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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: May 2011

5 - Restitution Mechanisms and Institutional Frameworks


Many countries have engaged in processes designed to restore land, housing, and property to displaced persons, refugees, and others who were arbitrarily deprived of their homes, lands, and properties because of conflict. Other countries have dealt effectively with sometimes large-scale restitution claims procedures and have concluded – often very successfully – a comprehensive restitution process. Still others are presently considering proposals designed to allow restitution processes to proceed. Restitution processes are often complex, time-consuming exercises that address inherently controversial and politically charged issues. Care must be taken to manage the expectations of potential claimants and ensure that the restitution process is transparent and clear. The temporal and spatial boundaries of the restitution process, for example, must be clarified, justified, and explained to the population. There is no single blueprint for success, and each country must identify its own way forward while learning from international precedents and respecting national and international laws. However, if the State (generally in conjunction with international organizations) can provide the necessary combination of impartiality, political commitment, and financial support, the pay-offs can be very significant. The legitimacy of the State in the eyes of its citizens, as well as the international community, can be much enhanced, while the resolution of potentially explosive grievances over HLP rights contributes to a more stable and peaceful political and economic legacy.

Additional Resources
,Amnesty International (1996) Report: Rwanda and Burundi, the Return Home: Rumours and Realities, London: Amnesty International.
Bruce, John (2007) Drawing a Line under the Crisis: Reconciling Returnee Land Access and Security in Post-Conflict Rwanda, Humanitarian Practice Network Working Paper, June 2007.
Budlender, G. (2000) “Restitution for Housing and Property Rights: Some Lessons from the South-African ExperienceRefugee Survey Quarterly 19, no. 3.
Garlick, Madeline (2000) “Protection for Property Rights: A Partial Solution? The Commission for Real Property Claims of Displaced Persons and Refugees (CRPC) in Bosnia and HerzegovinaRefugee Survey Quarterly 19, no. 3
Gazmere, R. and Dilip, B. (2000) “Bhutanese Refugees: Rights to Nationality, Return and PropertyForced Migration Review 7.
Hanchinamani, B. (2000) “The Impact of Mozambique's Land Tenure Policy on Refugees and Internally Displaced PersonsHuman Rights Brief 7, no. 2.
Jones, Lisa (2003) “Giving and Taking Away: The Difference between Theory and Practice Regarding Property in Rwanda” in Leckie, Scott (ed.), Returning Home: Housing and Property Restitution Rights of Refugees and Displaced Person, New York: Transnational Publishers.
Nucci, Domenico (2004) “Study on Arbitration, Mediation and Conciliation of Land and Property Disputes,” Land and Property Study in Sudan, Project OSRO/SUD/409/HCR.
Palmer, Robin (2003) “Struggling to Secure and Defend the Land Rights of the Poor in AfricaJournal für Entwicklungspolitik (Austrian Journal of Development Studies), XIX, no. 1: 6–21.
,Permanent Court of Arbitration (2006) Redressing Injustices Through Mass Claims Processes, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Williams, Rhodri (2005) “Post-Conflict Property Restitution and Refugee Return in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Implications for International Standard-Setting and PracticeNYU Journal of International Law and Politics 37, no. 3 (Spring).