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GENEVA, February 2021 – UN human rights experts* today called on the United States of America to halt the planned and imminent forced evictions of 63 people who self-identify as belonging to the Nooksack indigenous tribe in northern Washington State.
Twenty-one families face eviction from their homes by the Nooksack Tribal Council, which earlier took steps to remove them from its membership. The move has been prohibited by the tribe’s courts, but their decisions have been ignored by the Council.
The families’ homes were constructed by the tribe on land owned by the US Government and with funds from the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The HUD provides the tribe annual funding for public housing at Nooksack in part pursuant to the Native American Housing and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA). The families are at various stages of acquiring ownership of their homes, and some are due to take full ownership this year.
Many are elderly, women and children – some with disabilities and chronic diseases – and have lived in their homes for over a decade. The imminent evictions will significantly impact the health of some of the vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are also concerned that the forced evictions will deny them the possibility of enjoying their own culture and of using their own language in community with others,” they said.
Evictions were due to begin on 28 December 2021 but stalled due to severe snow and ice storms in the region. However, tribal leaders have announced that the evictions will resume in early February 2022. “We appeal to the US Government to respect the right to adequate housing, which is enshrined under article 25(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 21 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and to ensure that it abides by its international obligations, including with respect to the rights of indigenous peoples,” the experts, who have been in touch with the Government already on this, said.
* *The experts: Mr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal , Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context; Francisco Cali Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.