Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Towards a More Just Response: Rights of Internally Displaced People in Haiti

From the Haiti Response Coalition
April 17, 2010

Towards a More Just Response:

A call to action for the immediate suspension of all forced removals of Haiti’s Internally Displaced People; and the development of independent monitoring and community consultation systems in all voluntary and forced removals from IDP community camps.

The following is a request in response to the expulsions from the encampments of Haiti’s internally displaced persons (IDPs) that have recently occurred. Currently, forced removals of IDPs from Camp Sipot in Delmas 31, Camp Refugee in Caradeux Delmas 75, and the Camp Sylvio Cator Stadium have occurred, as have threats of removal in Camp Methodiste de Freres in Delmas 95, Camp San Louis Gonzague in Delmas 31/33, and Champ de Mars which continue to be reported by numerous sources. The escalating situation has been previously reported to the relevant authorities. The March 24, 2010 OCHA Haiti-Earthquake Situational Report #31 stated that, “the protection cluster is receiving an increasing number of reports detailing tensions between displaced persons located on private land and landowners. Some cases have resulted in forceful evictions from the land.” What was not specified was what action was or would be taken to protect IDP rights.
As stated by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement are based upon existing international humanitarian law and human right instruments. If we are to have an honest discussion, holding true to the fact that human rights are not relative, that these rights inherent in all human existence have been correctly declared universal, we need to reexamine the removal and relocation of the internally displaced persons from the community encampments that have formed as a result of the series of earthquakes in Haiti starting January 12th, 2010.
Like the Under-Secretary-General, we also want to use the Guiding Principles in an ongoing dialogue with Governments, OCHA, and all those whose mandates and activities relate to the needs of the internally displaced in Haiti. More specifically, we would like to engage in an immediate and absolutely necessary dialogue regarding the violation of the rights of Haiti’s internally displaced persons. And this crucial discussion must be, if not simultaneously enacted with, directly followed by actions protecting those rights.

According to the Guiding Principles, those who are forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence are considered to be internally displaced. These same principles identify rights and guarantees relevant to the protection of persons from forced displacement. Formed as necessities for survival, and as a temporary solution, many of the camps that have formed after January 12th, 2010 are now existing as vibrant and functional communities. If we will accept this same view which has been expressed by nearly all community and camp committee members interviewed, then we should be led to the logical conclusion that Principle 6.1 of the Guiding Principles is not being honored. Those with who have the access to and control of more resources, and the ultimate charge of ensuring human rights (especially in a situation where the govt’s abilities are compromised), are required to assume a greater responsibility to protect the rights of every human to not be arbitrarily displaced from their communities. Included are those who have been specifically designated within these agencies to assume these responsibilities. It is now necessary for these agents to make a formal request, with the appropriate pressures applied, for all forced expulsions of IDP’s from their communities to be suspended, unless an immediate and agreed upon health or safety hazard is present. This is not to say that relocation can not be a viable and possibly a necessary option, most specifically in cases where these safety and health of those affected requires their evacuation. If those in positions of authority wish to avoid further arbitrary interference on the privacy, family, and homes of the IDPs now facing expulsion from their communities, their rights can not be held as relative. Resources should be made available and utilized to prevent further human rights violations from taking place. Included is the very apparent need for the immediate development of a collaborative system for the dispatch of independent monitors and a sustained community consultation to the locations where IDP’s are facing removal from their communities, both voluntary and forced.
In addition to the monitoring of and protection against such violations, we request that the active participation in these forced removals cease immediately by all relevant agents, including, but not exclusively OCHA and the international NGO community. One of the stated specific responsibilities of the OCHA CCCM designated Camp Coordinator is to develop “exit”/transition strategy for camp closures while ensuring that responses are in line with existing policy guidance and technical standards including relevant government, human rights, and legal obligations. Principle 8 states, “displacement shall not be carried out in a manner that violates the rights to life, dignity, liberty, and security of those affected.” Through eyewitness accounts and numerous interviews conducted during community meetings, findings show the dignity of the community members has not been honored, many have had their security compromised, and liberties have been breached. There have been documented reports of violence against the IDPs, loss of property, and near complete blockage of participation and community determination in the process that led to their expulsion. The self-formed community committees in many of the camps are reporting a significant lack of information available regarding the status of their camps. As a result, numerous community members have stated that they live in fear, day to day, not knowing what will become of their family and their home. If the responsibilities of the Camp Coordinator were properly assummed, carried out, and properly monitored and regulated within the UN OCHA system, then the responsibilities involved with the forced expulsions lie within this decision making body, which should be held accountable.

As medical teams leave and food distribution stops, militaries, governments, OCHA, and aid organizations may have moved past the emergency stages of the disaster, but interviews conducted from camp to camp, committee to committee, and shelter to shelter, have shown with consistency that adequate measures have not been taken to guarantee to those to be displaced full information on the reasons and procedures for their displacement. It has been reported that the free and informed consent of those to be displaced has not been sought as the authorities concerned have been instructed to do by Principle 14.3(c). The involvement of those affected in the planning and management of their relocation can only occur after each individual has agreed to the relocation. The same has been previously put forth in a February 19th letter from Human Rights Watch to the UN Security Council on the Human Rights and Humanitarian Situation in Haiti which affirmed, “relocations should proceed on a voluntary basis.” We request that if permission has not been given by the Haitian IDPs for transfer or removal, then those with access to the appropriate resources protect the freedom of every internally displaced person to choose his or her residence.

To summarize our immediate calls for action:

  • Moratorium on forced removals: We request that the governments, OCHA, NGOs, all those whose mandates and activities relate to the needs of the internally displaced in Haiti, and all those with interest in the protection of international recognized human rights organize and apply the appropriate pressures necessary to suspend the forced removal of the Haitian IDPs from their camp communities until a time when alternative options are presented and agreed upon. This pressure needs to come from the highest offices of the decision making bodies in support of the IDP’s stated intentions. We request these agents make the decisions to defend the rights of the Haitian IDPs, and to do so before the next IDP camp community is forcefully evacuated against their will.
  • Independent monitoring system: We request the immediate development of a collaborative system for the dispatch of independent monitors to the locations where IDPs of Haiti are facing removal from their communities, both voluntary and forced. Given the level of efforts and resources expended in order to create and maintain the various means of responding to this disaster, the development of a means of monitoring that integrates into the already functional OCHA regulated and supported systems should be able to occur immediately and with the upmost efficiency.
  • Community consultation: The only way to determine a viable and just solution to the complex issues of relocation is to let those relocating determine the most appropriate course of action in conjuction with the Haitian state, the UN mechanisms designated to protect their rights and the NGOs that have taken on the responsibility for assisting with satisfying their basic needs during this extremely difficult period in Haitian history.

Please forward this message to other concerned parties.

Mark Snyder, Eric Brandfass, Monica Dyer
Interntional Action Ties


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