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The Rwandan National Habitat Policy violates provisions of international human rights law on several counts. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is directly incorporated into article 17 of protocol VII of the Arusha Accords, now part of the fundamental law of Rwanda. Rwanda has also ratified the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the African Charter of Human and Peoples' Rights.14

Right to Freedom of Movement and Choice of Residence

The ICCPR at article 12 declares that everyone shall have "the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence."15 Commentators widely agree that incorporated in the freedom of residence is the right not to be moved.16 As noted at article 12 (3), restrictions on the freedoms of movement and residence are permitted only when provided by law and for reasons of "national security, public order (ordre public), public health or morals, or the rights and freedoms of others." Such restrictions must also be consistent with other rights recognized by the ICCPR. Article 12(4) specifies that movement and residence may also be restricted during an officially proclaimed public emergency.

Various U.N. bodies have further defined this right. In a 1997 resolution, the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights affirmed "the right of persons to remain in their own homes, on their own lands, and in their own countries. . . ." It also urged governments and other actors to do everything possible "to cease at once all practices of forced displacement [and] population transfer. . . in violation of international legal standards."17

In another resolution in 1997, the Sub-Commission reaffirmed the right "not to be evicted arbitrarily. . . from one's home, land or community." It noted that "coerced and involuntary removal" of persons from their homes and lands could result in "greaterhomelessness and inadequate housing and living conditions. . . .," an observation that fits the Rwandan case well. It also noted that for an eviction to be considered justifiable would require that it not be carried out arbitrarily but through legal procedures that ensure appropriate due process protections. Arbitrariness may be presumed from widespread displacement where cases have not been examined on an individual basis.

The Sub-Commission stated that to be permissible, an eviction "must not result in individuals being rendered homeless or vulnerable to other human rights violations." It recommended that governments provide "immediate restitution, compensation and/or appropriate and sufficient alternative accomodation or land" to those who had been forcibly evicted from their homes.18 This was not done for most who lost land in Rwanda.

In some cases, the Rwandan government used force or the threat of force to compel rural-dwellers to move to designated sites. It punished those who refused to comply by fines or imprisonment. In many more cases, it coerced people into relocating, the test of coercion being whether or not those concerned had a "real choice" whether to go or to stay.19 As is clear from statements of witnesses quoted above, many people believed-and some had been expressly told by authorities-that they had no such choice and were required to move by "law." By forcing Rwandans to leave their homes and by compelling them to live at designated sites rather than on their own lands, or elsewhere that they might choose, the government violated their right to chose their residence.

States may only restrict the right to freedom of movement and of choice of residence under certain circumstances and as provided by law.20 According to the Rwandan constitution and the Arusha Accords, laws are adopted by the Transitional National Assembly or by the Cabinet and then promulgated by the president within ten days of their approval by the Constitutional Court.21 The National Habitat Policy which requires the relocation of all rural-dwellers to imidugudu was not established by this procedure but resulted from a simple decision by the Cabinet which was implemented by two ministerial orders, one of them a provisional order.

Rwandan authorities and others have sometimes asserted that the Arusha Accords provide a legal basis for the establishment of imidugudu.22 At a meeting with international agencies in January 1997, Minister of Rehabilitation and Social Integration PatrickMazimhaka reportedly maintained that plans for the imidugudu "are an outcome" of the Arusha Accords.23 A working paper on resettlement prepared in January 2000 stated that "The current policy on resettlement in rural areas is based on the Arusha agreement."24

But the Accords specified only that returnees were to be resettled in "villages" and made no reference to living patterns of other Rwandans.25

In addition, the Accords guaranteed refugees who returned to Rwanda the right to settle in a place of their choice, provided they did not violate the rights of others. By compelling them to live in imidugudu, the government violated its own law as provided in protocol V, article 2, of the Accords.

The Rwandan government often sought to justify the necessity to move to imidugudu on the grounds of "national security," particularly in the northwest just after the insurgency. Even at that time, such a justification had little merit; any semblance of need for such measures in the interest of national security has long since ended. The Rwandan government itself has said that it has suppressed the insurgency and driven the insurgents from the country.26 Any restriction of freedom to choose one's residence because of national security is permissible only for the duration of the crisis and so is necessarily temporary. But the Rwandan government has stated clearly that relocation to imidugudu is meant to be permanent. Nor do any of the other possible justifications for restricting this right apply in this case.

Right to Adequate Housing

The ICESCR provides at article 11 (1) for "the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing." The problem of forced evictions figures prominently in international debate on adequate housing. In 1991 the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights stated that "forced evictions are prima facie incompatible with the requirements of theCovenant."27 Likewise the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in 1993 concluded that "forced evictions are a gross violation of human rights."28

The Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights has defined forced evictions as "the permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection."29 Noting that the obligation of states to use "all appropriate means" to enforce economic and social rights, as specified in ICESCR article 2 (1), will rarely be relevant in cases of forced eviction, the Committee concluded that the state itself "must refrain from forced evictions and ensure that the law is enforced against its agents or third parties who carry out forced evictions."30

According to the Committee, forced evictions involve a large number of rights recognized by both international human rights covenants in addition to the right to adequate housing.31 It found, therefore, that appropriate procedural protections and due process were especially necessary. Such procedural protections include genuine consultation with those affected, providing them with timely information about the proposed evictions and the use to which the land or housing is to be put, and providing them with legal remedies, including legal aid to persons who are in need of it to seek redress from the courts.32

