FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
COHRE condemns violent forced eviction at Baclaran Mosque
International human rights organisation calls for independent inquiry into killings
20 November 2009, Pasay City: The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) today strongly condemned the reported killing of three residents of the Baclaran Mosque community in Pasay City during an apparently illegal operation to forcibly evict the community from their homes on 18 November 2009. COHRE has sent a letter to President Gloria Arroyo to express its concerns and to call for an urgent independent inquiry into the incidents of 18 November 2009 as well as to hold all those responsible to account.
Dan Nicholson, Coordinator of the COHRE Asia Programme, said: “Regardless of the legality of the eviction, there can be no justification for the use of lethal weapons. The use of fire arms against protesters and the reported death of three community members points to an apparent disproportionate use of force by police forces that demonstrates a disregard for the most fundamental human rights among those who implemented the eviction”.
In its letter to President Arroyo, COHRE recalls previous attempts to forcibly and illegally remove residents from their homes, most recently in August 2009, and exposes the apparent unlawfulness of the eviction on 18 November. “It appears that authorities had no executable eviction order against the community, as they relied on an August order which, under implementing rules and regulations of the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA), expired after 90 days”, said Dan Nicholson.
He further expressed his strong concern that the events at Baclaran Mosque are not an isolated incident: “We are very concerned that this latest eviction is but one case that represents an ongoing culture of lack of respect for the law and human rights in the carrying out of evictions by certain authorities in Manila. In a separate forced eviction case in Pechayan, North Fairview, Quezon City in October 2009, a community leader and her son were shot dead by security guards. There can be absolutely no justification for serious injuries and deaths as a result of evictions. In fact, such incidents violate the duty of the Government of the Philippines to respect and protect the right to life under Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and point to a persistent failure of the Government of the Philippines to honour its international legal obligations.”
COHRE further pointed out that forced evictions are a violation of the right to adequate housing contained in Article 11 (1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Under the Covenant, evictions can only be carried out lawfully under exceptional circumstances, and only when a number of safeguards are followed, which include, among others, the provision of adequate alternatives to those affected and the prohibition of rendering persons homeless.
“In the case of the Baclaran Mosque community, the homes of approximately 400 families were reportedly destroyed and the proposed relocation site is rejected as inadequate to meet the community’s needs”, said Nicholson.
“We call on the authorities in the Philippines to immediately conduct an independent inquiry into the violence of 18 November and to promptly make the findings public. Those responsible for violations of Philippines’ law have to be held to account, including through criminal charges where appropriate, both in respect of the disproportionate use of force and the legality of the eviction,” he said.
“The community needs to immediately be provided with adequate shelter and emergency relief while a permanent solution that suits the community’s needs is found in consultation with them. Last but not least, compensation for injury and death as well as for material losses needs to be provided to all those affected,” he added.
For more information, contact:
Dan Nicholson; COHRE Asia and Pacific Programme Coordinator; +855.17.523.274; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
BACKGROUND ON COHRE
The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions is an international human rights non-governmental organisation based in Geneva, Switzerland, with offices in Asia, Africa and the Americas. COHRE works to promote and protect the right to adequate housing, including preventing and remedying forced evictions. Together with local partner Urban Poor Associates (UPA), COHRE has worked with the Baclaran Mosque community since 2007.