An independent United Nations human rights expert today expressed her extreme concern about the threatened eviction of nearly 100 families in Phnom Penh, and called on the Cambodian authorities to halt this practice pending a review of current policies.
Raquel Rolnik, the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, said she has observed “an increase in forced evictions through Cambodia accompanied by a systematic lack of due process” since she took up her post one year ago.
In a statement issued today, she said she has reminded the Cambodian authorities that “the pattern of evictions, affecting many of the poor, in the country – and the apparent lack of due process in that regard – suggests they may be tolerating, or even perpetrating, the forced evictions prohibited by international human rights standards.”
“Forced evictions constitute a grave breach of human rights. Large-scale evictions can only be carried out in exceptional circumstances and with full respect for the due process requirements set by international human rights standards,” she stated.
Ms. Rolnik expressed alarm in particular about the possible imminent eviction of the “Group 78” residents – between 66 to 86 families residing in Tonle Basak commune, in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district, who have been involved in a legal battle since 2004 over ownership of their land.
They “seem to have a strong case in claiming authorities should recognize their possession rights to the land being disputed and demanding just and fair compensation for the possible loss of their land,” said the Special Rapporteur.
She urged the competent authorities not to implement the “administrative measures” (which in the past have lead to forced evictions) threatened in the last notice transmitted to Group 78 residents, stressing that they are entitled to have full legal review of their ownership claims in accordance with Cambodian legislation.
“It is only on the basis of this review that negotiations must take place with the affected community, to ensure fair compensation and adequate alternatives if their relocation is necessary,” she stated.
Ms. Rolnik reiterated her call for a moratorium on all group evictions in Cambodia, especially when residents have pursued claims before administrative or judicial bodies, until the policies and actions of the authorities can be brought fully into line with international human rights obligations.
Like all UN Special Rapporteurs, Ms. Rolnik reports to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity.