GICJ press release
The Special Rapporteur Condemns Collective Punishment of the Palestinian People
By Augustine Sokimi/GICJ
Mr. Michael Lynk, speaking at a side event organised by GICJ at the UNHRC/2019/GICJ photo
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory
On 16 July 2020, at the 44th session of the Human Rights Council, Mr. S. Michael Lynk(Canada), the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 presented his report (UN Doc. A/HRC/44/60). The Special Rapporteur’s report had a focus on Israel’s use of collective punishment against the Palestinians in the occupied territories. At the interactive dialogue, he called on Israel to immediately cease all methods of collective punishment stating:
“It is an affront to justice and the rule of law to see that such methods continue to be used in the 21stcentury and that Palestinians collectively continue to be punished for the actions of a few,”
“These practices entail serious violations against Palestinians including the right to life, freedom of movement, health, adequate shelter and adequate standard of living.”
The Special Rapporteur asserts that Israel’s strategy to control the Palestinian population violates a foundational rule of all modern legal systems i.e. innocent persons must not be punished. He further drew attention to the situation in Gaza, stating:
“The extent of the devastating impact of Israel’s collective punishment policy can be most strikingly seen in its ongoing 13-year-old closure of Gaza, which now suffers from a completely collapsed economy, devastated infrastructure and a barely functioning social service system,”
“While Israel’s justification for imposing the closure on Gaza was to contain Hamas and ensure Israel’s security, the actual impact of the closure has been the destruction of Gaza’s economy, causing immeasurable suffering to its two million inhabitants,”
“Collective punishment has been clearly forbidden under international humanitarian law through Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. No exceptions are permitted.”
The Special Rapporteur criticised Israel’s continued policy of punitively demolishing Palestinian homes, highlighting that more than 2,000 Palestinian homes had been destroyed since 1967 to punish entire Palestinian families for acts of some family members. He states that this was in clear violation of article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. He further asserted that the demolitions were counterproductive as they further contribute to an atmosphere of hate and vengeance.
The Position of Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ)
GICJ welcomes the Special Rapporteur’s focus on collective punishment by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories and its prohibition under international law.
There is one aspect of the report which we wish the Special Rapporteur to further reassess in future, which states that the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court does not appear to define collective punishment as a “war crime”. We urge the Special Rapporteur to consider whether collective punishment is a “war crime” under Article 8(2)(b)(xxi) which provides for outrages committed upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment. All innocent Palestinians punished without any wrong doing on their part, is a clear assault on their personal dignity. It is humiliating as well as degrading.
GICJ further considers the continuation of the occupation and collective punishment as genocide, aimed at destroying Palestinians’ identity, way of life, and cultural heritage, which are intimately connected to their stolen land.
In his report, the Special Rapporteur also refers to the database on business enterprises operating in the occupied Palestinian territories (UN Doc. A/HRC/43/71). We are concerned with Israel’s attempt to falsely portray the database as biased. The following facts go to the heart of the database:
- Israeli occupation and settlement activities violates international law and the human rights of Palestinians;
- Certain business enterprises are assisting Israel in its illegal occupation and settlement activities and therefore, complicit in these human rights violations.
In this regard, GICJ calls on the Special Rapporteur to continue to encourage the Human Rights Council to stand firmly in support of the database.
Lastly, GICJ wishes to highlight the Special Rapporteur’s response to those who continue opposing the existence of the agenda Item 7 viewing it as disproportionately focusing on Israel. In his concluding remarks at the interactive dialogue, the Special Rapporteur stated that the agenda Item 7 concerns the human rights situation in the occupied territories and not the human rights situation in Israel. He dismissed the attacks on the agenda Item 7 as a deliberate misinterpretation to mislead from its true purpose. In this regard, GICJ calls on the Special Rapporteur to place more effort in espousing and dismissing these frivolous attacks on the agenda Item 7 resolution as it continues to be an erroneous justification for certain member states of the Human Rights Council, taking a “principled position” against the agenda Item 7 resolutions. These states must be enlightened of the unprincipled nature of their “principled position”.