Civil rights groups from East Asian nations participated in a regional session of the International Tribunal on Eviction yesterday as part of efforts to encourage international dialogue and raise awareness of housing rights.
About 100 people gathered for a presentation of eight forced displacement cases before a panel of five jurors at the former site of Taipei’s Huaguang Community (華光社區) — which was demolished in 2013 in controversial circumstances — with tents for different groups erected across the plot.
The tribunal is an opinion court organized by campaigners which seeks to raise awareness of housing rights, with yesterday’s jurors including Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Frida Tsai (蔡培慧) and Taoyuan District Court judge Sun Kian-Ti (孫建智), along with three jurors from international rights groups.
Jurors asked questions and made suggestions to the campaigners representing cases ranging from Hong Kong’s rooftop tenants to Bangkok’s Pom Mahakan community case to Taiwan’s land development plans connected with a proposed expansion of Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.
“We express our solidarity with people who have lost their houses and might lose them in the future. We are here to give them a voice, not to talk on their behalf, but to have them talk about themselves,” said Soha Ben Slama, one of the international jurors and the Tunisian coordinator for the International Alliance of Inhabitants, a social movement network.
“Even though the tribunal does not have any legal effect, it can help people see the seriousness of the problem, because these kind of cases do not just occur domestically,” Sun said, adding that local judges have often avoided using international treaties, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which was passed by the Legislative Yuan in 2009.
“These kinds of event help us see that violations of housing rights are everywhere and are more serious than we imagine. This is an international human rights issue and we all can do something to address it,” Sun said.
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