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At the World Social Forum, the International Tribunal on Evictions condemns violations of the right to housing

A public event at the World Social Forum will censure forced evictions

The World Social Forum 2018 (WSF) is taking place from 13 to 17 March in Salvador, Brazil, under the banner “To resist is to create. To resist is to transform”. The aim is to debate and promote alternatives to contemporary neoliberalism and its various aggressions, by sharing knowledge, discussions, debates and workshops bringing together the wide variety of social struggles taking place at present. As part of the WSF, and following the same logic of resistance, the International Tribunal on Evictions (ITE) will take place on 13-14 March at the Architecture Faculty of the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA).

International Tribunal on Evictions was set up in 2011, in the first year of the Social Forum, and is a popular and ethical event appealing to public opinion, to expose, discuss and promote solutions to forced evictions around the world. The Tribunal invites urban social movements, organisations and civil society entities to bring cases of eviction or threats of displacement to the attention of a jury composed of national and international experts recognised in the right to housing from both legal and social perspectives, together with a popular jury with representatives from popular movements. The jurors offer guidance and make recommendations on each of the cases brought to the Tribunal, to provide those involved with tools to put pressure on government authorities, and to monitor the solutions put forward by those authorities. “The Tribunal was created to promote social justice and global solidarity with local struggles. The idea is to analyse cases of human rights violations and ultimately to document these violations and make recommendations to the relevant authorities and to popular movements, so that they can demand action and monitor proposed solutions”, explains Cesare Ottolini, global coordinator of the International Alliance of Inhabitants and co-founder of the International Tribunal on Evictions. More than 40 cases of evictions, from just the past two years, will be presented by popular and social movements from Brazil at this session of the Tribunal.

“The World Social Forum is an opportunity to work together. Holding the International Tribunal on Evictions here is of the utmost importance, because it gives us an opportunity to denounce cases of violation of the right to housing in Brazil to a wide range of entities, popular movements and organisations from different parts of the world”, says Bartíria Lima da Costa, president of the National Confederation of Inhabitants (CONAM), a partner member of the International Alliance of Inhabitants and member of the Tribunal’s National Organising Committee.

In this, its seventh, session, the International Tribunal on Evictions will consider five Brazilian cases. All involve communities that have suffered violence because of where they live. From the Northeast Region, the Quilombola community on the island of Mercês, in the municipality of Ipojuca, Pernambuco, will describe its forcible removal from an ancestral territory, with the destruction of its cultural patrimony, to make way for infrastructure works being undertaken by the State Government. More than 2,000 people have lost their homes; more than half of these are women and children. In Manaus, in northern Brazil, more than 3,000 families from the Cidade das Luzes community have suffered serious violations of their fundamental rights during a violent attempt to reclaim the ownership of squatted areas, which resulted in the deaths of two youths and one child, as well as the eviction of around 12,000 people in 2016.

Two cases from the South East of Brazil will be heard. The fishing community of Canabrava is defending its right to occupy the banks of the São Francisco River in Minas Gerais; and in São Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo, the People without Fear squatter settlement, with more than 8 thousand families, are fighting eviction from the lands they have invaded. One other case to be considered does not relate to a specific location, but to the persecution on public health grounds of homeless populations by the authorities of several Brazilian states.

“What we’re seeing today in Brazil is a complete disregard, by all spheres of government, of this most urgent of issues. This is most obvious in the lack of implementation of or failure to comply with existing laws, such as the City Statute and legislation on the social function of property and the regularisation of land tenure. It leaves millions of people without protection, denying them the human right to adequate housing”, says Bartíria.

“One major challenge we face is the lack of data and information about communities and families facing eviction threats” explains Ronaldo Coelho, who provides legal and policy advice for Habitat for Humanity Brazil, another member of the National Organising Committee of the International Tribunal on Evictions, which, since 2016, has been mapping communities at risk of eviction in the state of Pernambuco. The objective is to bring specific information to the attention of the public authorities to get them to intervene and avoid urban land conflicts “As it stands, we know that the problem exists, but we do not have good information on specific cases, because even the authorities lack reliable data on these situations”, he comments.

THE JURIES

After listening to and discussing the cases presented, the jurors will produce a verdict identifying the human rights that have been violated in a report to be widely disseminated, with the aim of pushing government authorities to take measures to help families and communities living under the threat of eviction. There will be seven jurors, from a range of backgrounds: Nívia Moraes, from the Public Defender’s Office in the State of Minas Gerais; Ângela Gordilho, a lecturer on the postgraduate courses in Architecture at the Federal University of Bahia; Cesare Ottolini, an Italian housing rights activist and global coordinator of the International Alliance of Inhabitants, who co-founded the International Tribunal on Evictions; Charlene Egídio, a resident and community leader from the Rosa Leão squatter settlement in Minas Gerais; Lúcia Moraes, lecturer in Architecture from the Catholic University of Goiás and the Evangelical University of Anápolis-Goiás; Luiza Veloso, Public Defender from the State of São Paulo; and Rob Robinson, coordinator of the Canadian-US Alliance of Inhabitants.


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Ann Varley

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