UN adopts groundbreaking new principles on housing and property restitution


UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights recently endorsed ‘Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons’ and encouraged their application and implementation by States, intergovernmental organisations, and other relevant actors. The Principles represent the culmination of a four-year long study by the Sub-Commission, led by its Special Rapporteur Mr Paulo Sergio Pinheiro.

“Millions of refugees and displaced persons – Palestinians, Sudanese, Croatian and Kosovar Serbs, Bhutanese, Burmese and others – continue to be prevented from returning to their former homes and lands. Many countries responsible for displacing persons from their homes have adopted laws seeking to confiscate the homes, land and properties of refugees and displaced persons. The Pinheiro Principles firmly declare such laws as unlawful, and urge all States which have adopted such laws to repeal them.”

The Principles provide important guidance to all relevant actors, national and international, in addressing the legal and technical issues surrounding housing, land and property restitution in situations where displacement has led to persons being arbitrarily or unlawfully deprived of their former homes, lands, properties or places of habitual residence.

The Principles were developed in collaboration with international organisations including the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as non-governmental organisations such as the Norwegian Refugee Council and the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE).

The Principles are available at: http://www.cohre.org/hprframe.htm