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UN asks Pakistan to stop construction infringing on human rights

[JURIST] United Nations [official website] rights experts on Monday asked [UN report] Pakistani officials to stop construction work on a new metro line in Lahore, Pakistan due to concern that it has led to numerous people being forcibly evicted and that it has resulted in damage to historical and cultural heritage sites. Leilani Farha [official profile], UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, and Karima Bennoune [official profile], UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, stated, "The Pakistani authorities must take all necessary steps to secure the right to an adequate standard of living including housing and cultural rights as defined in international human rights laws and standards recognized by the country." Part of the problem is also the lack of information provided regarding the plans for construction. Without this knowledge, the UN experts are calling for, at minimum, a halt until more information is provided as to why there are not alternative routes or means of construction that will help prevent forced evictions without compensation, largely against people who do not have the means to find alternative housing, and the destruction of cultural areas.

The rights of indigenous people are of major concern in many parts of the world. In November 2015 UN human rights experts were also expressing concern [press release] about the situation faced by the indigenous people of Honduras due to construction projects that had been approved by the government of Honduras without prior consultation with the indigenous people, which have led to grave human rights violations including killings, assassinations of specific tribe members, threats and intimidation [JURIST report]. According to a report [text, PDF] released by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] in November 2015, armed conflict in Colombia has caused members of indigenous communities and peasant farmers to lose their lands [JURIST report], and these communities have been unable to reclaim the lands taken from them because of corporate mining interests in the area that are being actively protected by paramilitaries which actively carry out human rights violations inclusive of murder. In October 2013 a UN rights expert expressed similar concern [JURIST report] for aboriginal people in Canada, finding that despite the general wealth of Canada's citizens as a whole, one in five indigenous people live in poverty, and concluding that the country faced a "crisis" at that time. In August 2013 then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged [JURIST report] states to honor treaties with indigenous peoples, regardless of how long ago they were signed, as such treaties serve to protect human rights. In December 2010 US President Barack Obama [official profile] announced [JURIST report] that the US would support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People [text, PDF].

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