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Report urges Haiti to protect quake victims from forced evictions

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - The human rights group Amnesty International accused the Haitian government on Tuesday of failing to stop the forcible eviction of thousands of displaced people living in tent camps set up after the huge earthquake that rocked the capital in 2010.

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Some 65,000 people were forcibly evicted from 175 camps between July 2010 and the end of March 2013, Amnesty said in a report, warning that more than a quarter of the 320,000 people still living in camps face possible eviction.

“This is a story of ongoing human rights violations creating deep suffering. People who most suffered from the earthquake were those living in extreme poverty. They have been living in camps with appalling living conditions,” said Javier Zúñiga, a special adviser to Amnesty.

“And, as if this were not enough, they are threatened with forced evictions and, eventually, made homeless again.”

The report said such evictions were mostly carried out by landowners and municipal authorities, sometimes with police in support.

While the number of homeless camp dwellers has fallen steadily since the earthquake, it has not been fast enough for some landowners who are anxious to get their property back.

“This report shows how the government has failed to protect people from forced evictions and other human rights violations in the post-quake reconstruction process,” Amnesty said in the report, titled “Nowhere to Go’: Forced Evictions in Haiti’s Camps for Displaced People.”

Minister of Justice Jean Sanon said he had not read the report yet so could not comment on specific allegations.

“It’s a delicate situation ... everyone has a right to housing, and the government is absolutely against this sort of thing (violent evictions),” he said.

James Burke, the group’s Caribbean region campaigner, said he was more optimistic after meetings with Sanon and the Minister for Human Rights on Monday.

“Both said that the government is clearly against forced evictions ... and they both individually said that instructions have been passed to the Chief Prosecutor and to the police stations that they shouldn’t be involved in illegal evictions,” he told Reuters.

“Apparently they are taking some positive steps to instruct judicial authorities and security forces not to be involved in this,” he added.

Minister Sanon confirmed that after the meeting with Amnesty representatives, messages were passed to the National Police to remind them not to get involved in forcible evictions.

“The police are supposed to be there to protect, to protect and to serve,” he said.

The 2010 earthquake left more than 200,000 dead and another 2 million homeless. The Haitian government and international relief agencies have not been able to come up with solution for those still homeless, largely due to a lack of jobs, extreme poverty and lack of housing.

The Amnesty report was largely based on three fact-finding visits to Haiti by Amnesty International delegates in September 2011 and in May and July 2012.

Additional reporting by Amelie Baron; Editing by David Adams and Claudia Parsons