By Mark Snyder, April 5, 2012
On April 4, 2012, at approximately 10am, those families who were not registered for the Government of Canada-funded Champ de Mars return and relocation project in Place Toussaint and Place Catherine were evicted and their shelters were destroyed by a group working for the Mayor of Port au Prince. United Nations peacekeeping troops (MINUSTAH), Haitian National Police (PNH), including a detachment of their the maintenance of order unit (UDMO), United Nations Police (UNPOL), and a Justice of the Peace were witnesses to these actions against the families.
Members of the unregistered families who were interviewed stated that the photocopied eviction notices they had in their possession were delivered to them on March 30, 2012 by the International Organization for Migration's (IOM) camp management personnel, a representative of the Mayor of Port au Prince, and armed PNH officers. The notices, lacking both official signature and seal, stated that the shelters of the families, designated by the spray-painted identification number on the shelter itself which corresponded to those handwritten on the notice, would be destroyed in three day's time. With recent increases of violence and arson attacks against Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), these threats are accompanied by fear for safety and security.
The delivery of this notice occurs in the midst a massive housing shortage in Port au Prince which UN-HABITIAT states will make it impossible to relocate all of the remaining IDPs. The April 12, 2012 OCHA Humaitarian Bulletin states that of the 175,000 buildings that needed to be repaired, retrofitted or rebuilt, 13,831 have been repaired or retrofitted and 5189 have been rebuilt.
Haitian human rights lawyers have stated that the manner in which the notice was delivered was outside the legal processes defined by Haitian law and violated the recipients' right to contest. The notices were delivered on a Friday, and the date for eviction was set for Monday, April 2, 2012. This guaranteed there would not adequate time for the families facing the threat to respond to an ombudsman of the Justice of the Peace or to request a review of the case.
The IOM representative, who was familiar to the unregistered families on a first name basis, was said to have directly participated in the delivery of the eviction notice and hence the illegal forced eviction of the families.
Individuals from the Champ de Mars camps organized a protest against these threats outside the shared IOM/Mayor annex office in Champ de Mars on the morning the eviction was scheduled. As it commenced, a Canadian civil society delegation and US human rights lawyer collaborating with Haitian housing rights movements were able to secure a verbal guarantee from IOM camp management that the eviction would not occur on this day. During this meeting, an IOM representative also stated that IOM does not consider this to be a forced eviction because the unregistered families were believed to no longer reside in the camps.
The expulsion of these families raises serious questions:
Does IOM and MINUSTAH leadership agree with Haitian and international human rights groups that what occurred to the unregistered families of Place Toussaint and Place Catherine on April 4, 2012 a violation of their rights?
On what grounds does lack of registration for a project justify an eviction considered regarded as illegal by Haitian and international human rights groups?
Regardless of the registration status, why is IOM and MINUSTAH participating in the process of destruction of the property of the families who had shelter on the public land in Champ de Mars?
Now that this eviction has taken place, will IOM and MINUSTAH continue to support this final solution for families in the other sections of Champ de Mars that were not registered for the family return and relocation project?
Where is the evidence exists that the families targeted by this expulsion do not live in the camp, and have an alternative place to reside? The burden of proof of residence must not lie on IDPs. This responsibility lies with those removing the families against their will from the public land.
Certainly, foreign governments and individuals, non-government organizations and inter-government organizations such as IOM, must always respect Haitian sovereignty. But does this absolve those who hold the purse strings and implement projects of responsibility for human rights violations against the most vulnerable in which they have directly participated?
The Justice of the Peace who was present for the destruction of the shelter was questioned on scene by Haitian and international activists of his role. He responded, "I am here in support of IOM." When asked to elaborate on this he put up his arms and said, "You need to direct your questions to IOM and the Mayor," and then refused to repeat his name.
Is this the sovereignty Haitians are demanding?
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Phone: (509) 3905 6513
Mark Snyder is an independent human rights activist who has collaborated with Haitian civil society movements before and after the January 12, 2010 earthquake. As an active partner in a anti-forced eviction initiative developed with Haitian civil society groups and organizations, IDP groups, and international NGO partners, Mark has spent the majority of his time after Haiti's earthquake working alongside the IDPs of Port au Prince, Haiti. Mark has written numerous articles and reports on post-earthquake conditions with a focus on illegal forced evictions and was a contributing author for Tectonic Shifts: Haiti Since The Earthquake