A framework for resolving displacement in Myanmar: the United Nations "Pinheiro Principles" on housing and property restitution for refugees and displaced persons

A framework for resolving displacement in Myanmar: the United Nations "Pinheiro Principles" on housing and property restitution for refugees and displaced persons

Housing, land and property (HLP) restitution rights are essential elements to peace and reconciliation efforts aiming to fairly and sustainably overcoming situations of forced displacement. The international endorsement in 2005 of the “Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons” by the United Nations now commonly known as the ‘Pinheiro Principles’, are a consolidated global minimum standard on the HLP restitution rights of refugees and displaced persons.

The  Pinheiro  Principles  are  an  authoritative  and  comprehensive  statement  of  the  specific  restitution  rights of refugees and displaced persons as well as the obligations of governments and other controlling authorities towards populations seeking to return to and reclaim their original homes and lands. They augment the international legal and normative framework by consolidating into one framework existing human rights and legal standards on resolving displacement through the process of restitution.
The Pinheiro Principles lay out a consolidated set of international legal principles designed to ensure
that  refugees  and  displaced  persons  have,  in  the  terminology  of  Pinheiro  Principle  2.1  “the  right  to  have restored to them any housing, land and/or property of which they were arbitrarily or unlawfully deprived, or to be compensated for any housing, land and/or property that is factually impossible to restore as determined by an independent, impartial tribunal”. Such rights do not yet comprehensively exist  within  Myanmar  law,  nor  have  they  been  reflected  adequately  in  the  ongoing  peace  process  between the government and its ethnic armed group negotiating partners, and the Pinheiro Principles can provide a useful guide for addressing restitution issues within these contexts.

Housing,  land  and  property  (HLP)  restitution  rights  for  refugees  and  displaced  persons  are  firmly  grounded within the core principles of many fields of international law. As a legal concept restitution has been treated as a central (and often preferred) remedy for violations of legal obligations within many jurisdictions for more than a century.

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