Tag Archives: Iraq

Guest blogger Peter van der Auweraert on Iraq restitution

It’s a pleasure to announce an upcoming guest posting by Peter van der Auweraert of the IOM Reparations Programmes. As discussed in postings from last Friday and Sunday, Peter is an expert on property issues in Iraq and has worked closely with the Iraq Commission for Resolution of Real Property Disputes (CRRPD), the body responsible for addressing pre-2003 restitution claims. Peter will be focusing on an issue he raised in response to Friday’s post, namely the significance of amendments to the CRRPD’s organic law that were passed just before last weekend’s parliamentary elections.

As an administrative aside, I gather that some of you may have been put off from commenting on earlier posts by the formalities apparently involved. As I understand it, the first time anyone comments, the text is put in a queue to await my personal approval. Once you have passed my rigorous inspection (no split infinitives, please) for the first time, all your subsequent comments will apparently be posted without any such rigamarole.

More to come on property issues in post-election Iraq

Just a quick update on Sunday evening, at which time it appears that sporadic but significant violence in Iraq was shrugged off, with high turnout throughout the country. Following up on my last post, I should refer readers to an interesting comment in response by Peter van der Auweraert, who pointed out that the law on pre-2003 restitution was amended just before the election – and apparently not in an entirely constructive manner.

For more background, it is worth reading an excellent report on property issues in Iraq by Peter together with Debbie Isser at USIP. And for those who can’t resist the lure of legal prose, the laws leading up to the amendments Peter references include the original regulations by the Coalition Provisional Authority (numbers 4, 8 and 12) as well as the 2006 Iraqi law which continued the process begun under the prior CPA regs while amending their terms considerably. It is the latter law which was apparently recently amended.

Iraq’s next Parliament to inherit unresolved displacement and housing crises

by Rhodri C. Williams

Parliamentary polls in Iraq have gotten off to a bloody start and pre-election controversies over attempts to bar former Baathists from running – as well as ongoing tensions along the boundary with the Kurdish region in the north – do not bode well for stability in the post-election period. However, in its latest overview of internal displacement in Iraq, IDMC issued a timely reminder yesterday that the human consequences of earlier rounds of violence remain unresolved.

For starters, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis remained displaced within Iraq and in neighboring countries as a result of the sectarian violence that exploded after the 2006 bombing of the Al-Askari shrine in Samarra, and one of the main obstacles to durable solutions remains occupation of their homes:

There are significant numbers of unresolved property issues for pre- and post-2006 IDPs. The current extent of secondary displacement is not known, though an estimated 15 per cent of returned IDPs and 56 per cent of repatriated refugees were in 2009 reportedly unable to access their property (UNHCR, December 2009). In September 2008, MoDM reported that almost 3,500 properties were illegally occupied, including houses, flats, other buildings and land, though anecdotal evidence suggests higher rates of secondary occupation. Nearly 36 per cent of IDPs report their property has been destroyed or damaged and 18 per cent that it is being occupied illegally by militias, local residents or other IDPs; many fear harassment should they attempt to reclaim property (UNHCR, December 2009).

Meanwhile, the background to this displacement crisis is a housing crisis of monumental proportions, with some 1.3 million housing units – or just under one-third more than the current nationwide total of 2.8 million – needed in order to meet demand. The NY Times recently reported on the effects of the shortfall in housing, a daily round of “bathroom crises” that loom larger in the lives of many ordinary Iraqis than lustration of Baathists or distribution of oil revenues:

Beneath the grand issues hanging over Iraq, like the coming national elections or the continuing violence, the day-to-day lives of most Iraqis turn on more quotidian concerns: the lack of electricity; the pervasive corruption; and a housing shortage that forces two, three, even four families to live under the same roof.

Finally, an ongoing process of returning property wrongfully confiscated by the Baathist regime before 2003 is likely to constitute a headache not only for the next round of Parliamentarians but the next…and the next…and the next. A statement by Peter van der Auweraert of IOM at a conference on Iraqi displacement last November indicated that even this fairly well-established restitution program will take two decades to complete at current rates of processing.

As Mr. van der Auweraert and other observers have noted, relatively simple reforms could drastically speed both the pre-2003 and post-2006 restitution processes. Moreover, implementation of a National Housing Plan currently under development with input from UN HABITAT could both facilitate restitution in the short term and put paid to the thousands of bathroom crises over the longer view. A pretty tall order for a new Parliament, but a crucial one.