UN envoy arrives in Zimbabwe; 10 experts deplore forced evictions

UN envoy arrives in Zimbabwe; 10 experts deplore forced evictions

Anna Tibaijuka
As United Nations human rights experts expressed concern about human rights violations resulting from the Zimbabwean Government's eviction of dwellers, the chief of the UN programme on sustainable housing arrived in the southern African country to review the humanitarian aspects of the removals.

UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) Executive Director Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, who was representing UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and whose visit was approved by President Robert Mugabe, was briefed yesterday by UN staff members working in the country, a UN spokesman said today.

She was expecting to meet Mr. Mugabe and was deciding on a range of other contacts, including those among the affected population, he said.

Meanwhile, 10 United Nations Special Rapporteurs on several human freedoms and rights issued a statement expressing concern about the "recent mass forced evictions in Zimbabwe and related human rights violations" and raising questions about the negative effects on supplies of water and food, education and health care, including HIV/AIDS treatment.

The Government should "immediately meet its human rights responsibilities, particularly with regard to the situation of those people who have already been displaced," they said in a statement issued through the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR).

They said they "deplore and demand an end to the Government's campaign of forced evictions and the conditions under which it has been conducted" and they expressed disquiet that "the forced evictions of so many people may soon lead to critical health and economic concerns that will be a major threat to life for the most directly affected Zimbabweans."

The evictions had targeted informal traders and families living in informal settlements, including women with HIV/AIDS, widows, children with disabilities and HIV/AIDS orphans and many of those evicted, including women, are reported to have been beaten by police, the experts said.

The people evicted were given no prior notice and no opportunity to appeal or to retrieve their property before its destruction, they said.

The 10 included Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Yakin Erturk; Independent Expert on Liberia Charlotte Abaka; Special Rapporteur on the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health Paul Hunt; Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education Vernor Munoz Villalobos; Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression Ambeyi Ligabo.

Also signing the message were Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on Torture; Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People; Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders; Gabriela Pizarro, Special Rapporteur on Migrants; and Miloon Kothari, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living.