Roma community would constitute a violation of article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) if it enforced an eviction order so long as satisfactory replacement housing is not available immediately. The Committee held that not giving due consideration to the consequences of the eviction from the settlement, such as the risk of becoming homeless, the State party would interfere arbitrarily with the homes of the people living in the settlement, and thereby violate the rights of those to be evicted under article 17 of the Covenant. Consequently, the State was under the obligation to refrain from evicting the community until satisfactory housing was available (para 14.7,15 and 16).
In Ben Djazia and Bellili v. Spain (E/C.12/61/D/5/2015) the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights underlined that “the obligation of Statesparties to provide, to the maximum of their available resources, alternative accommodation for evicted persons who need it includes the protection of the family unit, especially when the persons are responsible for the care and education of dependent children.” (para. 15.4). In López Albán v. Spain (E/C.12/66/D/37/2018) the Committee found that the “State party has a duty to take reasonable measures to provide alternative housing to persons who are left homeless as a result of eviction, irrespective of whether the eviction is initiated by its authorities or by private entities such as the owner of the property.” (para. 9.3) The Committee further clarified that “in certain circumstances, States parties may be able to demonstrate that, despite having made every effort, to the maximum of available resources, it has been impossible to offer a permanent, alternative residence to an evicted person who needs alternative accommodation. In such circumstances, temporary accommodation that does not meet all the requirements of an adequate alternative dwelling may be used. However, States must endeavour to ensure that the temporary accommodation protects the human dignity of the persons evicted, meets all safety and security requirements and does not become a permanent solution, but is a step towards obtaining adequate housing.” (para. 9.4)
Complaints relating to forced evictions, including in relation to national legislation and policies that are not in compliance with international human rights standards can be addressed to the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing who will consider them under the communications procedure of Special Procedures
Complaints should include a brief summary and background of the case, information on the location and people affected, on potential prior consultation, whether alternative accommodation has been offered, on any legal remedies sought by affected persons, and provide detail which procedural standards relating to evictions have been violated or adhered to. If concerns of particular individuals should be raised, proof of their prior informed consent to raise the eviction with their Government under the communications procedure is necessary. It should be noted that the Special Rapporteur has not the capacity to act on every submission received and has therefore to concentrate her or his interventions on well documented cases indicating a pattern of forced evictions or which are of a particular egregious nature. Complaints related to forced eviction can be sent to: [email protected]
Upon request—and subject to availability of funds—the Special Rapporteur can also offer technical assistance to States, lawmakers and other entities that want to improve their policies or legal regulations governing evictions with the view to ensuring their full compliance of with international human rights standards.
Fact sheet No. 25/Rev.1: Forced Evictions
This comprehensive introduction to forced evictions and applicable human rights standards was published by OHCHR in 2014 and is suggested as a first introductory reading.
UN-HABITAT and OHCHR – Assessing the Impact of Eviction: Handbook (2014)
The purpose of the Handbook is to raise awareness of the importance of assessing the impact of eviction for individuals as well as communities, and it provides a framework for doing so during any stage of the eviction/resettlement process.
PDF in English
OHCHR – Forced Evictions Assessment Questionnaire (2011)
This questionnaire serves as a guidance tool for addressing situations of forced evictions by: a) contextualizing events; b) assessing the existence and the type of human rights violations that are foreseen or on-going; c) offering practical advice to all parties; and d) helping to monitor and report on the situation.
PDF in English