Foreigners' Right to Acquire Land under International Human Rights Instruments

Author(s): Xiaojing Qin

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Published: 2020-12-02

Abstract: This article offers an assessment of treaty law on foreign land ownership in the context of international human rights agreements, which still remains relatively unexplored.  While international human rights law is very cautious as to whether foreigners’ right to acquire land within a host state should be recognized as a human right, this article suggests that the recognition of such a right is the logical development of accepting free trade and free investment as human rights. The specific protection of indigenous people, on the other hand, could be taken as an exception to foreigners’ right to acquire land. So far foreigners’ right to acquire real property is only incorporated into a small number of human rights treaties. Its linkage with human rights law, in most circumstances, is achieved through some of the existing human rights norms. The first norm is the right to property, the protection of which is of significance to the right to acquire real property. The second norm is grounded on the concept of the right to housing, the attainment of which, in many cases, relies on access to land property and the right to acquire land.