The Palestinian refugee question must be resolved by the parties based on the rule of law. Arab states meeting in Algiers this week reaffirmed that durable solutions for Palestinian refugees must be consistent with UN General Assembly Resolution 194 and international law.
The final communique of the Arab League meeting is consistent with international law and practice, which recognize the right of refugees and displaced persons to voluntarily return, repossess their properties and receive compensation for losses.
Reviewing ten recent peace agreements that involved large refugee cases, the Public International Law and Policy Group based in Washington, DC, says that peace agreements dealing with refugees and internally displaced persons should include language affirming the right to voluntary return, citizenship, identity and political participation, the right to property and respect for human rights.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ), in its 2004 advisory opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s construction of a Wall in the occupied West Bank, also affirmed these principles. The Court said that the Wall should be removed. But it also said that persons displaced by the construction of the Wall should be permitted to return to their homes of origin, their property should be restituted, and they should be compensated for damages suffered as a result of the Wall’s construction.
The international court said that states should not recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the Wall. It also said that states have an obligation to see to it that this situation is brought to an end. This means that states should facilitate the voluntary return and restitution of all persons displaced by the Wall.
The international community has advocated an agenda of reform in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories. This includes promotion of the rule of law. States should therefore apply the same legal principles elaborated by the International Court of Justice to resolution of all outstanding differences between the parties, including the search for durable solutions for Palestinian refugees.