30 January 2009 The forced evictions of tens of thousands of Cambodia’s poor constitute a “grave breach” of human rights, a United Nations independent expert said today, calling for damages to be paid for lost homes and the provision of alternative housing.
In the middle of the night last week, over 130 families were forced to leave their homes without prior notice in the capital, Phnom Penh, so that a private company could redevelop the site. The shelters in the poor community were destroyed, and there have been reports that before the eviction, the community suffered intimidation and that the area’s representatives were subject to criminal charges.
“It is regrettable that the ongoing negotiations with residents were abandoned, casting aside a valuable opportunity to reach a just and lawful solution to this longstanding dispute,” said Raquel Rolnik, the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, in a statement. “It is now of utmost importance that the rights of the residents to fair compensation for their lost homes and property and the provision of adequate alternative housing are fully respected.”
She noted that last week’s evictions in Phnom Penh are not isolated, but are “[alarmingly]” on the rise, with tens of thousands of people losing their homes and becoming even more destitute.
In the South-East Asian nation, the expert said, there has been a “consistent pattern” of rights violations tied to forced evictions, including the systematic lack of due process, inadequate compensation, and the excessive use of force.
“Given the disastrous humanitarian situation faced by the victims of forced evictions, I urge Cambodian authorities to establish a national moratorium on evictions until their policies and actions in this regard have been brought into full conformity with international human rights obligations.”
Ms. Rolnik, who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, took up her post last May and serves in an independent and unpaid capacity, as do all Special Rapporteurs.
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