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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 December 2007, 09:54 GMT
Housing rights 'violators' named
By Imogen Foulkes
BBC News, Geneva

Chinese men sit next to a building demolished to make way for a development for the 2008 Beijing Olympics (4 December 2007)
The COHRE said 13,000 people a month were being evicted in Beijing
The Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions has announced its annual Housing Rights Violator Awards.

The organisation, which fights forced evictions worldwide, gives the awards to countries that have committed the most serious and systematic violations.

This year's awards went to China, Burma and a member of the EU, Slovakia, for its alleged discrimination against the minority Roma, or Gypsy, community.

Nigeria, the Philippines and Greece were the recipients of the 2006 awards.

The COHRE promotes the clause in the United Nations' 1948 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.

Roma slums

The Chinese capital, Beijing, and the city's Olympics organising committee were singled out by the COHRE because of what it described as an "abysmal disregard" for the basic human right to housing during the preparations for next year's Games.

Despite courageous protests inside China, and condemnation by many international human rights organisations, the Beijing municipality and Beijing Organising Committee of the Olympic Games have persisted with these evictions and displacements
Jean du Plessis,
COHRE deputy director

An estimated 1.25 million people have been forced to move to make way for the Games in a bid by China to transform its capital into a showcase metropolis, the centre said.

Sharing the award with China is Burma, which the COHRE claims has evicted over a million people from their homes since 1962 in persistent and systematic violations of the right to housing.

Worst-affected have been ethnic minorities, the centre says, who have had their lands confiscated by the military regime.

The COHRE also criticised one of the new EU member states, Slovakia, where about 120,000 members of the Roma community live in slums, lacking basics such as water and electricity.

The centre said Slovakia's Roma faced persistent discrimination and lived in conditions that constituted a grave human rights violation.

The situation was made all the more disturbing, it claimed, because Slovakia had received substantial financial aid from the EU aimed at improving housing standards and ending discrimination against the minority group.

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