Collective Punishment

No general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, shall be inflicted upon the population on account of the acts of individuals for which they cannot be regarded as jointly and severally responsible.

Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague IV); October 18, 1907, Article 50

No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Pillage is prohibited.

Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.

Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949, Part III : Status and treatment of protected persons, Section I : Provisions common to the territories of the parties to the conflict and to occupied territories, Article 33

Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.

Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949, Part III : Status and treatment of protected persons, Section III: Occupied Territories, Article 53

International law also prohibits an occupying power from imposing collective punishment on the occupied population.

Amnesty International

For fourteen years, George Qumsieh, a stonecutter, worked to build a three-story stone home in the West Bank town of Beit Sahour. In February 1981, he and his family—his wife, four daughters, and three sons—moved into their new home. Nine months later, Israeli soldiers arrived at the home to arrest their youngest son, Walid, age fifteen. The army accused Walid of having thrown stones at an Israeli military vehicle four days earlier, in which a side window was broken. No soldiers were reported to have been injured in the incident.

The following day, and before the Shin Bet (General Security Service) had completed interrogating Walid, more troops arrived at the Qumsieh home. Ariel Sharon, the newly appointed Likud defense minister had promised an "iron fist" policy against Palestinians. Members of an Israeli engineering brigade placed the explosives and blew up the Qumsieh stone house. Months later, Walid was sentenced to seven years in jail based on the confession of his friends.

Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, collective punishments are a war crime. Article 33 of the Fourth Convention states: "No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed," and "collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited." Israel, however, does not accept that the Fourth Geneva Convention or the Additional Protocols apply to the West Bank de jure, but says it abides by the humanitarian provisions without specifying what the humanitarian provisions are.

Daoud Kuttab

Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention forbids collective punishment and states that a person shall not be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. This article explicitly relates to administrative punishment imposed on persons or groups because of acts that they did not personally commit. Article 50 of the Hague Regulations states a comparable prohibition.


On Monday, August 25, early in the morning, Israeli occupation forces demolished the home of the family of Mansour Sharem in Tulkarem. The soldiers forcibly evicted 11 residents of the two-story building. Then they planted explosives in the building and detonating them from a distance. The demolition of the home of the family of Mansour Sharem, who is 'wanted' by Israel, also damaged several neighbouring buildings. Sharem was believed to be the bodyguard of Raed al-Karmi, who was assassinated by Israel in January.

Arjan El Fassed

In their declaration, the Israeli resisters said: "The price of occupation is the loss of the Israeli Defense Forces' semblance of humanity and the corruption of all of Israeli society." They reported firing at Palestinians who hadn't endangered them, stopping ambulances at checkpoints, and stripping areas clean of groves and trees necessary to people's livelihoods. Some fear their treatment of Palestinian civilians constitutes war crimes. Attacks on a civilian population as a form of collective punishment violate Article 50 of the Hague Regulations and Articles 33 and 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Marjorie Cohn

Demolition or sealing of a house is performed in accordance with a military order signed by the military commander of the region, issued pursuant to regulation 119 of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations, 1945. The regulation empowers the military commander to order the demolition or sealing of a house, and to confiscate the land on which it is built, thus prohibiting the residents of the house from rebuilding or constructing a new house where their home had been sealed. As a result, thousands of Palestinians, among them hundreds of children, are left homeless.


US Soldiers Bulldoze Farmers' Crops: Americans accused of brutal 'punishment' tactics against villagers (Independent/UK, 12 October 2003)

US soldiers driving bulldozers, with jazz blaring from loudspeakers, have uprooted ancient groves of date palms as well as orange and lemon trees in central Iraq as part of a new policy of collective punishment of farmers who do not give information about guerrillas attacking US troops.

The stumps of palm trees, some 70 years old, protrude from the brown earth scoured by the bulldozers beside the road at Dhuluaya, a small town 50 miles north of Baghdad. Local women were yesterday busily bundling together the branches of the uprooted orange and lemon trees and carrying then back to their homes for firewood.

Nusayef Jassim, one of 32 farmers who saw their fruit trees destroyed, said: "They told us that the resistance fighters hide in our farms, but this is not true. They didn't capture anything. They didn't find any weapons."

Other farmers said that US troops had told them, over a loudspeaker in Arabic, that the fruit groves were being bulldozed to punish the farmers for not informing on the resistance which is very active in this Sunni Muslim district.

"They made a sort of joke against us by playing jazz music while they were cutting down the trees," said one man. Ambushes of US troops have taken place around Dhuluaya. But Sheikh Hussein Ali Saleh al-Jabouri, a member of a delegation that went to the nearby US base to ask for compensation for the loss of the fruit trees, said American officers described what had happened as "a punishment of local people because 'you know who is in the resistance and do not tell us'." What the Israelis had done by way of collective punishment of Palestinians was now happening in Iraq, Sheikh Hussein added.

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Last modified: Mon Oct 13 14:31:27 CDT 2003