Israel/Palestine: Authorities must end collective punishment of Palestinians

The Israeli authorities must immediately stop all actions amounting to the war crime of collective punishment of the Palestinian people and ensure effective accountability for such actions, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said today.

يمكنكم قراءة وتحميل البيان باللغة العربية عبر هذا الرابط

On 26 January 2023, Israeli forces conducted a military raid into the Jenin refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank, killing ten Palestinians, including a 61-year-old woman and two children, and injuring at least 20 people. Since the beginning of 2023, at least 41 Palestinians, including five children have been killed, either by Israeli military and security forces or Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank. Israeli forces have frequently used unlawful lethal force against Palestinians in the Palestinian Occupied Territory (OPT).

A day after the military raid, a Palestinian gunman shot dead seven Israeli civilian settlers, including a child, and injured three others, in an Israeli settlement in occupied East Jerusalem. The ICJ deplores this act of unlawful killing.

The Israeli authorities responded to the attack with a series of collective punishment measures, including sealing the home of the shooter’s family, in a preliminary step ahead of the expected demolition of the building, and detained a number of his family members and acquaintances.

House and property demolitions are part of a long-standing Israeli policy that imposes measures of collective punishment against the families of Palestinians — dead or alive — suspected or convicted of serious crimes. Collective punishment measures have also included the arbitrary revocation of residency and citizenship rights, arbitrary detention, and forcible transfer and deportation of Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).

“Collective punishment and forcible transfer of protected persons from an occupied territory are war crimes that should be investigated and prosecuted by Israeli authorities, not condoned and supported at the highest levels of the government.” said Saïd Benarbia, the ICJ’s MENA Programme Director.

Under international human rights law, the principle of personal culpability, according to which punishment is personal and cannot be extended to any person other than the defender, prohibits non-individual punishment.

Similarly, measures of collective punishment against protected persons for offences they did not personally commit are absolutely prohibited under international humanitarian law, including under Article 33(1) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which provides: “[c]ollective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”

The imposition of a collective punishment is a war crime under international criminal law.

International humanitarian law also absolutely prohibits the forcible deportation and transfer of protected persons within or outside the occupied territory, regardless of their purpose, which is listed as a grave breach of the Geneva Convention and a war crime in international criminal law instruments.

Israel, as the Occupying Power, has an obligation to respect and ensure the human rights of all inhabitants of the OPT. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Volker Türk, has urged Israel to ensure that “all operations of its security forces in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are carried out with full respect for international human rights law.”

Other UN human rights experts have previously called on Israel to stop all actions amounting to collective punishment of the Palestinian people.

The ICJ calls on Israel to immediately end its policies of collective punishment and unlawful and excessive use of force, and abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law.

“States must act, individually and collectively, to ensure that the lives of those living in the occupied territory are protected and their rights are preserved,” Benarbia said. “Impunity is only widening the cycle of violence and suffering in the OPT and Israel.”



Said Benarbia, Director, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41-22-979-3817; e: said.benarbia(a)

Tamara Aburamadan, Legal Researcher, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, e: tamara.aburamadan(a)


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