FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Forced Evictions in Haiti

We watch an aged man pull his cart out of Sylvio Cator Stadium’s back gate, maneuvering it precariously between a parked car and a steep gutter.  His cart is heavy and stacked high with wood, tarp, and the bare essentials of his life.  He pulls the cart behind him, muscles and bones protruding from the strain.

This man is one of the last evictees to leave Sylvio Cator Stadium in downtown Port-au-Prince, the site that has been home to thousands of people displaced by last year’s earthquake.  The government is set on using the stadium for a soccer game in early August, and on July 18, the mayor of Port-au-Prince unlawfully evicted the last of the residents living in the Stadium’s parking lot, forcing many onto the streets, into other camps, or into hazardous structures in danger of collapsing from earthquake damage.

While the Mayor’s office touts the closure of the camp as a success, the eviction of Sylvio Cator stadium was carried out in violation of Haitian and international law.  Mayor Jean-Yves Jason appeared at the stadium with armed police less than a week earlier to inform residents that they would have to leave their homes imminently.  He held a few closed meetings with select members of the camp committee, but did not permit other residents to participate in the planning and relocation, as mandated by the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.  The eviction was also carried out without a judicial order, which is required under Haitian law.  Moreover, in November 2010, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights instructed state actors to take measures to protect the rights to the displaced against forced evictions, but none of these were heeded.

Instead, the Mayor used a combination of physical and economic coercion to remove the residents from the land.  He promised each family $250 to leave the site, and then returned to forcibly evict those who did not accept the compensation.  In addition, it appears that around 70 families might have lost their temporary homes without any compensation.  While the camp committee counted 514 families remaining in the camp at the time of the July eviction, the mayor’s list—used to coordinate compensation—had only 442 families on it.

Payment strategies like that used at Sylvio Cator do not lead to durable solutions, especially when the government does not ensure that the payment enables access to adequate alternative housing.  In Place Saint Pierre in the wealthy suburb of Petionville, the municipal government implemented a similar strategy in April, paying displaced families $500—twice as much as offered in this case—to vacate a public square.  Limited investigations showed that families who accepted the compensation remained displaced and homeless after receiving the money because it was inadequate to secure alternative housing.  Government officials even admitted that the money offered was generally insufficient to cover rent for a family of five in Port-au-Prince.

As human rights lawyers working to protect the internally displaced from further displacement and vulnerability, we visited the Sylvio Cator stadium to monitor and document the unlawful eviction.  In one corner of the parking lot, a woman sat in the shade next to her disassembled tent.  She told us she accepted the money offered by the mayor and would leave that evening because she had no other choice.  Anyone who remained beyond the deadline risked violence at the hands of the government, as occurred in April 2010, when the police came to forcibly push out over 7,000 people from the soccer field.  Other individuals we met said that they also would comply, but most feared that the money would not allow them to obtain housing.

Under international law, the Government must ensure that evicted residents have access to adequate alternative housing before they are evicted.  But for those who are forced to leave their camps without support to find proper housing, even more dangerous housing—if not outright homelessness—often awaits.  A recent study commissioned by USAID found that 64% of the buildings requiring demolition and 92% of the buildings requiring repair as a result of earthquake damage have been reoccupied, even in their precarious state.

For some residents of Sylvio Cator, the Government provided a relocation site off Rue Bicentenaire.  The site sits on a small plot of land a 20-minute walk from the stadium, in one of the more dangerous sections of the city.  The land fits about 100 families—far less than the 514 evicted families, most of whom are in desperate need of housing.  When we arrived, a group of children were struggling to raise a tent.  Flimsy tents were the only form of shelter provided on the new site.  They measured around 4 feet tall and were not large enough to sleep more than three people.

Flooding on the site has also rendered the land unsuitable for other purposes, and standing water creates an ongoing public health risk for the new occupants.  It’s rainy season in Haiti, and cholera is surging again.  Yet there was no access to free, potable water.  To use latrines, residents must cross the street to access ones that have been set up in the median of a busy highway.   Eighteen months after the earthquake, it is difficult to see how anyone could consider this adequate housing.

As we surveyed the relocation site, we witnessed the approach of the man with his heavy cart.  He had had to navigate his way through street sludge and over-crowded sidewalks to arrive at the small field.  Like him, most residents we encountered had to struggle to move their belongings to the new site without any logistical support from the government or aid organizations.  Residents were similarly abandoned as to future assistance: the government failed to collect residents’ contact information ahead of the expulsion to enable follow-up.

Although the Martelly administration has asserted that the mayor acted on his own outside of the framework of the 100-day plan, the president’s failure to stop or condemn the eviction of Sylvio Cator stadium belies an alarming reluctance to protect the rights of Haiti’s displaced.  Furthermore, the money for the relocation was reported to have come from both the mayor and central government.

In the context of an ongoing housing crisis and massive internal displacement, the government’s prioritization of soccer over the wellbeing of over 500 vulnerable families—many of whom now face homelessness and severe insecurity—is outrageous. The director of Sylvio Cator Stadium justified the eviction, stating that, “the presence of victims in the courtyard of the stadium was a violation of the right of footballers and lovers of the sport.”  This is a profound misrepresentation of human rights law and the special care the government is obligated to afford internally displaced persons.  Rather than infringing, or allowing others to infringe, the rights of displaced persons, the government must exercise leadership to protect the victims of last year’s earthquake.

This past week President Martelly presented his 100-day plan to the international community, who will fund the $93 million price tag.  While resettlement is an urgently needed step towards recovery, the international community must demand that the relocations are carried out in a manner that respects and prioritizes the rights of the displaced.  Furthermore, the President must ensure that no camp is closed until all residents have been resettled into adequate alternative housing, lest he violate his obligations to Haiti’s most vulnerable.

Beatrice Lindstrom is a Lawyers’ Earthquake Response Network (LERN) Fellow at the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), a human rights organization in Port-au-Prince Haiti.

Jocelyn Brooks is an Ella Baker associate at the Center for Constitutional Rights, based at the BAI in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  They can be reached at Beatrice@ijdh.org and Jocy@ijdh.org.

This article is a part of a media and advocacy campaign to stop evictions from displacement camps in Haiti.  Haitian and international human rights groups are asking the Government of Haiti, the U.S. Congress, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, and other actors with an influence in Haiti, to stand up against evictions.  To support our efforts, visit http://lethaitilive.org/no-evictions/ and www.haitijustice.org.  Follow #noevictions on Twitter.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail