Section E. Non-discrimination
Note: For practice concerning non-discrimination in general, see Rule 88.
Convention Governing Refugee Problems in Africa
Article 5 of the 1969 Convention Governing Refugee Problems in Africa provides:
Refugees who voluntarily return to their country shall in no way be penalized for having left it for any of the reasons giving rise to refugee situations. Whenever necessary, an appeal shall be made … inviting refugees to return home and giving assurance that the new circumstances prevailing in their country of origin would enable them to return without risk and to take up a normal and peaceful life without fear of being disturbed or punished.
Quadripartite Agreement on Georgian Refugees and IDPs
In paragraph 3(a) of the 1994 Quadripartite Agreement on Georgian Refugees and IDPs, the parties agreed that “displaced persons/refugees have the right to return voluntarily to their places of origin or residence irrespective of their ethnic, social or political affiliation under conditions of complete safety, freedom and dignity”.
Agreement on Refugees and Displaced Persons annexed to the Dayton Accords
Articles I and II of the 1995 Agreement on Refugees and Displaced Persons annexed to the Dayton Accords stated:
Article I: Rights of Refugees and Displaced Persons
The parties shall ensure that refugees and displaced persons are permitted to return in safety, without risk of harassment, intimidation, persecution or discrimination, particularly on account of their ethnic origin, religious belief, or political opinion.
… [T]he parties shall take immediately the following confidence building measures:
a. the repeal of domestic legislation and administrative practices with discriminatory intent or effect;
Article II: Creation of Suitable Conditions for Return
The parties shall not discriminate against returning refugees and displaced persons.
Agreement of the Joint Working Group on Operational Procedures of Return
The 1997 Agreement of the Joint Working Group on Operational Procedures of Return stated:
The government of Croatia shall provide equal access and equal treatment for safe return, reconstruction, and other mechanisms specified … for all Croatian citizens who in 1991 resided in the Croatian Danube region … or who are currently living there.
Sarajevo Declaration on Humanitarian Treatment of Displaced Persons
The 1992 Sarajevo Declaration on Humanitarian Treatment of Displaced Persons affirmed that voluntary return with full guarantees of security and non-discrimination was the basic right of the displaced.
General Peace Agreement for Mozambique
The 1992 General Peace Agreement for Mozambique provided:
Mozambican refugees and displaced persons shall not forfeit any of the rights and freedoms of other citizens for having left their original place of residence … [and] shall be registered and included in electoral rolls together with other citizens in their places of residence.
Cotonou Agreement on Liberia
Article 18(2) of the 1993 Cotonou Agreement on Liberia states:
The parties call upon Liberian refugees and displaced persons to return to Liberia and to their places of origin or habitual residence, and declare that they shall not be jeopardized in any ethnic, political, religious, regional or geographical considerations.
Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement
Principle 29(1) of the 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement provides:
Internally displaced persons who have returned to their homes or places of habitual residence or who have resettled in another part of the country shall not be discriminated against as a result of their having been displaced. They shall have the right to participate fully and equally in public affairs at all levels and have equal access to public services.
According to Colombia’s Law on Internally Displaced Persons (1997), forcibly displaced persons have the right not to be discriminated against on account of their social condition, race, religion, political opinion, place of origin or physical disability.
Peru’s Law on Internal Displacement (2004) states:
Internally displaced persons who have returned to their homes or places of habitual residence or who have resettled in another part of the country shall not be discriminated against as a result of their having been displaced. They have the right to participate fully and equally in public affairs at all levels and have equal access to public services.
Peru’s Regulations to the Law on Internal Displacement (2005) states:
Internally displaced persons who return to their places of habitual residence or who have resettled in another part of the country have a right to:
f) Be protected against … political persecution.
In 1997, in letters to the UN Secretary-General and the President of the UN Security Council, Afghanistan called upon the UN “to prepare the circumstances allowing all civilians who have been deported and forcibly displaced to return to their homes without being subjected to discrimination on the basis of gender, age or ethnic origin”.
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.
In 2011, in the National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in Sri Lanka 2011–2016, Sri Lanka’s Government stated:
Internal displacement in Sri Lanka predominately stems from man-made conflicts as well as natural disasters. With the end of the long term internal conflict the Government’s commitment towards the protection of rights of the displaced civilians has been granted the high priority.
In a table entitled “Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)”, the Government also stated:
3. Return and Resettlement
3.4 Non-discriminatory land-allocation
3.4.a Application of head of household concept discriminating against women in land allocation in displacement
Allocate land under joint ownership except in cases where original sole ownership can be established.
Establish a monitoring mechanism to ensure non-discriminatory land allocation.
UN Security Council
In 1994, in a statement by its President, the UN Security Council called upon the Government of Rwanda “to ensure that there are no reprisals against those wish[ing] to return to their homes and resume their occupation”.
UN Security Council
In 1996, in a statement by its President, the UN Security Council called upon the Government of Croatia “to stop all forms of discrimination against the Croatian Serb population in the provision of social benefits and reconstruction assistance”.
UNHCR Executive Committee
In 1980, in a Conclusion on Voluntary Repatriation, the UNHCR Executive Committee stressed the importance “of returning refugees not being penalized for having left their country of origin for reasons giving rise to refugee situations”.
In 1996, in a report on the situation of human rights in Croatia, the UN Secretary-General noted that a law adopted by the Croatian Parliament on areas of special national interest promised “various benefits, including lower taxes and the possibility of gaining ownership of property after 10 years of occupancy, to persons moving to the region”. The Secretary-General added, however, that “although the law by its terms applies equally to Serbs and Croats, the difficulties being encountered by Croatian Serbs wishing to return makes it likely that Croats rather than Serbs will be the main beneficiaries of these measures”.
UN Commission on Human Rights (Special Rapporteur)
In 1996, in a special report on minorities in the context of the former Yugoslavia, the Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights stated that an “area of concern … involves difficulties which Croatian Serbs have encountered in acquiring documents necessary to obtain social benefits”.
International Conference on Central American Refugees
The Concerted Plan of Action adopted at the International Conference on Central American Refugees in 1989 stated that returning persons should not be subject to discrimination.