Urgent Action. Forced Eviction and Excessive Force in Egypt


At 06:00 on Tuesday morning, 25 August 2015, a demolition force
from al-Duqqi District, Giza Governorate, combined with police forces dispatched
by the Egyptian Ministry of Interior used bulldozers, tear gas and the threat
of live ammunition forcibly to evict 95 families and demolish their shack
dwellings located at al-Sudan Street. The combined Giza Governorate and
Ministry of Interior attack force carried out a bloody repression of the poor
inhabitants who contested their demolition.The unrestrained police used sticks,
tear gas, and rubber pullets against the inhabitants, injuring tens of them and
causing one woman to miscarry from tear gas inhalation. The events have been
covered in the
local press and recorded in photographic evidence (below).


The community was the subject of an upgrading project originally
undertaken by the Informal Settlement Development Fund (
ISDF) to resettle inhabitants nearby into serviced flats. The Sudan
Street community, established in the 1960s near the railway line on “state
land,” formed one of the ISDF “unsafe areas” prioritized for resettlement since
the Fund’s 2010 formation. The first phase of the resettlement project was
completed in 2013, with the rehousing of 30 families out of an original
population of 145 families into 65mflats in three buildings.

The new Ministry of Urban Renewal and Informal Settlements (MURIS)
assumed responsibility for the project since its establishment in June 2014.
However, since its beginning, the resettlement project was flawed by a lack of
transparency in the enumeration process of assigning rights to replacement
housing. More recently, it became the subject of further controversy,
resentment and a breakdown of social solidarity among the residents due to the
lack of transparency in the enumeration process (determining the eligibility of
families for resettlement).

With the recently completed second phase, MURIS conveyed the task
of moving al-Sudan Street families to the new housing by way of a protocol
dated 2015. The unannounced early morning operation at al-Sudan Street residents
served two purposes: (1) selectively removing only 20 pre-selected families to
the new location with their belongings and (2) completely destroying all 115
shacks, including the destruction of the shacks of the remaining 95 unselected
families with all their belongings, which the governorate personnel then carted
off as trash.

Reportedly, the second phase of the housing project provided 75
housing units, but residents have informed that the living space in the new
units inexplicably were reduced to 42 mfrom the 65 mof floor
space in the first-phase flats. Simultaneously, the
second phase offered 55 of the 75 new flats to unknown outsiders, without
transparency or explanation to the al-Sudan Street inhabitants.

Even though the al-Sudan Street families resented the decline in
resettlement living space, they recently moved into the flats. That left 95 families
behind to face the bulldozers and governorate/ police attack force, with ten
enumerators and their selective eligibility lists, who brought chaos to the
community on the morning of 25 August.

Despite the fact that the resettlement project, with its
shortcomings, falls under the mandate of MURIS, the local al-Duqqi District authorities
of the Giza Governorate issued the eviction order and coordinated with Ministry
of Interior personnel to conduct the punishing forced eviction. That division
of labor is the subject of a protocol between the original ISDF and the Giza
Governorate predating the establishment of MURIS. [1]

Activists in the field of housing rights and much of the concerned
public had viewed the establishment of MURIS as a positive step toward solving at
least some of the worst symptoms of the housing crisis in Egypt’s informal
areas through an approach that recognized the rights and dignity of citizens
and respected their human-rights. This perception was due especially due to the
appointment of Dr. Laila Iskanderas minister of MURIS, a respected public
servant who served many years in the civil-society sector.

Four days after the brutal Sudan Street eviction, Minister Laila
Iskander announced that her ministry had allocated 6 million Egyptian pounds to
the Giza Governorate for the ostensible purpose of covering interim rent costs
for the now-homeless Sudan Street residents. [2]
However, the true costs, losses and damages to the evicted Sudan Street
families are the subject of reparations, including compensation, that have not
yet been quantified.

Egyptian Center for Civil and Legislative Reform’s team has visited
the area and met the evicted people. After collecting information, ECCLR will prepare
a petition to submit to the General Prosecution (GP) for criminal investigation.
A delegation of the inhabitants came to the Center’s office yesterday to sign
the petition and,joined by the Center’s lawyers, they will submit the petition
to the GP’s office. The Egyptian Center for Housing Rights (ECHR) also
responded quickly to the forced eviction at al-Sudan Street and issued a press
release condemning the gross violation with its use of excessive force against
the inhabitants, demanding reparation for the victims and an open investigation
of the use of force in this case.According to their press release, the ECHR
already has submitted a petition to the GP as well, demanding an investigation.

