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COHRE announces its 2008 Housing Rights Awards

IOC, Israel and Italy censured; Ecuador’s Constitutional Assembly and housing rights activists commended

The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) today announced the winners of its annual Housing Rights Awards for 2008. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Governments of Israel and Italy received Housing Rights Violator Awards for their demonstrated failure to protect and implement housing rights. The Constitutional Assembly of Ecuador was presented with 2008’s Housing Rights Protector Award for its role in making Ecuador the first country in the world to explicitly recognise in its Constitution a range of key housing and habitat-related rights. Ms Pia Ndayiragije of Burundi, Mr Ken Fernandes of Australia and the Chicago, USA-based Coalition to Protect Public Housing each received a 2008 Housing Rights Defender Award in recognition of their outstanding commitments to the defence of housing rights.

COHRE’s Executive Director, Salih Booker, said: “These Awards demonstrate that in 2008 many governments and other responsible bodies have yet to take seriously their housing rights obligations under international law. Israel’s very serious and persistent violations of housing rights, both of the Palestinian citizens of Israel and of Palestinians in the territories it continues to occupy, deserve the clearest possible condemnation from the international community. In making this Award we pay particular attention to the human rights abuses perpetrated against the Bedouin citizens of Israel, which typically receive little attention from the international media and civil society”.

“Similarly the Italian Government must be condemned for its ongoing abuses of the housing rights of Roma and Sinte people living within its borders – abuses that have worryingly escalated since the election of the current government in May 2008. For too long, Italian Governments have treated Roma and Sinte citizens and migrants appallingly, with systematic discrimination in laws and policies, racially segregated housing, extremely substandard infrastructure and tacit encouragement of a wave of violent acts carried out against their communities. We call on the Government to make the significant changes necessary to improve its housing rights record”, said Mr Booker.

He added “The International Olympic Committee, though not a government, nevertheless has responsibilities to respect and protect human rights, and has signally failed to live up to those obligations to date. This year’s Beijing Olympics resulted in the forced eviction of some 1.5 million people. In its role selecting Olympic host cities, the IOC has a unique opportunity to ensure that in future cities bidding to host the Games do not engage in housing rights violations, both during the bidding process and – for the successful bidding cities – during preparations for staging the Games. Sadly the IOC has failed to take the concrete steps within its power to make this happen”.

“The example of Ecuador’s Constitutional Assembly, in contrast, shows that it is possible for governments and public institutions to take real and very practical steps towards fulfilling their international human rights obligations. Ecuador can be proud of the fact that it is now a world leader in terms of recognition of international housing rights standards in its domestic law. The fact that these international standards have been interpreted and expressed in uniquely Ecuadorian language and concepts is also commendable”, said Mr Booker.

“Finally it is important to acknowledge the enormous efforts of housing rights activists around the world, both individuals and groups, who continually strive to achieve greater understanding and protection of the human right to housing and related rights. Mr Ken Fernandes is recognised throughout the Asia-Pacific region as an outstanding grassroots housing rights activist. Ms Pia Ndayiragije, Burundi’s Minister for Families and Women’s Affairs from 1987 to 1991, has a well-deserved reputation as a tireless promoter of women’s economic empowerment and of the housing, land and property rights of women. The Coalition to Protect Public Housing, founded in Chicago in 1996, is internationally recognised for its successful campaigns against forced evictions and as a model for human rights advocacy across the USA” Mr Booker said.

Today, one day prior to International Human Rights Day, COHRE also released a new report, Policies of Denial: Lack of Access to Water in the West Bank. The report documents violations of the right to water and sanitation resulting from Israeli policy and practice in the occupied West Bank, particularly in relation to lack of Palestinian access to water resources and water and sanitation services and facilities. The report calls on Israel, as the occupying power, to assume responsibility for ensuring that the right to water and sanitation, and other internationally recognised human rights, are respected, protected and fulfilled for Palestinians in the West Bank. It also calls on Israel not to obstruct the Palestinian Authority from carrying out its duties and responsibilities in relation to the water and wastewater sectors.

The report

El derecho a una vivienda y una ciudad dignas en Ecuador