The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which reflect international human rights and humanitarian law, are also relevant to the rural resettlement program. They state that the arbitrary displacement of persons is prohibited in cases of "large-scale development projects, which are not justified by compelling and overriding public interest."33 The Guiding Principles add that authorities must explore "all feasible alternatives" to avoid displacement. If there is no possible alternative, then they must take all measures to minimize displacement and its adverse effects, including assuring the procedural protections just mentioned.34 According to the Guiding Principles, "states are under a particularobligation to protect against the displacement of. . . peasants, pastoralists and other groups with a special dependency on and attachment to their lands."35

Right to Secure Enjoyment of One's Home

Article 17 of the ICCPR provides protection against "arbitrary or unlawful interference" with a person's "privacy, family, home or correspondence." In addition to abstaining from interfering with this right, parties to the covenant assume the responsibility to actively protect it.36 According to international legal commentators, "home" here means not just a dwelling but any residential property, regardless of legal title or nature of use. Any activity that deprives one of his or her home represents interference which must be decided by the authority designated under law and on a case-by-case basis.37

Rwandan law further protects the home against intrusion, which to be legitimate must be authorized by law.38

In implementing the policy of imidugudu, officials of the state required people to abandon and even to destroy their dwellings, depriving at the very least tens of thousands of people of their homes.

Right to Freedom of Opinion and of Expression

The ICCPR, at article 19, guarantees the right to hold opinions without interference and to express them freely. Although some newspapers published criticism of abuses related to imidugudu without suffering any ill consequence, local people who spoke out against the habitat policy or the appropriation of their lands were in several cases imprisoned, fined, or otherwise punished for holding these views and for expressing them.

Right to Property

The right to property, recognized by article17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is also guaranteed by the Rwandan constitution. According to Rwandan law, this right may be limited only in cases of public utility, as provided by law. Any expropriation must be preceded by prior and fair compensation.39

Government officials deprived cultivators of their land in order to create imidugudu. Most received no compensation for this land. If they did receive other land, it was often not of equivalent value, because the soil was poorer, because the field was more distant, or because the holdings were dispersed in several locations and so less efficient to farm. In some cases, government officials confiscated or allowed others to confiscate the land ofRwandans without compensation or appropriate procedure in order to create large-scale farms. According to international legal opinion, people who depend on the land for their very survival, as do more than 90 percent of Rwandans, are entitled to special protection of their right to the land.40

Right to Remedy

The ICCPR at article 2 (3a) guarantees the right to "an effective remedy" for those whose rights are violated. Rwandans whose rights to choice of residence, to adequate housing, to undisturbed enjoyment of their homes, to freedom of expression, and to security of property have been violated do not ordinarily and regularly have access to an effective remedy. Some have successfully pleaded their cases, often through the use of personal or political ties, but the opportunity of the few to obtain satisfaction through such irregular means does not meet the standard of effective remedy required by this article of the ICCPR.

14 Schabas and Imbleau, Introduction to Rwandan Law, pp. 161-70.

15 The African Charter at article 12(1) also recognizes this right.

16 See Patrick McFadden, "The Right to Stay," Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, vol. 29, p. 36 (1966).

17 United Nations, Economic and Social Council, Commission on Human Rights, Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, "Freedom of Movement and Population Transfer," E/CN.4/SUB.2/RES/1997/29. See also United Nations, Economic and Social Council, Commission on Human Rights, "Further Promotion and Encouragement of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Including the Question of the Programme and Methods of Work of the Commission, Questions of Human Rights, Mass Exoduses and Displaced Persons, Report of the Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Francis Deng, Addendum, Compilation and Analysis of Legal Norms, Part II: Legal Aspects Relating to the Protection Against Arbitrary Displacement, E/CN.4/1998/53/Add.1, Section II, A, paragraph 4. Hereafter cited as "Report of Mr. Francis Deng. . .Part II."

18 United Nations, Economic and Social Council, Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, Forced Evictions, E/CN.4/SUB.2/RES/1997/6.

19 "Report of Mr. Francis Deng. . .Part II," paragraph 3.

20 ICCPR, Article 12 (3).

21 Schabas and Imbleau, Introduction to Rwandan Law, p. 15.

22 Republique Rwandaise, Ministère des Terres, de la Réinstallation, et de la Protection de l'Environment, "Habitat en Milieu Rural," article 2, La Politique de l'Habitat en Milieu Rural, June 1999; Anonymous, "Imidugudu, Assessment of Housing and Land Reform Plans in Rwanda," May 1997, draft working document and appended texts, p. 14 ; Nkusi, "Problématique du Régime foncier," p.26.

23 Notes of the meeting provided by a diplomat in Kigali.

24 CCA Working Paper No. 3, p. 3.

25 Protocole d'Accord, article 28.

26 See, for example, Government of Rwanda, Reply to Human Rights Watch Report, "Rwanda: The Search for Security and Human Rights Abuses," May 2000, posted on the Rwandan government website.

27 United Nations, Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 4 (1991) of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the right to adequate housing (art. 11 (1) of the Covenant), December 12, 1991, paragraph 18. See generally U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Fact Sheet no. 25, Forced Evictions and Human Rights, 1996.

28 U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Resolution 1993/77, paragraph 1.

29 U.N. Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Right to Adequate Housing (Art. 11.1), forced evictions, General Comment no. 7, 1997, paragraph 3.

30 Ibid., paragraph 8.

31 Ibid., paragraph 9.

32 Ibid., paragraph 15.

33 The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, section 2, principle 6(c).

34 Ibid., principle 7.

35 Ibid., principle 9.

36 "Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference. . . .", ICCPR, article 17 (2).

37 "Report of Mr. Francis Deng. . .Part II," Section II, B, paragraphs 1 and 2.

38 Schabas and Imbleau, pp. 178-9.

39 Decree law no. 21/79 of July 23, 1979. Schabas and Imbleau, p. 179.

40 "Report of Mr. Francis Deng. . .Part II," section 3, paragraph 4.

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