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2007 | Antoine Christian Buyse; Post-Conflict Housing Restitution The European Human Rights Perspective with a Case Study on Bosnia and Herzegovina, PhD Thesis, Leiden University

This PhD thesis asks the question: How can the right to housing and property restitution for refugees and other displaced persons be secured more effectively in European post-conflict situations? Answering this question may contribute to the development of a universal standard approach to the issue of housing and property restitution, which the UN special rapporteur on this topic has called for. Additionally, it helps to draw attention to the often under-emphasized civil justice element of transitions to peace, as opposed to the criminal justice elements.

Housing and property restitution seems to have at least the potential to make a positive contribution to peace. It serves as a legal tool to solve destabilising refugee problems and it may help to cure at least one and maybe two of the three characteristics of war-torn societies: institutional weaknesses and, to a lesser extent, economic and social problems. Restitution is a contribution to substantive justice and may strengthen structural justice. It is a common aspect of reparation processes in post-conflict societies. If considered as a human rights issue, it can be said to be part of the robust notion of the rule of law. In this way, it helps to shift away from negative peace (mere absence of violence) to positive peace. As to its role in helping solve social and economic problems, it may be more modest: it can help solve conflicts over land and property and may decrease resentment as a source of conflict. You can read the book version here.