The Prohibition of Collective Punishment
Forthcoming in The Geneva Conventions in Context; A Commentary, edited by Andrew Clapham, Paola Gaeta and Marco Sassòli (Oxford University Press, 2015)
26 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2014
Date Written: August 19, 2014
International humanitarian law prohibits wartime collective punishment, with rules contained in many of the regime’s major treaties outlawing the practice. The main provision protecting civilians from collective punishment is Article 33 of Geneva Convention IV, which expressly prohibits collective penalties and states that ‘[n]o protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed’. Nonetheless, invading and occupying armies and other parties to armed conflicts have resorted to collective punishment as a means of suppressing resistance, maintaining order, and subjugating local populations. The historical record shows numerous examples of collective penalties being imposed in response to individual acts, most notably during the two World Wars and in the context of colonial insurgencies This chapter examines the meaning and application of the prohibition of collective punishment, its relevance in non-international armed conflicts and the consequences of its violation.
Keywords: Collective punishment, 1949 Geneva Conventions, prisoners of war, civilians, reprisals, armed conflict
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