Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) v. Sudan, Communication 296/2005
Complaint filed on behalf of indigenous groups in the Darfur region of Sudan who had experienced massive and systemic violations of their human rights; Whether the government of Sudan violated its obligation to respect and protect the rights of the people of Darfur; Were domestic remedies exhausted to allow review by the ACHPR; Right to life and to be free from torture; Violations of economic, social and cultural rights in the context of forced displacement.
Since February 2003, following the emergence of an armed conflict in the Darfur region of the Sudan, militiamen known as Janjaweed have engaged in forcibly evicting, killing, and raping thousands of Black indigenous people in that region. The complainants alleged these acts were a failure of the government of Sudan to respect and protect the rights of the people of Darfur and in particular violated articles 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 12 (1), 14, 16, 18 (1) and 22 of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights. In affirming admissibility of the complaint, the Commission quoted its decision in the Free Legal Assistance v. Zaire, and affirmed that domestic remedies can be considered to have been exhausted where the seriousness and widespread nature of the violations make remedies in effect unavailable.
Regarding forced eviction, the Commission found that forced eviction in the context of Darfur not only violated the right to adequate housing, but rose to a violation of the Article 4 (right to integrity of the person) and Article 5 (prohibition on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment). The ruling included a violation of the obligation to protect for not protecting its citizens from violations perpetrated by its forces or third parties, as well as failing to provide immediate remedies to victims. Regarding the right to water, the Commission looked at the obligations to respect and to protect and held that "the destruction of homes, livestock and farms as well as the poisoning of water sources, such as wells", amounted to a violation of Article 16 of the African Charter (right to highest attainable standard of health). Finally, the African Commission held there was a violation of Article 22 of the African Charter on and the right to all peoples to their economic, social and cultural development. The Commission found that the attacks and forced displacement denied them the opportunity to engage in economic, social and cultural activities and interfered with the right to education.
Keywords: Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) v. Sudan, Communication 296/2005, Water, Sanitation, Right
While the Commission lacks an enforcement mechanism, this decision has already been shared with NGOs and civil society organizations that will now use it to complement their campaigns for accountability. Follow up reporting to the Commission as well as UN treaty mechanisms is also planned.
The significance of this decision is that it includes several advances in the jurisprudence under the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. First, it provides further elaboration on the right to adequate housing including the prohibition on forced eviction. Second, it reaffirms and elaborates on the right to water as an implicit right under the African Charter. Finally, it provides seminal jurisprudence on the right to water and the right of peoples to their economic, social and cultural development. The decision also articulates specific remedies including the UN Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons (Pinheiro Principles) as a framework for the right to return and the establishment of a social fund and mechanism for the rehabilitation of Darfur. Finally, this decision is significant as an African treaty applied by an African enforcement mechanisms to the atrocities in Darfur.