Legal and Historical Legitimacy
The right of return is a principle in international law which guarantees everyone's right of voluntary return to their country of origin or of citizenship. A right of return based on nationality, citizenship or ancestry may be enshrined in a country's constitution or law.
The right is formulated in several modern treaties and conventions, most notably in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1948 Fourth Geneva Convention. The Geneva Conventions, it has been argued, have passed into customary international law and that the right of return is binding on non-signatories to the conventions.
The right of return is often invoked by representatives of refugee groups to assert that they have a right to return to the country from which they were displaced.
There are various recorded cases in ancient history where people who had been deported or uprooted from their city or homeland were allowed (or encouraged) to return, typically when the balance of military and political forces which caused their exile had changed.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), article 13 states the following:
- Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.
- Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) article 12(4) states the following: “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country”.
The Fourth Geneva Convention, article 49 states that: “Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive”.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, article 5d(ii) states that individuals have the right to “leave any country, including one's own, and to return to one's country”.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 194 (III), resolving that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”
The UN resolution urged to apply the right to return as a basic and essential right in international law. It emphasized the need to allow the willing refugees to return to their homes. The choice is to be made by the refugee. Nobody can decide on his/her behalf or deny this right. It is a hostile act to use force to prevent a refugee from returning to his/her home.
The resolution also calls for the return of the Palestinian refugees in the earliest possible opportunity, which means at the end of the fight in 1948, when the truce was signed firstly with Egypt in February 1949 and then with Lebanon, and at last with Syria in 1949.
Israel’s continuous violation of the right of return is a violation of international law itself, which makes Israel liable to compensate the refugees for the psychological and physical loss and damage and their right of the rent of their property all the previous time.