In Istanbul, Forced Evictions of City's Most Vulnerable

Besra, a single mother with a small child, returned from visiting her mother in the hospital to find her door broken in.  Officials forced her to vacate her home immediately, throwing her belongings out onto the street.

Istanbul Evictions

A number of vulnerable families in the Tarlabaşı district have already been evicted © Jonathan Lewis

Another resident, an unemployed 60-year-old man with a lung condition, told Amnesty International that he had been forced to sign eviction notices that he was not allowed to read.

According to Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey,

“Most of those facing eviction have not been given adequate notice. They have not been consulted, provided with legal remedies, or offered adequate alternative housing or compensation. This is a violation of their human rights. There must also be an investigation into the allegations of harassment by public officials.”


War Zone in Karachi, Pakistan

Pakistani children mourn during a funeral procession of a man shot and killed by unidentified armed men in Karachi. © ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images

Violence in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city continued on Friday as the death toll in the embattled city rose to over 88 in the past four days. A protest call by the Mottahida Qaumi Movement, the political party that represents much of the city’s Urdu speaking population, paralyzed the city of eighteen million.

Busy streets usually teeming with crowds remained eerily deserted and all petrol pumps were closed preventing city residents from leaving their homes.  Pakistani television reported that many with small children or elderly relatives are suffering owing to the inability to obtain food and supplies.

Uncertainty and tensions in the city have been exacerbated by the “shoot on sight” orders given to security personnel patrolling city streets.  The order leaves Karachi’s citizens vulnerable not only to the ethnic violence ravaging the city but also to excesses by security forces posted around the city who can now kill with impunity.


The Challenges of Colombia’s Victims’ Law

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signs a compensation law for the victims of the armed conflict and to restore the land to displaced farmers. (EITAN ABRAMOVICH/AFP/Getty Images)

By Dana Brown, Colombia Country Specialist

Colombia recently passed the landmark Victims and Land Restitution Law (“Victims’ Law”), which President Santos sees as so important as to define his career. “If I accomplish nothing else, this will have made my presidency worthwhile,” he said.

The legislation will soon give an estimated 4 million people the right to seek reparations for the crimes they have suffered as a part of Colombia’s almost 50-year long war.

While the entactment of the law is indeed a step in the right direction, it fails to provide for true justice and reparations for many of the war’s victims. For instance, those who are victims of guerrilla or paramilitary activity will have an easier time accessing reparations than those who are victims of crimes of the State.


Investigate Kyrgyzstan Violence

Yesterday, Kyrgyzstan’s interim President, Roza Otunbayeva, visited Osh, the site of violence that began the 10 June 2010, killing hundreds and displacing nearly 400,000.  The violence erupted between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyzs in the south of the country and lasted for six days, spreading to other cities in the southern region. Although the reported number of deaths was approximately 200, Otunbayeva stated that the death toll is actually much higher, closer to 2,000. Also yesterday, the Holocaust Museum’s Bridget Conley-Zilkic made the case that the racial violence could have been prevented.

At this time, the UN estimates that 1 million people may be in need of humanitarian aid and the organization is mobilizing its resources to provide food and medical care to the refugees in Uzbekistan as well as the internally displaced persons within Kyrgyzstan.

However, in addition to the humanitarian crisis, severe human rights violations must also be addressed. At this time, allegations are mounting that security forces may have colluded in some  human rights violations. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Tentative Hope for Internally Displaced Persons in Africa


Children in Kalma Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp, South Darfur, Sudan.

An internally displaced person is someone forced from their home by natural disaster, extreme poverty or political conflict but do not leave the borders of their homeland. This is the crucial difference between internally displaced persons and refugees; refugees cross a border, leaving their homeland and subject to protections afforded by international treaties. There are more than 25 million internally displaced persons (IDP’s)  in the world, outnumbering refugees by a ratio of two to one. However the vast majority of relief efforts target refugees rather than IDPs and there are no United Nations agencies or international treaties that specifically target this population-until now.

