Right of Return, the inalienable right of refugees

Hindering return is a war crime and an act of aggression which deserves action by the international community.

The Right to Return has a solid legal basis and is not negotiable. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 13, affirms: «Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and return to his country». Similarly, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination [Article 5 (d)(ii)], states: «State parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination on all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, color, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the right to leave any country, including one’s own, and to return to one’s country.» In the same way, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights [Article 12 (4)], states: «No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.» Also the Principle of Self Determination guarantees the right of ownership and domicile in one’s own country which was adopted by United Nations in 1947.

The Right of Return of Palestinian Refugees

Approximately 750,000 Palestinians were displaced and became refugees as a result of the 1948 war which led to the founding of Israeli regime. The UN General Assembly passed Resolution 194 (III) affirming the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and to obtain restitution and compensation. Like never before in the history of the UN, Resolution 194’s consistency with international laws and instruments was reaffirmed by the UN more than 135 times but none of these displaced persons were ever allowed to return to the homes or communities from which they were displaced and the Palestinian refugee population has continued to grow in the time since 1948. Today there are 7.54 million Palestinian refugees equivalent to about 70% of the entire Palestinian population scattered around the world and still constitute one of the largest and longest-standing unresolved refugee crises in the world.

But, if international law establishes it so, why aren’t Palestinian refugees allowed to return to their homes? Why only Palestinian refugees are excluded from the right of returning to their homeland? How many other United Nations Resolutions regarding repatriation and Right to Return of Palestinian refugees were adopted? Why Palestinian refugees are stripped of their UN-mandated Right of Return and face substantial challenges to the full enjoyment of their rights? Why is this level of legal vulnerability of the Palestinian people acceptable and these actions against humanity do not cause serious objections against who commits them?

There is no more elemental right than one’s right to his/her home and to live in his/her land. Hindering return is a war crime and an act of aggression which deserves action by the international community. The international community can therefore apply sanctions on Israel until it complies with international law.