The practice of forced evictions involves the involuntary removal of persons from their homes or land, directly or indirectly attributable to the state. The right not to be forcibly evicted is an element of the human right to adequate housing.
The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights defines forced eviction as the:
[P]ermanent or temporary removal against the will of individuals, families or communities from their homes or land, which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection.
The UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement (2007) further expanded the definition of forced evictions to mean:
[A]cts and / or omissions involving the coerced or involuntary displacement of individuals, groups and communities from homes and / or lands and common property resources that were occupied or depended upon, thus eliminating or limiting the ability of an individual, group or community to reside or work in a particular dwelling, residence or location, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection.
The UN also has addressed the issue of forced evictions in Resolution 1993/77 and Resolution 2004/28 of the Human Rights Commission. In Resolution 2004/28, the Commission recognised that:
The often violent practice of forced eviction involves the coerced and involuntary removal of persons, families and groups from their homes, lands and communities, whether or not deemed legal under prevailing systems of law, resulting in greater homelessness and inadequate housing and living conditions.
Which Human Rights are Affected during a Forced Eviction?
United Nations Human Rights Commission Resolutions 1993/77 and 2004/28 affirmed that forced evictions violate human rights.
In Resolution 1993/77, the UN Human Rights Commission stated that, “The practice of forced eviction constitutes a gross violation of human rights, in particular the right to adequate housing.”
When forced evictions are carried out, they violate a range of internationally recognised human rights. These include the:
- Human right to adequate housing;
- Human rights to security of the person, and security of the home;
- Human right to health;
- Human right to food;
- Human right to water;
- Human right to work / livelihood;
- Human right to education;
- Human right to freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment;
- Human right to freedom of movement;
- Human right to information; and,
- Human right to participation and self-expression.
The authorities carrying out forced evictions especially violate people’s entitlements to security of tenure and freedom from forced evictions; access to, and benefit from, public goods and services; information, capacity and capacity-building; participation and self-expression; rights to resettlement and adequate compensation for violations and losses; and physical security and privacy. All are elements of the human right to adequate housing as recognised in international law.
As a result of forced evictions, people are often left homeless and destitute, without means of earning a livelihood, and with no effective access to legal or other remedies. Forced evictions are often associated with physical and psychological injuries to those affected, with specific impacts on women, children, persons already living in extreme poverty, indigenous peoples, minorities and other marginalised groups.
Indian case law has also recognised the violation of human rights inherent in the actof forced evictions. The High Court of Delhi, in the case Sudama Singh and Others vs. Government of Delhi and Anr. (2010), clearly stated:
23. The denial of the benefit of the rehabilitation to the petitioners violates their right to shelter guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. In these circumstances, removal of their jhuggies (informal settlement) without ensuring their relocation would amount to gross violation of their Fundamental Rights.
44. (…) What very often is overlooked is that when a family living in a jhuggi is forcibly evicted, each member loses a “bundle” of rights – the right to livelihood, to shelter, to health, to education, to access to civic amenities and public transport and above all, the right to live with dignity.
In the case, P.K. Koul and Ors.vs. Estate Officer and Anr. and Ors. (2010), the High Court of Delhi also stated that:
60. (…) implementation of the threat of forcible eviction would result in violation of the fundamental and basic human rights of the petitioner…
194. Experience and examples abound in this city and the afore noticed judicial precedents of forcible evictions relating to slums and jhuggi dwellers. Defenceless and disadvantaged citizens are forcibly evicted from their shelters which are then destroyed.
228. (…) The UN Commission on Human Rights has unequivocally stated that forced evictions are a gross violation of human rights. The International Community has long recognised forced eviction as a serious matter and it has been reported repeatedly that clearance operations should take place only when conservation arrangements and rehabilitation are not feasible, relocation measures stand made.
United Nations Human Rights Commission Resolution 2004/28, recognised the provisions on forced evictions contained in the Habitat Agenda of 1996, and recommended that, “All Governments ensure that any eviction that is otherwise deemed lawful is carried out in a manner that does not violate any of the human rights of those evicted.”