Regional News of Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Source: GNA

Human Rights Advocates call for end to demolitions in the country

The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) have been asked to cease with immediate effect, the practice of unannounced demolitions and forced evictions in the Greater Accra Region and other parts of the country.

The Human Rights Advocacy Centre (HRAC), an NGO, which made the call on Wednesday, also called on the Ministry to liaise with government to adopt a national demolition policy that would conform to international standards.

Mr Daniel Asare Korang, Programmes Manager, HRAC, addressing a press conference in Accra explained that, such eviction policy should include provisions covering adequate notice of eviction and demolitions, access to basic shelter, food, safe drinking water, sanitation, medical care as well as accommodation for those evicted, timing of evictions, evicting only where it was absolutely necessary and consulting with the community on evictions.

The press conference was organised to brief the media on the findings of a report on a fact-finding mission undertaken by HRAC between January 26 -29, on unannounced demolitions and forced evictions at Odorna Railways Settlement, Dome Market and Awudome Estate within the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) Area.

Mr Korang told newsmen that, officials from the Centre undertook a situational analysis of the incidents and examined the procedural measures undertaken by AMA throughout the demolition processes and found out that, the AMA failed to comply with the procedural requirements set out in the United Nations Commission on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights General Comment No.7, and had violated international human rights laws.

He said about 50 victims were interviewed and the findings revealed that at the time of the demolition exercises, the residents including children were either sleeping or getting ready for work or school around 0530 in the early morning. Most of the residents were prevented from retrieving their belongings and only 47 per cent of the over 1,000 residents were aware of AMA’s intention to clean up the area.

Mr Korang said, at Awudome Estates, where AMA officials went to destroy about 10 kiosks without any explanation, 65 per cent of the proprietors said they held valid business permits from the city authorities.

The Ga East Municipal Assembly on the other hand facilitated demolition of a large area of market stalls at Dome Market, destroying shops and wares of traders.

Mr Korang said in all these demolitions, the authorities failed to adhere to international human rights laws and the 1992 Constitution, which unequivocally protected individuals from human rights violations occurring as a result of forced evictions and demolitions.

“Although, under exceptional circumstances, forced evictions may be carried out, due regard must be paid to the correct procedures for lawful evictions. These procedures are provided by the UNCESCR General Comments No.7 on the right to adequate housing, forced eviction”.

HRAC called on CHRAJ to monitor future evictions and demolitions to prevent human rights violations and recommended domestic legal reform in regard to the scope of the powers of assemblies such as AMA.

The Centre urged government to adopt its recommendations as a matter of priority to protect the rights of some of Ghana’s most vulnerable citizens and ensure that these human rights abuses did not occur.

Mr Lawrence K. Amesu, Director, Amnesty International, welcomed the findings and said though nobody supported the issue of people staying in unauthorised areas; it was government’s responsibility to provide housing not only for the middle income earners but to the poor and vulnerable as well.

He said such people under the rural urban migration, come to the city centres to fend for themselves but were compelled by circumstances to stay at places and slums which sometimes compromised their health and living conditions.

Mr Amesu said, there was the need for government and city authorities to put in place a planned programme to resettle people or to compensate them, adding that, compensating such evictees was a right, no matter the situation, whether the people were staying legally or illegally.**