Section C. Assessment visits prior to return
Quadripartite Agreement on Georgian Refugees and IDPs
In paragraph 10 of the 1994 Quadripartite Agreement on Georgian Refugees and IDPs, the parties agreed that “representatives of refugees and displaced persons will be provided with facilities to visit the areas of return and to see for themselves arrangements made for their return”.
Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement
Principle 28(1) of the 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement stipulates:
Competent authorities have the primary duty and responsibility to establish conditions, as well as provide the means, which allow internally displaced persons to return voluntarily, in safety and with dignity, to their homes or places of habitual residence, or to resettle voluntarily in another part of the country. Such authorities shall endeavour to facilitate the reintegration of returned or resettled internally displaced persons.
Peru’s Regulations to the Law on Internal Displacement (2005) states:
The initial stage [of returning or resettling internally displaced persons] … refers to the phase before the transfer [of internally displaced persons] in which the following actions are carried out:
3. Evaluation of the return or resettlement zone with the participation of representatives of internally displaced persons, which includes the definition of actions, conditions and requirements necessary to facilitate the process of integration and reconciliation and to prevent possible conflicts.
In 2005, in its Seventh Human Rights Policy Report, Germany’s Federal Government reported to the Bundestag (Lower House of Parliament):
With the 1998 guidelines on the handling of crises related to internally displaced persons (“Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement”) by the then Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Francis Deng, the international community has a practice-oriented document, which summarizes existing standards on the protection of internally displaced persons and gives further recommendations. Although these guiding principles are not a binding instrument under international law, their acceptance by States, international organizations and NGOs has continued to grow over the past years, so that now they are virtually regarded as customary international law.
UNHCR Executive Committee
In 1980, in a Conclusion on Voluntary Repatriation, the UNHCR Executive Committee recognized that “visits by individual refugees or refugee representatives to their country of origin to inform themselves of the situation there … could also be of assistance” in facilitating the decision of repatriation.
In September 1992, in a report concerning the former Yugoslavia, the UN Secretary-General reported “an encouraging development … involving daytime visits by refugees from one side of the Sector to the other to start work on the rehabilitation of their houses”.
In a further report in November, the Secretary-General noted that a “programme for displaced persons to visit their villages and former homes has been accelerated with the cooperation of the two sets of local authorities”.
In 1996, in a report concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina, the UN Secretary-General reported that attempts by UNHCR to gain permission to organize visits by displaced persons to their homes in “non-majority areas” had largely been refused by the authorities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska “on grounds of lack of security guarantees or clear instructions from the leadership concerned. In other instances, visits by one ethnic group are conditioned on the other ethnic group being able to visit their own homes on the other side.”
UN Commission on Human Rights (Special Rapporteur)
In 1996, in a special periodic report on minorities in the context of the former Yugoslavia, the Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights noted that groups of villagers were able to visit their homes in Montenegro with a view to returning there. Requests for a similar programme in Serbia had not been answered.
UN Secretary-General (Special Representative)
In 1997, in a report on his visit to Mozambique, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons reported that:
Return was normally initiated once information on the security situation in the home area had been received and initial preparations had been made for resettlement. Often, one or two family members would travel to the area of origin and assess the situation while the rest of the family remained in the area of flight.
Peace Implementation Conference for Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Chairman’s Conclusions of the Florence Peace Implementation Conference for Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1996 called for “co-operation by the parties under UNHCR guidelines for visits by refugees and displaced persons to their localities (‘assessment visits’)”.