Three Years After Earthquake, Hundreds of Thousands of Haitians Still Homeless, Facing Eviction

IDP camp Grace Village, Carrefour municipality, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, May 2012 (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

IDP camp Grace Village, Carrefour municipality, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, May 2012 (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

By Chiara Liguori and James Burke of Amnesty International’s Caribbean Team

“Be prepared, we will burn down your shelters, shoot you and throw you all out.”

“We’ll burn all the camp down and kill your children.”

“I will get you out of here by any means necessary.”

These are only a few of the recent eviction threats heard by residents of camps in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince which still house hundreds of thousands of those displaced by the January 2010 earthquake.


The Condition of Brazil's Indigenous Community Worsens

On September 16, 2010, I wrote about an indigenous tribe in Brazil being violently evicted from its ancestral land. While the rights of the natives were obliterated, Amnesty International has not lost its focus.  We continue to bring the conditions of the native inhabitants to the spotlight.  Your help is needed, now more than ever…

Since the eviction on October 2009, thirty-five Guarani-Kaiowá Indigenous families of the Laranjeira Ñanderu community, including around 85 children, are living in makeshift shacks by the side of the busy BR-163 highway in Mato Grosso do Sul. Their living conditions are deplorable and they face threats and harassment from armed security guards hired by the landowner and local farmers.

The Federal Police, who oversaw the eviction, told the landowner that the community would return to collect their remaining belongings. However, the landowner burned the families’ houses and all their belongings. The community is now living in shacks covered with sheets of black plastic in temperatures of more than 30 degrees Celsius. The area is frequently flooded and their encampment is teeming with insects and leeches. According to community members, local farmers drive past the community at high speed during the night and shine lights into the shacks to try to intimidate them.


Science for Human Rights Program Unveils New Toy

AGM Countdown: In the run up to Amnesty International’s Annual General Meeting in New Orleans this weekend, the Science for Human Rights program will be posting a new blog entry every day this week. All of the projects presented this week—and many more—will be at display in New Orleans.

For this year’s Annual General Meeting, the Science for Human Rights Program (SHR) is unveiling a cool new toy. This new toy, which we’re calling the “SHR Explorer,” enables you to check out a selection of the satellite images we have acquired and analyzed over the years, and lets you really see the extent of human rights violations in all different parts of the world. By using the slider, you can really see the striking differences between before and after images taken of the same exact place.

Screenshot of the SHR Explore. Copyright 2010 DigitalGlobe. CLICK IMAGE TO GO TO SITE

Screenshot of the SHR Explorer. Copyright 2010 DigitalGlobe. CLICK IMAGE TO GO TO SITE

Images from Zimbabwe and Chad show the extent of housing demolitions in select areas of those countries. In both Porta Farm, Zimbabwe, and N’Djamena, Chad, housing demolitions have caused immeasurable pain and suffering to people who have been made homeless by their own government.

In Lebanon, Georgia and Nigeria, violence has caused widespread damage and destruction to civilian infrastructure. Satellite images of Beirut, Lebanon, appear to prove that Israeli forces used cluster bombs in civilian areas during the August 2006 conflict, and those of Tskhinvali, Georgia, show many missing rooftops as result of the war between Georgian and Russian forces in August 2008. In Nigeria (our most recent project) the images show how many structures in the city of Jos have been destroyed by fire during recent clashes in the region.

And in New Orleans, aerial photographs demonstrate the slow pace of reconstruction in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The first aerial image shows the flood that happened right after Katrina hit, and the second image shows what the same area looks like 4 years later, in 2009.

The Explorer is really going to be a powerful new tool as we continue to document and monitor, and do advocacy and campaigning work on various human rights abuses all over the world.

Check it out today!

Don't Mine Us Out of Existence

UPDATE: Apparently the tribes in Orissa have asked James Cameron, the director of record-winning film Avatar for his assistance in stopping Vedanta’s operations.

UK-based company is destroying the environment of indigenous people in Orissa.

Help to save lives in the Indian state of Orissa.

In my first blog post, I wrote about the plight of Adivasis in Orissa.  Well, we’ve done a report that has documented one such case in much more detail.

Dongria Kondh women at a protest meeting, Niyamgiri Hills, Orissa, India, 2009

Dongria Kondh women at a protest meeting, Niyamgiri Hills, Orissa, India, 2009. Copyright: Amnesty International

Indian authorities have given local communities little or no information about the potentially disastrous impact of a proposed aluminum refinery expansion and mining project to be operated by subsidiaries of UK-based company Vedanta Resources in the eastern state of Orissa.

We document how an aluminum refinery operated by a subsidiary of UK-based FTSE 100 company Vedanta Resources in Orissa is causing air and water pollution that threatens the health of local people and their access to clean drinking water.

