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Author Topic: Refugees and Rights
Babbler # 4670

posted 29 May 2004 06:27 AM      Profile for salaam     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Its been months since I last visited babble. I'm amazed how some here find time to post every day. I wish I had more time to contribute here.

I'm starting this thread in response to qustions and comments in rabble features and other places concerning the right of return. I'm not discussing a specific rabble feature and this issue concerns people all over the world not just in the middle east. So I started this thread in the international peace forum. Apologies to the moderators if I'm mistaken.

The plight of Palestinian refugees was ignored by much of the world for decades out fear and ignorance. Many hoped and many still hope that if we wait only a few more decades refugees will somehow eventually disappear and make life simpler for the rest of the world. After three generations of being denied their humanity, the refugees' demands for justice have only gotten louder.

We hear a lot of talk about the right of retun coming from polititians concerned mainly with business privilege and power. Here I want to discuss the issue from a human rights perspective.

This article from MADRE, "an international women's human rights organization", is the most comprehensive backgrounder on the the right of return I have found on the web.

A MADRE Backgrounder
By Yifat Susskind

October 2000

Internationally, few people are aware that the majority of Palestinians killed and wounded in clashes with Israeli soldiers are refugees. Most are young people born and raised in the over-crowded, poverty-stricken refugee camps strewn throughout the West Bank and Gaza. With little else but their bodies to use as political collateral, this community comprises the frontlines of the clashes now raging throughout the Occupied Territories.

This MADRE backgrounder on the condition of Palestinian refugees was written in September 2000, before the confrontations that began on September 28 of last year. Prospects for resolution of the conflict, explored in Section V., are clearly preempted by the current crisis. Yet today's violence underscores the fact that any political settlement that negates Palestinian human rights, including the right of return, will not be viable. We hope that this backgrounder helps to contextualize the current crisis and to strengthen the international community's commitment to Palestinian refugee rights.

[ 29 May 2004: Message edited by: salaam ]

The right of return is not an exclusively Palestinian right. It is a human right which we all excercize and take for granted. Whenever we leave our homes or go abroad to work, study or visit friends we expect to be able to return to our homes, and our personal possesions and bank accounts to remain in our name. All people regardless of their culture or where they come from should expect that.

Amnesty Interational's policy statement explains in detail what the right of return means in international law.

Based on the concept of equality of all human beings, international law ensures that the rights of one person do not violate the rights of others. International law also provides the basic principles apon which the right of return should be implemented.

8. Amnesty International supports the return of exiles to their own homes or the vicinity of their own homes, where this is feasible. The rights of innocent third parties who may be living in the homes or on the lands of the exiles, should also be taken into account. Exiles who choose not to return are entitled to compensation for lost property; those returning should also be compensated for lost property.

9. Amnesty International recognizes that the resolution of protracted conflicts involving the displacement of populations may require durable solutions alternative to the exercise of the right to return, such as integration into the host country and resettlement in a third country. However, the decision to exercise the right to return or to avail themselves of alternative solutions must be the free and informed decision of the individuals concerned. The right to return is an individual human right, and as such should not be used as a bargaining chip by any of the parties involved in negotiating a settlement.

10. Amnesty International has supported the right to return of people from countries in all regions of the world, including Bhutan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, East Timor, El Salvador, Guatemala, Kosovo, and Rwanda.

Human Rights Watch's policy is similar. Their site also has direct links to relevant legal documents and explainations of some of the terms they use.

Concerning Palestinian refugee rights in particular, BADIL is an excellent resource of information and analysis.

Concerning the refugees' property, their is very detailed documentation of what each refugee actually owns and where it is located.Michael R. Fischbach's "Records of Dispossession" reviews the data and provides analysis.

The 20th century is full of examples of how resolving ethnic conflicts and injustices involves compensation, restitution, and/or reparation to the victims of such events. During the past decade alone, the world has seen the heirs of Holocaust victims obtain their loved ones’ long-lost bank accounts and insurance claims, just as the Dayton Accords provided for property restitution for persons made refugees by the Bosnian war. Yet the refugee exodus that has received more global attention than any other in the past 50 years the Palestinians has not seen such action taken on behalf of the victims.

This is not for lack of evidence: Ironically, the Palestinian case is the one with the most thorough records of lost property of any refugee exodus anywhere in the world. These records have lain behind locked doors at the UN secretariat archives in New York for 40 years. To date, however, they have not been utilized the for purpose for which they were created: resolving Palestinian refugees’ property claims.

[ 29 May 2004: Message edited by: salaam ]

From: exile | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 5965

posted 03 June 2004 04:05 PM      Profile for Saffron     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
WHERE'S THE PEACE MOVEMENT.....WE NEED THEM NOW! We've got to get moving everyone.....shouldn't we be doing something to stop Stephen Harper. He can dance around the issue all he wants....(and the media's letting him)......but if he had been Prime Minister a year ago we would have our sons and daughter at the front lines in Iraq right now. And if Bush somehow gets a second term (heaven forbid)...the next time he decides to invade a 'so-called' terrorist country, Harper will be shipping our kids off! I say let's start the protests now!
From: Nanaimo B.C. | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 6073

posted 12 June 2004 12:41 AM      Profile for bars     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Sallam my friend it is time for the palestinian refugees to settle down someplace. Nowhere else in the history of the world has one people been bandied about so by its supposed friends. Call it bad advise or just plain foolishness but they have been sold a bill of goods by the arab league and have bought into hating thier jewish brother palestinians. Peace has been available for generations now and we are all waiting for you poor put upon folk to follow through with a signal that you are ready to really settle. Most refugees settle within a generation or two, we are waiting for you. Truely
From: toronto canada | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Publically Displayed Name
Babbler # 5642

posted 12 June 2004 11:13 AM      Profile for Publically Displayed Name        Edit/Delete Post

I ahve acouple of questions, one about refugees and right to return in general, one about Palestinian refugees specifically. I hope someone might be able to answer.

