Wednesday, 18 April 2012 02:46

Press Statement on unannounced demolitions and forced evictions in the Greater Accra region delivered by Daniel AsareKorang (Programmes Manager, HRAC) on April 18, 2012

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    This press conference is to present an independent report on a fact-finding mission undertaken by the HRAC between January 26 and 29, 2012 on unannounced demolitions and forced evictions at Odorna Railway Settlement, Dome Market and Awudome Estate within the Accra Metropolitan Assembly area.

    Background

    On January 19, 2012 a demolition exercise was carried out along the Odorna railway line by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly and led by the Mayor of Accra (Hon. Alfred Oko Vanderpuije) affecting residents in the area. The HRAC became aware of the demolition exercise following publications by the Ghana News Agency and other media outlets.

    Fact Finding Mission to “ECOMOG”

    On January 26, 2012 representatives from HRAC went to the Kwame Nkrumah Circle to investigate the situation from the perspective of the victims. The aim was to undertake a situational analysis of the incident and examine the procedural measures undertaken by the AMA throughout the demolition process. In fulfillment of this mission HRAC officials sampled and interviewed 50 of the victims including men, women, youth, children and single mothers.

    Eviction Process

    The Odorna Railway Settlement refers to the area directly North-West of where the railway intersects with Ring Road West, adjacent to the VIP Bus Terminal near Kwame Nkrumah Circle. On January 19, 2012 at approximately 5:30am, bulldozers went to destroy makeshift structures and kiosks housing about 1000 residents and businesses in the proximity of the railway area. At the time of the demolition, the residents (including children) were either sleeping or getting ready for work or school, and were woken up by the sound of the destruction. Residents were prevented from retrieving their belongings. The armed evictors were accompanied by personnel of the Ghana Police Service who were armed with firearms and cudgels that ensured residents were obedient to the demolition.

    Notice and Consultation

    Only 47% of residents interviewed were aware of Dr. Vanderpuije’s intentions to clean up the area.  None of the residents had been informed of the date and time of the planned demolition. The first notice they received was when the police fired three warning shots into the air to commence the demolition.

     Police Conduct and Presence

    There was a high police presence to ensure an uninterrupted demolition exercise. Although the police were there to ensure peace, many of the residents questioned felt that the police were there to brutalize and subdue them. The police prevented them from salvaging their belongings. They beat the evictees, hit them with the butts of rifles, pushed them into gutters, threatened and harassed them. This caused panic in which several people were injured. Several residents were detained by the police and held overnight. Eight of the respondents claimed they observed or heard of physical assaults by the police.

    Loss of property

    Following the demolition, residents are struggling to come to grips with the extent of loss and damage to their property. Upon arrival, interviewers observed that residents were living beside the ruins of their demolished homes. While some slept in the open, others slept on the debris. Everyone interviewed claimed to have residential and/or commercial property destroyed containing valuables including appliances, electronics, cooking utensils, important documents, merchandise, clothing, furniture, tools etc. Most residents have lost all capacity to earn an income and provide for themselves and their families. Many respondents noted that the demolition had negatively affected the ability of their children to attend school.

     Assistance from State Institutions

    All residents interviewed by HRAC reported that after the demolition, they had not received any assistance from the A.M.A, the Ghana Police Service, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice or National Disaster Management Organization. They had neither been offered any alternative shelter, nor compensation for their properties arbitrarily destroyed.

    HRAC Observations

    When HRAC visited the demolished area on January 26, 2012, many displaced residents were sleeping in the open. There was no access to water or bathing facilities and many residents had no change of clothing. Pieces of cardboard, tarpaulin, and cloth were used to provide shelter; plastic bags were used as storage for retrieved property. Sanitary conditions were abhorrent. With nowhere to go and no assistance, the displaced residents simply remained at Odorna despite armed police presence to prevent rebuilding.

    Fact Finding Missions at Awudome Estate and Dome Market

    The HRAC also visited two other areas affected by demolition exercises by the AMA; Awudome Estate and Dome Market. Awudome Estate refers to land around the Awudome flats, in Kaneshie, in the Accra Metropolis. On Thursday 26th January, 2012, shop owners reported that A.M.A officials demolished approximately ten kiosks in this area with no explanation. None of the residents had been informed of the date and time of the planned demolition. The A.M.A officers were armed, and respondents reported feeling threatened and intimidated.  Of the proprietors, 65% held valid business permits. As a result of the demolition, 80% of the proprietors have lost their primary source of income, and lost capital necessary to restart their businesses.

    On Tuesday, December 6th, 2011, the Ga East Municipal Assembly facilitated a demolition of a large area of market stalls at Dome market, supervised by the Ghana Police Service. Respondents informed the HRAC that their shops were demolished and their goods were destroyed.

    Violations

    International human rights laws and the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana unequivocally protect individuals from human rights violations occurring as a result of forced evictions and demolitions. The right to adequate housing is protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    Ghanahas recognized the right to housing, and has acknowledged the UN’s position of classifying forced evictions as violations of fundamental human rights. Ghana supports the position that forced evictions should be resorted to as a last recourse to avoid derogation from universally recognized human rights.

    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 United Nations Commission on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 7 on the right to adequate housing: forced evictions.

    The A.M.A, by their actions violated residents’ rights to adequate housing, as well as their rights to food, water, sanitation, health, education, property and security,. They were also exposed to a greater risk of other human rights violations such as sexual assault, insecurity of property and other inhumane treatment.

    Specifically the AMA failed to:

    • Consult with the affected persons in advance
    • Give adequate or reasonable notice of the planned demolition
    • Provide information on the proposed demolition
    • Provide an alternative location for settlement, and
    • Provide any information or access to legal aid or support after the demolition.

    They also conducted the demolition at early dawn (whilst some were asleep) and did not provide support after the event for affected persons to claim compensation.

    The A.M.A 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 have violated international human rights laws.

    HRAC recommendations

    1       HRAC recommends the immediate cessation of the practice of unannounced demolitions and forced evictions in the Greater Accra Region, as well as across Ghana.

    2       HRAC also recommends that the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and the Government of Ghana adopt a National Evictions and Demolition Policy that conforms to international standards. This policy should include provisions covering notice, access to basic shelter, food, safe drinking water, sanitation and medical care, accommodation for those evicted, timing of evictions, evicting only where it is absolutely necessary, and consulting with the community on evictions.

    3       HRAC recommends the monitoring of eviction and demolitions by the Commission on Human rights and Administrative Justice to prevent human rights violations.

    4       HRAC also recommends domestic legal reform in regard to the scope of the powers of  assemblies such as the AMA including:

    4.1      The creation of an independent tribunal for dispute resolution

    4.2      The creation of independent processes in order to facilitate redress for affected persons who are evicted

    4.3      Increased limitations on power in relation to evictions and demolition

    4.4      Approval from another requisite body to increase accountability.

    HRAC urges the Government of Ghana 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 do not occur.

    Thank You.

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