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Restitution of property rights and compensation for Iraqi IDPs

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Iraq has experienced a massive wave of displacement over the last four years that has caused an intricate housing, land and property situation. During the recent conflict, many Iraqi citizens have had their property rights violated, such as having lost possession of their property or have had their property damaged or destroyed by different actors. Approximately 5.8 million Iraqis were forced to abandon their homes and leave their areas of origin as a consequence of fear of violence, lack of freedom of movement, lack of access to basic services. In conflict affected areas, unlawful seizure, sale, systematic looting, and destruction of properties were highly common, and are consequently unable to return to their areas of origin or rebuild their homes and lives at the present day.

As a result, many IDPs cannot yet return to their area of origin, are not able to re-establish their lives, or do not have the financial resources to rebuild their homes. Enjoying tenure security and access to housing is a human right and humanitarian and governmental actors have a responsibility in ensuring that the rights of people are restored and respected.

Purpose of the Compensation Guidelines

These guidelines have been drafted to support HLP partners who are working on compensation in Iraq. The guidelines are based on Iraqi Law 20 of 2009 and Law 57 of 2015 in relation to the compensation of all Iraqi citizens affected by damages caused by war operations, military accidental mistakes and terrorist actions in Iraq.

It should be noted that the below guidelines will focus on people who have property/ownership rights and no other types of HLP rights.

Restitution of Property Rights and Compensation in the international law

Damaged and destroyed properties are a major hindering factor for IDPs in returning to their areas of origin. Thus, in order to facilitate the return of displaced households, assistance and support should be provided in relation to compensation for damaged housing and right to return.

Refugees and internally displaced persons have the right to return freely to their homes and places of habitual residence and the refugees and IDPs have 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.

States shall demonstrably prioritize the right to restitution as the preferred remedy for displacement and as a key element of restorative justice. The right to restitution exists as a distinct right and is prejudiced neither by the actual return nor non-return of refugees and displaced persons entitled to housing, land and property restitution.

Compensation/restitution for damaged properties is a right for affected households under both national law and international principles. As such, affected household have a right to access to government HLP services, such as compensation and restitution schemes, without any discrimination or prejudice related to ethnicity, religion, gender or tribe.

HLP rights are inalienable, indispensable, non-negotiable, equal, and non-discriminatory in terms of origin, ethnicity, religion, status or tribe, or gender.

The right of households affected by military operations or terrorist acts to file for compensation for their damaged/ destroyed is articulated in various international conventions, including the United Nations Commission on Human Rights adoption of the “Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law “(E / CN.4 / RES / 2005/35). The guidelines were endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006 (A / RES / 60/147, 21 March 2006), with additional protocols in 1977. Additionally, the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation was adopted on 16 December 2005, along with the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (“Guiding Principles”) and (2) the Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons (Pinheiro Principles).

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