DAMASCUS, (SANA)-Participants in the International-Arab Forum on the Right to Return Monday underlined that the Palestinian right to return home comes in the core and essence of the Palestinian issue and a firm right to all Palestinian refugees.
"The right to return home is a natural and legitimate, single and collective right guaranteed by religions, conventions and international laws… it’s a firm and absolute right that no one or side has the right to abandon it," Damascus International Declaration on the right to return announced in a final statement, concluding two-day meetings.
The declaration showed support to the Palestinian people in their permanent assertion on commitment to their land, civilized heritage, Arab and Islamic identity and adherence to unity.
"The UN is called to revive the right to return as soon as possible… it should assume responsibly to enable UNRWA to continue supporting the refugees wherever they were," the declaration added.
Israeli occupation policies are the primary obstacle to realisation of the human right to adequate housing in the Occupied Palestinian Territory
This was the conclusion reached on 19 November 2008 following a two-day workshop presented by the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) and Al-Haq in Ramallah. The workshop included participants from both international and local organisations interested in addressing the deteriorating housing situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
The principal objective of the workshop was to bring together NGOs and other organisations or individuals working on human rights and/or housing issues, to understand the relevance of the human right to adequate housing to their work; and to develop an understanding of the standards, enforcement strategies and mechanisms that are necessary to implement this right in the context of their work.
Thousands of Palestinian houses have been demolished since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967. House demolitions are a policy tool used to maintain and expand illegal Israeli settlements, the Annexation Wall and their associated regimes. Further, house demolition is a policy employed during military operations where there are no grounds of military necessity, and as a punitive measure against individuals who are alleged to have committed a crime but who have not been tried for the alleged crime. In the latter case, it is it is usually the families of these individuals who suffer. Palestinian houses also continue to be demolished on the basis that they have been built without the necessary Israeli building permit, which is nearly impossible to obtain.
The consequences of these policies have become increasingly visible in occupied East Jerusalem. Since the Annapolis Conference was held in November 2007, Israeli occupying forces have demolished dozens of homes in East Jerusalem under the pretext of lack of building permits, while during the same period plans for thousands of additional settlement housing units have been approved.
Palestinians are slowly being expelled from Jerusalem under the eyes of the international community. These measures taken by the Israeli occupying forces constitute a sustained, systematic and flagrant breach of Israel’s obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Following an engaging two days of discussion, COHRE, Al-Haq, and the other participants decided to work toward a concerted campaign addressing the Israeli occupation policies that prevent Palestinians from enjoying their right to adequate housing, which in some cases amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture, particularly the ongoing policy of house demolition in East Jerusalem, as well as seek to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.