 Africa is home to at least half of the world’s IDP’s. Algeria, Sudan, Chad and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) all have at least a million IDP’s each. “[In Africa,] forced displacement … is mostly attributable to the acts or omissions of the state, such as human rights violations, political and socio-economic marginalization, conflicts over natural resources and governance challenges, according to the AU.” In late October, seventeen member nations of the African Union signed the Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons. Previously, the only international law document specifically targeted to IDP’s was the Guiding Principles for Internal Displacement. As the name suggests, this document only lists suggested principles of behavior to prevent and manage situations of displacement; it is what’s referred to as “soft law” in that it is not binding on State’s behavior. Conventions and treaties, on the other hand, are binding on State’s behavior and can lead to sanctions or adjudication. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Human Rights Flashpoints – October 13, 2009

What’s Up This Week:

  1. Sri Lanka: Humanitarian Disaster Looms
  2. Pakistan: New Violence
  3. Upcoming this week

Sri Lanka: Trapped Between Military and Monsoon

The quarter of a million Sri Lankans locked up in military-run internment camps are facing a humanitarian disaster with the arrival of monsoon rains. Living situations in the overcrowded camps are likely to further deteriorate in the following weeks. The camps lack even basic sanitation facilities. During previous heavy rains, water flooded the camps and forced residents to wade through overflowing sewage.

We had heavy rains about a month ago. It was hell. The ground here cannot absorb water so it just gathers. We couldn’t even walk around. The authorities have done some work to improve drainage, but I doubt it will help much.

A recent escapee from Chettikulam camp reported to Amnesty International that some women had been forced to give birth in front of strangers without privacy:

Medical staff are only available in the camps 9 to 5. People start waiting in line for medical assistance from early morning…how can you expect a lady who is pregnant to stand in a line for hours? If the war has ended, why doesn’t the government let these people out?

The situation worsened on October 5, when a main water pipeline was turned off in Menik Farm camp. The escalation of the humanitarian situation also leads to violent tensions, both within the camp residents and between residents and the military.


I remain particularly concerned about the slow pace of identifying those in the camps who do not pose a threat to security and the lack of transparent criteria in this regard. (..) Immediate and substantial progress in restoring freedom of movement for the displaced is an imperative, if Sri Lanka is to respect the rights of its citizens and comply with its commitments and obligations under international law – Walter Kaelin, Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons

Must Reads

Pakistan: The fighting goes on

The situation in Pakistan has escalated with the fourth militant attack in the last week occurring yesterday in Peshawar. A Punjabi faction of the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, signaling a disturbing level of increased cooperation between militant groups to the Pakistani government and its Western allies. Other attacks included a 22 hour assault on Pakistan’s army headquarters and began with the suicide bombing of a UN aid agency. In total 119 have been killed and several injured. The group has threatened more strikes across the country in advance of the army’s plans to launch a ground offensive of the Taliban’s major base in South Waziristan.

In response to the deadly attacks, Pakistani jets have bombed the Taliban’s major base in South Waziristan and Bajaur, another tribal agency in northwest Pakistan.  

The renewed escalation of violence has increased concerns for the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. The surge in attacks has come as the Pakistani government is trying to respond to U.S. aid package conditions requiring the government to do more to control its armed forces and extremists operating within the country.


Such attacks cannot deter us from the offensive against the militants. We will continue our fight till the death of the last terrorist – Mian Iftikhar Hussain, provincial Information Minister

Must Reads


  • October 12: How to Feed the World in 2050, FAO High-Level Expert Forum
  • October 13: Turkish and Armenian governments are due to complete protocols on normalizing ties between the two countries
  • October 13: Trial of Roy Bennett, a senior official in Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, on terrorism charges
  • October 14: Open debate in the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the recent Gaza conflict 
  • October 15: Publication of Irene Khan’s (AI Secretary General) book The Unheard Truth: Poverty and Human Rights

Human Rights Flashpoints is a weekly column about countries at risk of escalating human rights violations and is brought to you by AIUSA’s Crisis Prevention and Response team