Return within the Bounds of the Pinheiro Principles: The Colombian Land Restitution Experience
Washington University Global Studies Law Review, Vol. 11, 2012
79 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2012 Last revised: 17 Feb 2013
Date Written: January 24, 2012
In this Article, we argue that a successful program for land restitution and return for victims of forced displacement that obeys the Pinheiro Principles must take a comprehensive approach, i.e., one that provides support programs for returning victims through centralized administration. We find that a minimalist restitution program, i.e., one that simply provides a legal mechanism for obtaining restitution, is much less likely to succeed. In evaluating whether a program is successful, we consider whether it will adequately preserve victim choice while promoting return, whether it will provide for the fair and adequate administration of both restitution and return and whether it will enable returning victims to have more secure land tenure than when they were expelled. Along each of these dimensions of concern to returning victims, we conclude that a policy which is to succeed must provide for centralized administration of all phases of restitution and return, including extensive victim support.
Our evaluation of how public policy should implement the Pinheiro Principles is based on an analysis of the Victim’s Law in Colombia, examining its approach to land restitution for victims of the Colombian armed conflict. As background to the main argument, we consider the political, legal, and social background to land restitution in Colombia. The armed conflict in Colombia has lasted for over forty years and has left between three and five million displaced persons. Conditions in Colombia present both challenges and advantages for successful land restitution: challenges because displacement is still taking place in Colombia and advantages because the Constitutional Court has been a strong advocate for victims’ rights.
Keywords: land, restitution, transitional justice, housing, armed conflict, Colombia, Pinheiro Principles, property, Victim's Law
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