It seems rather strange -- and unfortunate for a city trying to bolster its image nationally and internationally -- that the United Nations has to jump into the fray regarding the city's push to shutoff water for residents who have failed to pay their bills.
Steve Pardo of the Detroit News reports that United Nations experts said Wednesday that the cutoffs of thousands of customers by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department may violate international human rights.
The News reports that t the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a press release from Geneva citing three experts.
“Disconnection of water services because of failure to pay due to lack of means constitutes a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights,” said Catarina de Albuquerque, identified as an expert on the human right to water and sanitation.
“Disconnections due to non-payment are only permissible if it can be shown that the resident is able to pay but is not paying. In other words, when there is genuine inability to pay, human rights simply forbids disconnections.”
The News reports that the UN based its statements on the assumption that the city was targeting low-income residents. A city spokesman said that wasn't true, that it was just trying to collect on delinquent bills. -- Allan Lengel