Detroit Water Shutoffs

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) and the ACLU of Michigan have asked the United Nations to investigate the Detroit water shutoff to poor residents as a broad violation of rights, according to a letter sent Thursday to representatives of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

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The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the ACLU of Michigan are asking the council to refer the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department shutoff campaign to federal and local governments for investigations in to violations of the Constitution, the Fair Housing Act, as well as basic civil and human rights, according to a statement from the LDF.

The letter comes after a federal judge ruled last month that he lacked authority to issue a restraining order against ending service to delinquent water customers, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“Absent any meaningful action from the City of Detroit or the State of Michigan, it is perfectly appropriate for the United Nations to investigate the human rights implications of the water shut-off campaign,” Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the LDF, said in the statement. “It is unconscionable that so many Detroit residents are living without water, a basic human right.”

U.N. representatives Catarina de Albuquerque and Leilani Farha are scheduled to arrive in Detroit this weekend. They will participate in a town hall meeting Oct. 19th, 4-6:30 p.m., at the downtown campus of Wayne County Community College, 1001 W. Fort St., Detroit. Doors will open at 3 p.m. for the meetings that are open to the press and general public, the statement says.

“We certainly welcome the special rapporteurs and United Nations’ probe in to this municipal mess, and we appreciate their willingness to look deeper in to what should have been a wholly avoidable situation for Detroit,” Kary Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan, said in the statement. “It’s unfortunate that, in the Great Lakes State, we need a visit from an international body to remind us of our most fundamental obligation to our citizens. Water is life. It is utterly preposterous to claim to value the lives of Detroit’s poorest residents and then turn around and argue that it is reasonable to deny them water.”

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