Thursday, 3 June 2010

Law School Clinic’s Petition Brings Relief to Puerto Rican Community

Along with the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Puerto Rico, the International Human Rights Law Clinic at American University Washington College of Law filed a Petition for Precautionary Measures before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (“IACHR”) on behalf of residents of Villas del Sol, a community in Puerto Rico. This video, prepared by the law students and the school’s media personnel, describes the residents’ plight (English translation).

Finding that the community was on a flood plain, the local government had ordered the residents to vacate. Electric and water service had ceased. Three weeks from the scheduled eviction date, the government had not publicly identified the relocation site. Alleging violations of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man and asserting the risk of further physical harm, increased mental suffering, and possible forced eviction, and relying on some 40 affidavits collected by the law students over a single weekend, the residents petitioned the IACHR on April 28, 2010 to order the United States government immediately to take measures to:

• restore the provision of water and electricity services,
• prevent further police violence,
• end police interference in emergency medical situations,
• halt the process of forced evictions,
• ensure that the relocation process of community members be peaceful—without threat to community members' lives or homes, and
• ensure that the relocation of community members be to an area where they will have access to water and electrical services and to dwellings that are safe and inhabitable and in an area free of unreasonable police surveillance or interference.

The petition was covered widely in the media and within 24 hours, water services were restored to the community. The parties are now working toward further peaceful resolution of the matter.

Posted by
Robin Wright Westbrook
IBA Pro bono and Access to Justice Committee

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