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The Chad News Archive

Tens of Thousands Left Homeless

Amnesty International (9/8/09)

(New York) -- Government security forces in Chad have demolished 3,700 homes and businesses in the capital city of N'Djamena, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless, according to evidence compiled from satellite images obtained by Amnesty International and confirmed by its investigators on the ground. The human rights organization said today it fears that individuals forcibly evicted from their homes may have been the targets of politically-motivated government retaliation.

Individuals whose homes were demolished are now reduced to living around the ruins of their former homes, Amnesty International said in its report, Broken Homes, Broken Lives.

The demolitions were taking place as late as July and many more people are still at risk of being forcibly evicted from their homes, Amnesty International said.

Through its Science for Human Rights project based in the United States, Amnesty International analyzed commercially available satellite images, and then verified the information by conducting on-the-ground inspections and in-depth interviews in N'Djamena in May 2009. The demolitions began in February 2008, and continued into late July of this year.

This action was directly ordered by Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno who issued a decree in February 2008 authorizing the destruction of what were termed illegally constructed buildings and structures. Many of the resulting demolitions flouted international human rights standards as well as Chadian laws.

"The vast majority of families who lost their homes were not consulted by the authorities, were given little or no notice and have not received alternative housing or any other form of compensation," said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty International’s Africa Deputy Director. "In distressing scenes, many have been reduced to living in the rubble of their former houses.

"The Chadian authorities must respect the rule of law. They must ensure that every person’s right to protection under the law is upheld," said Hondora.

Sarah Milburn, Chad country specialist for Amnesty International USA, said:: "We are very concerned that these demolitions are part of a campaign by the government to target, and even evict, people or ethnic groups who are perceived to be sympathetic to armed opposition groups."

In February 2008, armed opposition groups mounted an offensive on N’Djaména. Government forces responded by bombing the areas from which they believed the opposition forces were attacking. Hundreds of civilians were killed or injured and more than 50,000 fled the capital to seek refuge in neighboring Cameroon. The government of Chad regained control of N’Djaména and opposition forces retreated toward Sudan.

This year, a multi-dimensional U.N. Mission was put in place in Chad to monitor and protect human rights.

Some families were evicted by the government in direct contempt of court orders prohibiting their removal.

In the neighborhood of Chagoua 2, for example, residents lodged a complaint in court, which ruled that planned demolitions should cease pending a final decision by the court. Despite this order, the mayor of N’Djamena continued to demolish structures in that neighborhood.

Christoph Koettl, Crisis Prevention and Response campaigner who works with the Science for Human Rights project in Washington DC, said: "The pace of housing demolitions in N’Djamena can only be described as frightening. Satellite technology allowed us for the first time to put hard numbers behind the scale of destruction in the populous city: In one year, thousands of homes have been destroyed, and countless families devastated. The human suffering and distress cause by the demolitions of these homes shocks the conscience."

As part of its Demand Dignity campaign, launched in May 2009, Amnesty International is calling on the government of Chad to introduce a moratorium on mass evictions until a clear and effective prohibition against forced evictions and a legal framework that protects human rights is put in place. The government should also ensure that all victims of forced evictions have access to adequate alternative housing, emergency assistance, access to justice and effective remedies, including reparations.

Through the Dignity campaign, Amnesty International 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.

Note to Editors: N'Djamena Graphic - Description Since February 2008, thousands of homes and other structures have been demolished in several neighborhoods of N'Djamena, Chad, including the neighborhood of Chagoua 2, 7th district (pictured in the two satellite images on the left). The residents of Chagoua 2 lodged a complaint in court, which ruled that planned demolitions should cease, pending a final decision. Despite this order, the mayor of N’Djamena continued to demolish the houses. Tens of thousands of people are now homeless throughout the city after being forcibly evicted. Satellite imagery allowed Amnesty International to demonstrate the frightening pace of these housing demolitions.

The satellite analysis was conducted by Amnesty International USA’s Science for Human Rights project. Support for this work was provided by the Oak Foundation. Information about the project is available at: www.amnestyusa.org/science

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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