Various spheres of successive Egyptian governments have defamed the
already disadvantaged inhabitants of the country’s informal areas, who are
estimated to number no fewer than 16 million people. In turn, mainstream
society also has adopted such perceptions, typically calling them thugs and
drug dealers, and supporting efforts to get rid to them.

In Egypt, the 16 million Egyptian citizens living in informal
areas endure this material and social discrimination due to skewed housing
approaches of consecutive governments. Since time immemorial, state plans and
programs have neglected the poorest and disproportionately concentrated on
building luxury housing for rich people. These approaches typically offer no
solution for the poorest and most inadequately housed Egyptians. However, the
artificial and debt-generating real-estate boom of recent decades has deepened
the material and social divide in Egyptian society.

In the absence of formulating a national housing policy, this
indispensable priority of statecraft instead takes the form of cumulative
projects and practices that continue to punish the poor. Despite the promise of
alternative remedial approaches, the latest developments at al-Sudan Street
revive the gratuitous cruelty of past regimes.

Forward, Steps Back

Before the Egyptian Uprising on 25 January 2011, housing-rights
activists have reached an understanding with the former regime on a several
principles related to the right to adequate housing. Now, we are seeing a derogation
of such principles, although “the right of citizens to adequate, safe and
healthy housing” was enshrined in the Egyptian Constitution for the first time
in 2013 
and retained in the
2014 Constitution (Article 78).

In 2013, a group of hopeful civil society organizations, urbanists
and human rights organizations in Egypt coalesced around a set of principles
and a
to Egypt’s priority habitat issues, reflecting
international norms and best practices. Despite advocacy efforts, the drafters
of the new 2014 Constitution declined to enshrine those concepts. In the
absence of a national parliament, even the Constitution’s guiding principle of
“the right of citizens to adequate, safe and healthy housing” remains an
abstraction susceptible to the veto of contrary political will and lingering
contempt for the poorest Egyptians.

However, Egypt’s current Constitution already provides some
specificity in its unprecedented alignment with the international proscription
against forced eviction. [3] Its Article
63 provides: “All forms and types of arbitrary forced displacement of citizens
shall be prohibited and shall be a crime that is not subject to statute of

Also at the regional level, Egypt has long affirmed its public
commitment to the progressive realization of the human right to adequate
housing, reinforcing principles of partnership and participation, including through
legislative measures. This is the subject of repeated commitments common to all
Arab states for at least two decades. [4]

The current political circumstances are playing a very important
role in housing rights derogation, as mainstream society seems willing to accept
human rights violations under the pretext of fighting terrorism and achieving
peace and stability. In this environment, anyone who speaks about human rights
violations is considered to be a traitor. In addition, the government listens
to nobody in formulating and executing its policies, and much worse, there is a
step back even at the level of the judiciary system regarding human rights.

Egypt’s Human Rights
Treaty Obligations

Historically, the United
Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) already has
addressed Egypt’s practice the Egyptian government, through its Concluding
Observations. Already in 2000, the Committee noted Egypt’s breach of treaty
obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights (ICESCR) by carrying out forced evictions of people from many areas
whose population lack adequate housing and secure livelihoods. [5]

After failing to report on
its implementation of the treaty for eight years, Egypt finally came under
review again in 2013. Then the Committee observed the Arab Republic of Egypt’s
“inadequate investment…in affordable housing, resulting in a high percentage of
the population living in informal settlements [without] adequate infrastructure
or facilities.” CESCR also registered its concern about widespread forced
evictions due to the lack of secure tenure, in beach of the state’s obligations
under Article 11 of ICESCR.

CESCR called on the state to
establish legal definitions compliant with the Covenant for “adequate housing,”
“informal settlements,” and “security of tenure,” especially in light of the
government’s unpopular Egypt 2052 Plan. The Committee also strongly recommended
that Egypt “ensure that persons affected by forced evictions have access to an
adequate remedy, restitution of their property, and compensation.” 

As previous Egyptian
governments had established a pattern of forced evictions without ensuring
reparations or alternative accommodation, the CESCR repeated reminded Egypt’s
government representatives of their obligations under Article 11 of the
Covenant, including with reference to the Committee’s General Comment No. 4 on
the right to adequate housing, as well as General Comment No. 7 on forced
evictions. The CESCR treaty body also has called upon Egypt to develop an
appropriate housing policy.

