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UN Study: govts violate tsunami survivors' rights

Study showing governments violate human rights of tsunami survivors released at UN

Governments are violating the human rights of their own citizens as tsunami survivors endure discrimination, inadequate housing and assaults one year after the tragedy swept through Southeast Asia, a study released today at United Nations Headquarters in New York says.

The report shows government officials squandered the opportunity to protect women, children and other vulnerable citizens as relief and recovery operations took hold, an independent expert mandated by the Commission on Human Rights told a press briefing.

“Ninety per cent of the people are still living in sub-standard housing,” said Miloon Kothari, the Commission’s Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, an unpaid expert who serves in an independent personal capacity, referring to the 1.8 million to 2.5 million people displaced when the tsunami hit on 26 December 2004.

He said many people still did not have access to basic services such as water and sanitation. Women, especially widows and single women, have been left out of the recovery process and their physical safety has been compromised as incidents of domestic violence increase, he added.

Mr. Kothari wrote a forward to the 64-page report, titled “Tsunami Response: A Human Rights Assessment,” that will be sent to the Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Envoy for Tsunami-affected Countries, former United States President Bill Clinton, today.

The report was prepared by three international aid groups: ActionAid International, Johannesburg; PDHRE, People’s Movement for Human Rights Learning, New York City; and Habitat International Coalition, New Delhi.

The report found that governments in some areas have created so-called buffer zones to stop people from rebuilding along the coast on the pretext of safety. This action jeopardized the livelihoods of people who relied on the sea for their livelihood even as commercial groups, such as a tourist resort in Andhra Pradesh in India, were given access to the land, the report says.

Among its 10 recommendations, the report calls for the UN system to play a larger role in monitoring human rights compliance and for the international community, including global institutions providing financing to the devastated areas, to integrate human rights into their humanitarian donor policies.

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