The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), has condemned the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), for embarking on a demolition exercise without adhering to international human rights standards.
In relation to forced evictions, in this context, demolition of dwelling places at Agbogbloshie, popularly called Sodom and Gomorrah, in Accra in pursuance of its human rights promotion and protection mandate, CHRAJ considered the exercise by the AMA as unfortunate.
A statement signed by Joseph Whittal, CHRAJ Deputy Commissioner and copied to the Ghana News Agency in Accra said, eviction should not result in people being rendered homeless or detracted from their basic rights to human existence.
The affected persons should not be denied access to food, potable water, medical services and education for their children displaced by the eviction, and the protection of persons exposed to greater risk of other human rights violations, such as sexual assault.
The Commission noted that even though the erection of structures on waterways had caused severe flooding in some parts of the country, there was the need to demolish some structures in the affected community.
The Commission urged AMA to acknowledge the country’s obligation under international human rights and humanitarian law.
It pointed out that evictions must be consistent with the United Nations Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Laws and Violations of International Humanitarian Law.
This, the Commission said, would help provide adequate accommodation, resettlement packages to victims affected by the demolition exercise.
It, therefore, urged the Government to ensure that no group of persons in Ghana were arbitrarily deprived of their property or possessions, as a result of demolition exercises.
CHRAJ noted that the right to adequate housing includes the right to protection against arbitrary or unlawful interference of privacy, family and home, and the right to the peaceful enjoyment of possessions.
The Commission recommended that where forced eviction or a demolition exercise became necessary and inevitable, the relevant authorities should first and foremost consult adequately with the affected persons in advance, with a view to eliciting critical comments on the adverse impact of demolition.
The authorities must also provide adequate information on the proposed demolition in local languages of affected persons and wide circulation in the media.
It must give reasonable notice of the planned demolition, provide an alternative location for settlement, and inform victims of access to legal aid and/or other forms of support, to protect the general welfare of affected persons after the demolition exercise.
The Commission urged residents of Agbogbloshie, popularly called Sodom and Gomorrah, to follow due process in expressing their grievances, while they continued to dialogue with relevant stakeholders, including AMA, to explore avenues to effectively manage the situation.