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Amnesty International Condemns Forced Eviction of Cambodian Families

LONDON - The forced eviction of 60 low-income
families in central Phnom Penh on Thursday and Friday has been strongly
condemned by Amnesty International.

The families dismantled their homes after three years of government
harassment and intimidation, with no choice but to accept inadequate
compensation rather than have their homes demolished.

“Amnesty International strongly condemns this forced eviction and
the deeply flawed process that led to it,” said Brittis Edman, Amnesty
International’s Cambodia researcher.

Before dawn on Friday, at least 70 security forces, some armed with
guns and electronic batons, moved in and blocked off the area known as
Group 78 where four remaining families were holding out, with human
rights workers and journalists monitoring the situation.  Dozens of
hired workers demolished what was left of the dismantled houses. Within
hours, the resisting families had agreed to leave.

The families in Group 78 had been living under the threat of forced
evictions for three years, with the Cambodian authorities following
none of the safeguards required under international law.

“Group 78 was clearly cut off from due process and denied justice.
The Municipality of Phnom Penh made no attempts to properly consult
with the affected community or explore any feasible alternative to
eviction,” said Brittis Edman. “This makes a mockery of the
government’s obligations to protect the right to housing.”

The Municipality issued a final eviction notice to Group 78 in April
2009 and, in a series of subsequent meetings, officials, including
Phnom Penh's deputy governor, warned the community that the police and
military police would demolish their homes if they did not accept the
compensation on offer.  The community had also received information
that up to 700 security forces had been mobilised for the eviction.

Group 78 residents started moving into the area on the riverfront in
1983 and have applied for formal land titles several times since 2006,
but the authorities have ignored their applications in spite of
official documentation proving strong ownership claims.  The final
eviction order was issued by the Municipality, which has no mandate
under national law to issue such a document, and without the judicial
overview required under the 2001 Land Law. It was issued despite the
fact that a local Commission has yet to determine who owns the disputed
land. The options for alternative accommodation and compensation
offered by the Municipality were inadequate.

The Cambodian Government has consistently failed to guarantee the
right to adequate housing and protect its population against forced
evictions. In 2008 alone, Amnesty International received reports about
27 forced evictions, affecting an estimated 23,000 people. Amnesty
International is repeating its calls on the government to end forced
evictions and introduce a moratorium on all mass evictions until the
legal framework protects human rights.

As part of its Demand Dignity campaign, launched in May 2009,
Amnesty International is calling on the Cambodian Government to end
forced evictions and introduce a moratorium on all mass evictions until
the legal framework protects human rights.

Through this campaign, the organisation is calling on governments
globally to take all necessary measures, including the adoption of laws
and policies that comply with international human rights law, to
prohibit and prevent forced evictions.

Notes to editors
Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity campaign aims to end the human
rights violations that drive and deepen global poverty. The campaign
will mobilise people all over the world to demand that governments, big
corporations and others who have power listen to the voices of those
living in poverty and recognise and protect their rights. For more
information visit
Forced evictions are evictions which are carried out without adequate
procedural and legal safeguards, such as adequate notice, prior
consultation with those affected, provision of legal remedies and
adequate alternative accommodation. Under international law, including
the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights
(ICESCR), Cambodia is prohibited from carrying out forced evictions,
and must protect people from forced evictions.



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