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Housing Rights Report Targets Russia, US and Sudan


The Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions says Sudan, Russia, and the United States are the biggest housing rights violators in 2004. Lisa Schlein reports from Geneva.

Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions Executive Director Scott Leckie targets the United States, Sudan, and Russia this year as three countries who have large numbers of homeless people or people living in inadequate housing.

The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions is an international human-rights organization founded 10 years ago to gather information on the condition of homelessness and displaced persons. They consult with the Economic and Social Council of the U.N. to uphold the 1948 U.N. Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which states that all people have the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, including housing.

Every year, the group selects three countries to highlight different housing rights issues around the world.

In Sudan, Mr. Leckie says the Janjaweed's campaign of ethnic cleansing against black Africans has displaced one-point-six-million people from their homes.

"One point we are trying to make with Sudan is simply that all of the people who are suffering ethnic cleansing are basically first assaulted through the process of forced eviction," he said. "So, it is actually through a process of violating peoples' housing and human rights that the ethnic cleansing process can begin."

He points out that nearly two million people were displaced by the war in southern Sudan. After decades of war, he says, these people still are living in camps or in temporary shelters in and around the capital, Khartoum.

Mr. Leckie says Russia has forced 100,000 Chechens living in camps in the neighboring state of Ingushetia to return to the homes they fled in Chechnya. He says the capital city of Grozny, to which they have been sent back to, is largely in ruins and most of the returnees have no adequate housing and no basic services.

Even though federal, state and local governments in the United States fund programs to provide housing and shelter, Mr. Leckie says that according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors more than 3.5 million people in the United States are homeless.

In addition, he says a U.S. National Coalition for the Homeless survey has found that in nearly 50 U.S. states, homeless people are arrested for such offenses as sleeping on the street.

But Mr. Leckie points out that the overall picture of homelessness in the United States is positive. Most people are adequately housed and home-owners have seen the value of their homes increase enormously over the years. But he says, the federal government needs to look closer at the millions living on city streets or in homeless shelters.