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Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal

Abstract

Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake produced human suffering on an unimaginable scale. The disaster's aftermath-marked by widespread displacement, secondary occupation of land, and consequent forced evictions-raises critical questions of land ownership and housing rights. It also provided a testing ground for the body of restitutionary legal norms developed in the decades following the Cold War. Using the earthquake in Haiti as a lens, this article critically examines the development of the restitution model, from its inception in the Balkans conflicts of the 1990s to its current expression in the United Nation's Pinheiro Principles. While the Pinheiro Principles are positive in many regards, the Haitian displacement crisis lays bare their shortcomings. In four major ways, the assumptions underlying the restitutionary model have failed to match up with the actual human needs of displaced persons in urban Port-au-Prince and surrounding cities. This article identifies those conceptual mismatches-centered around causes of displacement, informality of land title and tenure, the role of secondary occupation, and an unsupported distinction between the deserving and undeserving displaced-and concludes with a tentative, rights-based template for improvement tailored to the specific needs of Haiti's poor.

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