1. Is a refugee's right to return inheritable? In other words, is it supposed to apply to children who were born (and are therefore presumably entitled to citizenship) in the country of refuge, not the country of the parent refugee's origin?

2. This has always confused me: why are there still refugee camps in Palestine (i.e. the Palestinian territories/not Israel)? Is there a policy of the occupation which prevents those areas from just becoming regular towns, or is there some other reason?


From: Canada | Registered: May 2004  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 6073

posted 13 June 2004 01:50 AM      Profile for bars     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Hi PDN, Just a quick look at the UN resolutions starting in 1948 will reveal language(English) that is designed to encourage reconciliation and peace.
UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948

Article 11 states:
"Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;

"Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations;"

The full text of the Resolution is here.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 December 1948

Article 13(2) states:
"Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country".

Article 17(2) states:
"No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property."

The full text of the UDoHR is here.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966

Article 12(4) states:
"No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country."

The full text of the ICCPR is here. As of 8 January 2002, 147 States are parties to the ICCPR, including Israel and all the surrounding Arab States.

The Human Rights Committee, the authoritative U.N. body for interpreting the ICCPR has made "General Comment No. 27" on this article. It states in paragraph 19:

"The right of a person to enter his or her own country recognizes the special relationship of a person to that country. The right has various facets. It implies the right to remain in one's own country. It includes not only the right to return after having left one's own country; it may also entitle a person to come to the country for the first time if he or she was born outside the country (for example, if that country is the person's State of nationality). The right to return is of the utmost importance for refugees seeking voluntary repatriation. It also implies prohibition of enforced population transfers or mass expulsions to other countries."

The full text of this General Comment is available here.

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1965

Article 5 states:
"[...]States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights: [...]
(d)(ii) The right to leave any country, including one's own, and to return to one's country;"

This is typical of the doctrines advocated at the creation of the state of Israel by the UN and relating directly to the settlement of all claims resulting from this creation. The sad facts of the matter point to missed opportunities to settle these claims due to the one central problem of the entire affair; historically the Arab states refusal to make peace with the state of Israel.

From: toronto canada | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 4670

posted 17 July 2005 07:17 AM      Profile for salaam     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I started this a long time ago, and didn't notice anyone posted in this thread.
I'm bumping this in the hope more people interested in supporting international peace/justice will read it. I hope it remains on topic: refugees from a human rights perspective, not a political opinion thread about who's fault it is.
Concerning PDN's questions, sorry for the late reply:
Is a refugee's right to return inheritable?

The AI page I linked to in the opening post explains how rights extend to decendents. bars also provided the relevant text.

why are there still refugee camps in Palestine (i.e. the Palestinian territories/not Israel)?

Palestinian refugees are still refugees because they are unable to exercise their basic human right to return to their homes of origin.

As far as I know roughly a third of the population in the west bank are refugees, while in Gaza, refugees make up about two thirds of the population. Possibly a third of those refugees still live in refugee camps.
When the camps were first created, they were impromotu shelters, as it was expected that the refugees would return once fighting ended. Gradually these were replaced with cheap housing, and self-made semi-permanent structures. Refugee camps today have developed into slums and many are about as developed as surrounding "regular" poor towns.
Many refugees who had relatives in towns and villages not occupied in 1948 were able to move there, others were lucky enough to find work outside camps to start new lives. But the economic and political restrictions on the remaining refugees have kept them stuck in the camps. Almost all refugees left their possesions in their original homes and had to rebuild there lives again in extreme poverty. But poverty has kept many of them and their children stuck in the camps, dependent on aid and charity to stay alive.

[ 17 July 2005: Message edited by: salaam ]

From: exile | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 7770

posted 18 July 2005 07:09 PM      Profile for rsfarrell        Edit/Delete Post
This is typical of the doctrines advocated at the creation of the state of Israel by the UN and relating directly to the settlement of all claims resulting from this creation. The sad facts of the matter point to missed opportunities to settle these claims due to the one central problem of the entire affair; historically the Arab states refusal to make peace with the state of Israel.

The idea that the Arab states refused to make peace with Israel is a throughly discredited myth. Even if true it would have no bearing on the right of the Palestinians to return. Israel refused Arab peace feelers in part to avoid the pressure to implement refugee return; by maintaining a warlike state, they could argue extenuating circumstances. But it's nonsense, nor does the myth explain why Israel ethnically cleansed Palestine, creating the refugee problem in the first place.

The reality is that the refugee problem was created delibrately by Israel because there was ever any "Jewish majority" out of which to create a state; Zionists never had any intention of letting refugees return, which would have damaged or destroyed the post-expulsion "majority"; and policies of the Arab states were completely beside the point (but in fact, the record shows they sought peace but were repeatly rebuffed by Israel.)

From: Portland, Oregon | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 560

posted 18 July 2005 07:16 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I think the first post IS focused on Israel/Palestine in particular, and that this is the direction it's going to go and therefore I'm going to move this thread to the Middle East forum.

[ 18 July 2005: Message edited by: Michelle ]

From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged

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