Property Restitution in Post-Conflict Syria

Martin Clutterbuck

Forced Migration Review 57, February 2018, pp. 66-68


Property restitution will be challenging in any post-conflict Syria. Restitution and compensation processes will need to take into consideration: (a) the complex, pluralistic legal system governing housing, land and property (HLP) rights in Syria; (b) the widespread destruction and displacement that has taken place; (c) loss and damage to property records; (d) the high proportion of displaced persons who were living in informal settlements before the conflict began; (f) particular challenges faced by women in claiming property and inheritance rights; (g) unlawful occupation of properties by others; and (h) widespread falsification of property documents; and (i) the widespread tendency for people in Syria to have HLP documents in someone else’s name. The return of IDPs and refugees is likely to result in competing claims over land and property by original owners, secondary occupants and illegal occupants. It will be critical to adhere to the UN Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons (“Pinheiro Principles”), which provide a comprehensive set of international standards for HLP restitution, including specific ways to support women’s restitution claims. Lessons can also be learned from property restitution and reparations processes in other post-conflict situations, including the Balkans (Bosnia, Kosovo), Eastern Europe following the end of communism, Iraq and Colombia.