Adivasi, Dalit, women and other marginalized communities in the remote part of Orissa where the refinery is located have described to us how authorities told them that the refinery would transform the area into a Mumbai or Dubai.

The Orissa State Pollution Control Board (a state government agency) has documented air and water pollution from Vedanta Aluminum refinery in Lanjigarh, Orissa. The pollution threatens the health of local people and their access to clean water yet there has been no health monitoring.

Despite these concerns and the environmentally sensitive location of the refinery near a river and villages, the government is considering a proposal for a very large expansion of the refinery. Neither the Indian authorities nor Vedanta have shared information on the extent of pollution and its possible effects with local communities.


Forcible Evictions of HIV-positive Families in Cambodia

Yesterday morning, the Cambodian government forcibly evicted about 20 families living with HIV/AIDS from their homes in Borei Keila and resettled them at Tuol Sambo, a resettlement site just outside the capital, Phnom Penh. The site lacks clean water and electricity and has limited access to medical services. Evicted families were compensated with inadequate housing at the site and 50 kilograms of rice, soy sauce, fish sauce, water jars and US$250, but they were warned that anyone who did not comply with the move would not receive compensation. A human rights worker present during the transition described the families as despondent and noted that those who are ill were exhausted by the move.

When Amnesty International visited the site – in a semi-rural area where houses are built from green metal sheets – villagers in the vicinity saw it as a place for HIV/AIDS victims. The evicted families expressed fears that being forced to live in this separate, distinct location will bring more discrimination and stigmatization than they already are forced to deal with because of their status as HIV-positive.

Forced evictions are a tactic Cambodia has employed more and more often, and this is not the first time the Cambodian government has taken this sort of action against people living with HIV-AIDS. In March 2007, the Municipality of Phnom Penh resettled an additional 32 families living with HIV/ AIDS against their will in temporary green, corrugated-metal shelters in appalling conditions to make way for the construction of a number of new houses. The families believe that the authorities are discriminating against them because of their HIV status.

Bashir Behind Bars?

I welcome today’s history-making announcement of an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Bashir.  Since 2003 I have been part of Amnesty International’s global quest to put an end to Bashir’s policies that have hurt hundreds of thousands of Darfuri civilians.  Since 2005 Bashir has prevented Amnesty from entering Darfur – but still we found a way to pull of this attempt at a blindfold over our eyes- by taking  to the skies to tell the stories and exposing the truth.  Now one day Bashir will tell his own story in the Hague.

For the Darfuri victims of widespread rape, murder, torture and forced expulsions, today’s prosecution of Bashir is an important step to stop their suffering and move toward peace and security in this conflict-ridden region.  And with this history-making gesture toward a sitting head of state, the International Criminal Court has told abusers everywhere there is no ‘get out of jail free card’ for simply being in power.

So President Bashir, stop the vitriol, drink the bitter pill and do us all a favor, and opt to have your day in Court.  Because we will not rest until you do, the 2 million Amnesty International members voices globally who will assert our pressure on you, the government of Sudan, and any member of the United Nation who’s soil you may enter as a fugitive.

Check out my article on the Atlantic Community for more on Bashir’s prosecution.

Forced Eviction in the Name of Progress?

A Group 78 resident holds up a drawing showing the size of the land to which she has strong claims. © CLEC 

A Group 78 resident holds up a drawing showing the size of the land to which she has strong claims. © CLEC

How many times, in how many countries, in how many cities, have we heard this story? Governments try to force poor people off land they’ve lived on for years, sometimes decades, so that it can be developed and put to “better use”. Who cares if they’re shoving people into slums with no running water or sewage system? Who cares if moving them will not only adversely affect their health but also their livelihood? After all, it’s the government’s responsibility to “clean up the trash” to make way for progress, right?

Tell that to the nearly 150 families in Phnom Penh, Cambodia who city authorities have threatened with forced eviction from land known as Group 78 since June 2006. Most are poor street vendors; some are teachers or low-level civil servants.  The area they would be moved to has no water supply or sewage systems, and the cost of transportation from there to city far exceeds the expected daily earnings of most street vendors and junior civil servants.

The families have applied for formal title to their land several times. They have official documentation proving that they have lived on the site for long enough to claim title, but the authorities have rejected all their applications. The community has even engaged architecture students to produce plans to develop the site while they are still resident in order to show that eviction is not essential for development.

Cambodia is certainly not the only country with housing rights issues, and the more you read, the more overwhelmed you can feel. How can we ever put a stop to it all? Well, you have to start somewhere, so I plan to write a letter for the residents of Group 78 in this year’s Write-a-thon.