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Ref: 25/2013

 

On Sunday, 07 April
2013, the Economic and Social Rights Unit
of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)  held a workshop on ‘The impact of
the removal of dwellings from government-owned land on the right to adequate housing
in the Gaza Strip’, which took place in the Commodore Hotel in Gaza City. The
workshop was attended by a number of representatives of the Ministry of Public
Works and Housing and the Land Authority in the Gaza Strip. Civil society
organisations and representatives of communities who have been removed from
their homes also participated. The workshop was organised
with the aim of discussing recent developments, including the demolition of
houses on government-owned land, and the impact on the affected communities.


Dr Fadel
al-Mzaini, a researcher with the Unit, opened
the workshop
with a presentation titled ‘The policy of demolishing
houses built on government-owned land in the Gaza Strip’. Mr Khalil Shaheen, Director of the Unit, discussed the legal implications of the house
demolitions policy, and reviewed the mechanisms according to which the
government in Gaza has been implementing the policy. Shaheen called on the
authorities to uphold and protect each citizen’s right to adequate housing, in
accordance with the relevant provisions of the Palestinian Basic Law 2005 and
international standards regarding the right to adequate housing.


Engineer
Naji Sarhan, Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry of Public Works and
Housing, gave a presentation titled ‘The government policy for dealing with
encroachments on government-owned land in the Gaza Strip’, in which he outlined
how private developments on government-owned land have not always been carried
out with the aim of meeting civilians’ needs, but instead are often carried out
by land dealers and looters. Sarhan outlined recent measures by the authorities
to restrict new developments on government-owned land, including the formation
of a new committee which will regulate developments and compensate citizens who
are removed from government-owned land.


Engineer Omer
Zaydah, General Director of the Government Property Department of the
Palestinian Land Authority, gave a presentation on ‘The experience of the Land
Authority in dealing with encroachments on government-owned land in the Gaza
Strip’. He explained that the Land Authority’s mandate arises from the Council
of Ministers decision to develop government-owned land for public use. He added
that the implementation of this decision had resulted in the removal of slums,
including the ‘Ezbet al-Hamamiya area and Abu ‘Amrah neighbourhood. He stated
that the Land Authority had compensated most of the residents who were evicted.
Zaydah outlined how the current regulations have facilitated encroachments into
government-owned land; the Land Authority has been reconsidering these
regulations and will issue a new decision in relation to future removals.


Dr. Mohammed
Meqdad, Chairman of the ‘Ezbet al-Hamamah Neighbourhood Committee, gave a
presentation titled ‘The impact of the decision to remove dwellings from
government-owned land on residents of ‘Ezbet Hamamiyah neighbourhood’.  He criticised the decision to demolish houses that
were built on government-owned land decades ago, without first providing
adequate alternative shelter for the families which used to live there. Meqdad
also condemned the  way in which the
authorities dealt with the residents of ‘Ezbet al-Hamamiyah, who were forcibly
evicted from their homes. Meqdad called upon the government to deal with
residents in a way that respects their human dignity.


Mr Jalal
al-Hallaq, the lawyer for the Abu ‘Amrah family, spoke about ‘The impact of the
decision to remove dwellings from government-owned land on residents of the Abu
‘Amrah neighbourhood’. He outlined how the government had failed to abide by
decisions issued by former governments and had failed to meet the demands of
residents, who had requested new houses or alternative land. He also stated
that the government had failed to abide by its own decisions, which require
that compensation must be paid to the residents, or alternative housing
provided, before the evictions begin.


The
workshop concluded with a discussion, during which the participants raised many
questions. The following recommendations were made:


 – To reconsider the procedures by which
dwellings are removed from government-owned land, taking into consideration the
need to balance the upholding of the rule of law with respect for human rights
and fundamental freedoms;


– To call upon the
government to consider  the individual
case of each house built on government-owned land, examine the circumstances,
and provide adequate shelter for individuals or families that do not have a suitable
alternative;


– To form a
national committee, including jurists, surveyors, and mediators, to consider
the demolition of houses in the Abu ‘Amrah neighbourhood and make
recommendations for the compensation of their owners; and


-To call upon the
government to respect the right of each person to adequate shelter, and provide
the maximum legal protection for citizens of the Gaza Strip, including protection
from forced eviction.