Social & Economic rights

Friday, 4 November 2016

Closure of Informal Collective Centre “SRC Pionirski grad“ by Forced Evictions

By forcibly evicting 6 families from the residential zone of “SRC Pionirski grad” on 2 November, this  informal collective centre was emptied of all residents. Despite the appeals and advocacy for conducting evictions, in the situations where they are necessary, in accordance with the established international standards, the latest evictions violated the same human rights as all the previous ones, which began two years ago and which Praxis already alarmed about.

Eighty-year-old B.S., who is a refugee from Croatia, was the last resident evicted from the building in which she had lived with her son who had taken constant care of her. At the very beginning of eviction, her son was detained because of, as stated, the fierce reaction and concern that he would significantly disturb public order and peace, and the employees of the Social Welfare Centre Rakovica accepted the statement given by B.S. that she did not want to be taken care of and placed in a residential institution at that moment, after which they left the place of eviction. Thus, B.S. remained alone in the building, while the eviction was ongoing. In that process the water and electricity were disconnected first, then all the items were taken out of the rooms, and finally the doors and windows were removed from all the rooms. B.S. did not leave the premises in which she had lived until the very end of eviction. Even if she had wanted, she would not have been able to leave on her own. She was provided with urgent medical assistance two hours after the beginning of eviction and then temporarily hospitalised.

Considering the specific circumstances of the case, where the subject of forced eviction was an elderly woman who was also a refugee suffering from a serious health condition, obviously completely dependent on state support measures, the question arises of what the authorities undertook or planned to protect her from losing the right to human dignity. Despite the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, according to which the state's responsibility in such situations is greater than usual, the eviction was carried out without providing alternative accommodation, without the meaningful provision of social welfare services and without the presence of representatives of the Commissariat for Refugees, with the extremely degrading treatment of the evicted person and an apparent violation of the right to human dignity.

In defining the right to adequate housing, the international standards clearly specify that the eviction should not lead to homelessness or violation of other human rights of individuals and provide for the obligation of the state to take all appropriate measures for the evicted persons who are unable to take care of themselves, thereby using the maximum of their available resources and providing the evicted persons with adequate alternative accommodation, relocation or access to arable land. The Republic of Serbia failed to provide alternative accommodation to the refugee, disabled and old person, and thus harshly violated its obligations, at the time of actively implementing the Regional Housing Programme.

It is additionally disconcerting that all the evictions from the informal collective centre “SRC Pionirski grad” were carried out very similarly to the eviction of B.S. despite numerous warnings by the international bodies concerning the omissions and obligations of the Republic of Serbia in the process of eviction.

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in its May 2014 Concluding Observations, called on the Republic of Serbia to take urgent measures, because of the forced evictions and practices contrary to the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to provide, inter alia, procedural protection to those who are being evicted, all in accordance with the provisions of General Comments 4 and 7 of this Committee.

In the preliminary and final report after the visit to Serbia in May 2015, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing stressed the need for adopting the Law on Housing that would be in line with the international law that regulates human rights in the area of housing and non-discrimination. She especially emphasised the need to prohibit forced evictions by law, define the right to adequate housing in accordance with General Comment No. 4 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and ensure that forced evictions be carried out in accordance with the measures contained in General Comment No. 7 of the Committee for Economic Social and Cultural Rights. The recommendations of the Special Rapporteur especially emphasise the provision of the right to an effective remedy to persons threatened with eviction.

Since the evictions from the informal collective centre “SRC Pionirski grad” were carried out with obvious violations of the obligations of the Republic of Serbia, once again we call upon the competent authorities to suspend the described practice of forced evictions and to respect their obligations, as well as to work more actively on finding a durable and sustainable housing solution for vulnerable persons.

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Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action