Enforceability of the United Nations Guiding Principles
on Internally Displaced Persons in the Philippines
By Bernard Velo Tumaru
The United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (UNGPID) is a non-binding body of principles presented by the Representative of the SecretaryGeneral on Internally Displaced Persons to the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) at its fifty-fourth Session in 1998, and is recognized as an important international framework for the protection of internally displaced persons. 1 The principles are intended to give guidance to
(a) The Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons in carrying out his mandate; (b) States when faced with the phenomenon of internal displacement; (c) All other authorities, groups and persons in their relations with internally displaced persons; and (d) Intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations when addressing internal displacement.2
The UNGPID is “not a binding instrument that could be ratified by States.” 3 There are no state-parties to speak of and a state cannot be held accountable to the any international body for non-compliance with its principles. This instrument, however, derives it compulsory force primarily on the basis that the embodied principles reflect and “are consistent with international human rights law and international humanitarian law.”4 To the extent, therefore, “that States have ratified the human rights and humanitarian instruments upon which the Guiding Principles are based, they are bound by the corresponding principles. States also can opt, as some have done, to make them binding by incorporating them into their domestic law.”5 The Philippines, however, has yet to incorporate the principles in UNGPID into its own municipal laws. An attempt at such legislation was made through Senate Bill No. 3317 and House Bill No. 5627 or the “Rights of Internally Displaced Persons Act of
See Internal Displacement, Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, http://www.law.georgetown.edu/idp/english/id_faq.html (accessed on March 27, 2014). 2 United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, Introduction: Scope and Purpose Par. 3. 3 Supra note 1.
2013" which was, however, vetoed by President Benigno Aquino III on May 29, 2013 preventing its passage into law.6
II. RIGHTS UNDER UNGPID
UNGPID restate in explicit terms the rights of IDPs that are implicit in the more general guarantees of existing international human rights and humanitarian law relevant to the internally displaced. The Principles identify rights and guarantees relevant to the protection of persons from forced displacement and to their protection and assistance during displacement as well as during return or resettlement and reintegration.7
Arbitrary displacement is prohibited according to the Guiding Principles (Principles 5-7). Once persons have been displaced, they retain a broad range of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights, including the right to basic humanitarian assistance (such as food, medicine, shelter), the right to be protected from physical violence, the right to education, freedom of movement and residence, political rights such as the right to participate in public affairs and the right to participate in economic activities (Principles 10-23). Displaced persons also have the right to assistance from competent authorities in voluntary, dignified and safe return, resettlement or local integration, including help in recovering lost property and possessions. When restitution is not possible, the Guiding Principles call for compensation or just reparation (Principles 28-30).8
The UNGPID “principles reflect and are consistent with international human rights law and international humanitarian law and to a large extent thus codify and make explicit guarantees protecting internally displaced persons that are inherent in these bodies of law.”9 In other words,...
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