The Center for Civil and
Legislative Reform notes further that these violations of the human rights to
adequate housing—by omission and commission—deepen the impoverishment of
ordinary Egyptians and perpetuate the cycle of severe poverty for citizens who
already suffer from deprivation and lack the most-basic rights in practice.
These are principal reasons why citizens mounted the 25 January Revolution and
demand better living conditions. Of course, the practice of willful neglect,
destruction and eviction from housing is incompatible with the commitment that
the State has made internationally toward the Millennium Development Goal No. 7
of poverty alleviation and the eradication of slums and the commitments that
Egypt made at Habitat II, in 1996, to prevent and remedy forced evictions. [7]

What to Do?

The Center will continue its efforts at
working with the people affected by housing rights violations through diverse
local approaches. However, we, at Center for Civil and Legislative Reform are
calling for your help by sending a protest letter to the relevant authorities,
demanding their prompt reparation [8] of
the inhabitants, including rehabilitation and investigation into the truth
about the use of excessive force against them, and ending the policy of forced

The Center for Civil and Legislative
Reform asks that you join it and all Egyptian housing-rights defenders in
deploring the pattern of neglect, marginalization and eviction represented in
the case of al-Sudan Street in Giza Governorate. We ask you to join also in
demanding an urgent response from the Egyptian authorities to:

Immediately provide suitable adequate alternative accommodation
for all of affected residents of al-Sudan Street eviction as part of their
right to reparations;

Develop an immediate plan to develop al-Sudan Street area in
partnership with its current inhabitants, improving facilities and basic
services and involving citizens in the urban development process, consistent
with General Comment No. 4 of the CESCR.

Pursue prosecution and accountability of the public servants in
all spheres of government, as well as any private actors responsible for
ordering or executing the Sudan Street eviction of 25 August 2015.

that the officials of both the central and regional spheres of government
address residents’ concerns and provide the necessary information on all public
and private development plans, operations and maintenance consistent with their
human rights to information, participation and adequate housing.

Please support this appeal by sending your own letter in support of these
demands to the following addresses. You can use the sample letter and addresses
listed below.

We would appreciate your notifying the Egyptian
Center for Civil and Legislative Reform of your solidarity action with an email
copy to:

* Click here to download this Urgent Action with the sample letter below.

1] ISDF, “Executive position to develop shacks at al-Sudan Street Duqqi District, Giza Governorate” [Arabic],25 November 2013, at:http://www.isdf.gov.eg/4Coulmns/03Current/Pro_Cur/Pro_39.htm#sthash.LnKpxMOo.dpuf.

[2] Mustafa al-Sayyid, “Video...Leila Alexander: Allocation of 6 million pounds to the Giza Governorate for the people of al-Sudan shacks” [Arabic],al-Yawm al-Sabi`(29 August 2015), at: http://www.videoyoum7.com/2015/08/29/%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%81%D9%8A%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%88-%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%A5%D8%B3%D9%83%D9%86%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%B5%D9%8A%D8%B5-6-%D9%85%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%AC%D9%86%D9%8A/.

[3] See UN Commission on Human Rights which “Affirms that the practice of forced eviction constitutes a gross violation of human rights, in particular the right to adequate housing” and “Urges Governments to undertake immediate measures, at all levels, aimed at eliminating the practice of forced eviction” in resolution 1993/77, “Forced evictions,” operative paras. 1 and 2, at: http://www.hlrn.org/img/documents/ECN4199377%20en.pdf.

[4] “Arab Declaration on Sustainable Development for Human Settlements” (Rabat Declaration), 30 September 1995, especially General Principles and Goals 7 and 8, and Commitment 10, at: http://www.hlrn.org/img/documents/rabat%20declaration%20en.pdf; “Manama Declaration on Cities and Human Settlements in the New Millennium,” 18 October 2000, para. 10b, at: http://www.hlrn.org/img/documents/manama%20declaration.pdf.

[5] CESCR, “Concluding Observations: Egypt,” E/C.12/1/Add.44, 12 May 2000, paras. 23, 31 32 and 37, at: http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=E%2FC.12%2F1%2FAdd.4&Lang=en.

[6] CESCR, “Concluding observations on the combined second, third and fourth periodic report of Egypt,” E/C.12/EGY/CO/2-4, 29 November 2013, para. 20, at: http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=E/C.12/EGY/CO/2-4&Lang=En.

[7] See Istanbul Declaration, para. 4, at: https://habitat3.unteamworks.org/file/497879/download/542320; The Habitat Agenda, paras. 8; 11; 38; 40(l); 61(c)(iv), 61 (d); 115; 119(k) and 204(y), at: https://habitat3.unteamworks.org/file/497880/download/542322

[8] “Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law,” A/RES/60/147, 21 March 2006, at: http://www.hlrn.org/img/documents/A_RES_60_147%20remedy%20reparation%20en.pdf.