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The demolition of Ahwazi homes is against international law

On Wednesday, 26 August, Iranian regime security forces began their efforts to demolish the homes of the people of the village of  Abolnekhilat (AlboFazl in Farsi)  near the city of Ahwaz. Security personnel used tear gas and rubber bullets against the unarmed residents of the village who tried to protect their homes, arresting dozens of the villagers for the ‘crime’ of defending their human rights.

The Iranian regime’s ‘Foundation for the Oppressed’ – which claims to own the land the village stands on – wants to raze the homes of the 300 families living there and redevelop the land, leaving the already poor residents, many of whom have lived there for four decades, homeless and destitute with no compensation or alternative accommodation.

 

International Law 

According to international law, the right to adequate housing is a fundamental human right, with international human rights legislation recognising “the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, including adequate housing,” explicitly contradicting the forced eviction or the threat of forced eviction against individuals from their homes. [1]

The right to adequate housing includes freedoms to choose and acquire housing. These freedoms include: “Protection against forced evictions, arbitrary destruction and the demolition of one’s home; The right not to be subjected to arbitrary interference in the home, privacy and family; The right to choose one’s residence, to determine where to live and to freedom of movement.” [2]

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 also include adequate housing as part of the fundamental right to an adequate standard of living. The characteristics of the right to adequate housing are mainly explained in the Committee’s general (ICESCR) comments No. 4 (1991) on the right to adequate housing and No. 7 (1997) on forced evictions. Other international human rights treaties have also recognised the right to adequate housing, such as the Protection of one’s home and privacy.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states in Article 25(1) that: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself [or herself] and his [or her] family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.”

ICESCR asserts in Article 11 (1) that: “The States parties to the present Covenant recognise the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself [or herself] and his [or her] family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realisation of this right, recognising to this effect the essential importance of international co-operation based on free consent.” [3]

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court 1998 also addresses the freedom of housing, the prevention of vandalism of citizens’ homes and of their evictions by force.

Article 5: The jurisdiction of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is limited to the most serious crimes of concern in relation to the following crimes:

(a) The crime of genocide

(b) Crimes against humanity

(c) War crimes

(d) The crime of aggression

Article 7 (1) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court addresses crimes against humanity such as (d) deportation or forcible transfer of the population. For the purposes of this Statute, “crime against humanity” means any act when it is committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population.

Article 7 (2) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court states that: (d) “Deportation or forcible transfer of population” means forced displacement of the persons concerned by expulsion or other coercive acts from the area in which they are lawfully present, without grounds permitted under international law.”

Article 82 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court also addresses the issue of war crimes against the population. ‘War crimes’ means: (viii) “The transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory; (xiii) Destroying or seizing the property unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war; (viii) Ordering the displacement of the civilian population for reasons related to the conflict, unless the security of the civilians involved or imperative military reasons so demand.” [4]

The Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons, adopted in August 1949, specifies the need for humanitarian Protection of civilians in a war or conflict zone. There are currently 196 states party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which include three other treaties. Article 4 of the Geneva Convention defines a protected person thus: “Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at some point and in any way, find themselves, in a situation of conflict or occupation, in the hands of a party to the conflict or an occupying power of which they are not nationals. However, it expressly excludes nationals of a country that does not abide by this agreement and citizens of a neutral or allied country if the country has normal diplomatic relations.” Article 49, the ‘Fourth Geneva Convention’ deals with deportation, transfer and evacuation. “Individual or mass forcible transfer of protected persons from occupied lands to the territory of the occupying power or to the territory of any other country, occupied or not, is prohibited, regardless of their motives.” [5]

Dr Mohammad Alshekhili, Director of the Arab Centre for Justice, told DUSC in a recent interview, “Human rights are interdependent and indivisible. In other words, a violation of the right to adequate housing may affect the enjoyment of other human rights.” Dr Alshekhili added, “Protection from forced evictions is a fundamental component of the right to adequate housing and is closely related to security of tenure for every citizen. Therefore, forced evictions are permanent or temporary deportation against the will of individuals, families, or local communities from their homes or the lands they occupy is considered a crime against humanity, because moving the population in order to change the demographic in occupied lands is a war crime according to the laws of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court 1998 and the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

Dr Ismail Khalaf Allah, an expert in international law, also told DUSC, “The policy to demolish the homes of citizens in the village of Abolnekhilat and forcibly evict the population is a crime of forcible displacement of the population, and it is considered a crime against humanity in accordance with international law.” He explained, “According to Article 7 of the Rome Statute, even in the event of war, displacement of people is considered a crime against humanity. In addition, Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention completely prohibits the forcible transfer of residents, because this policy is also considered a crime against humanity.” Dr Khalaf Allah emphasised that there is no doubt that the Iranian regime’s brutal policy of forcibly evicting the residents of the village of Abolnekhilat in Ahwaz demands urgent international action to hold all those involved in these violations of citizens’ fundamental human rights to account.

 

Reference

[1] OHCHR. Link <https://bit.ly/3jv3Huz>

[2] UN. Link <https://www.un.org/ruleoflaw/files/FactSheet21en.pdf>

[3] UN. Link <https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cescr.aspx>

[4] ICC. Link <https://www.icc-cpi.int/resourcelibrary/official-journal/rome-statute.aspx>

[5] GENEVA CONVENTION RELATIVE TO THE PROTECTION OF CIVILIAN PERSONS IN TIME OF WAR OF 12 AUGUST 1949. Link <https://bit.ly/31H2v1r>

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