The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law

« Calling things by the wrong name adds to the affliction of the world. » Albert Camus.

Collective Punishment

International humanitarian law posits that no person may be punished for acts that he or she did not commit. It ensures that the collective punishment of a group of persons for a crime committed by an individual is also forbidden, whether in the case of prisoners of war or of any other individuals (GCIII Art. 87, API Art. 75.2.d, APII Art. 4.2.b). This is one of the fundamental guarantees established by the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Additional Protocols. This guarantee is applicable not only to protected persons but to all individuals, no matter what their status or to what category of persons they belong, as defined by the Geneva Conventions (GCIV Art. 33).

Collective punishment is prohibited, based on the fact that criminal responsibility can be attributed only to individuals. Respect for this principle can be ensured solely by establishing guarantees that protect judicial procedures. This principle must also be monitored in the context of disciplinary sanctions procedures.

Judicial guaranteesPrisoners of warProtected personsResponsibilityReprisals

For Additional Information: Darcy, Shane. “Punitive House Demolitions, the Prohibition of Collective Punishment, and the Supreme Court of Israel.” Penn State International Law Review 21, no. 3 (2003): 477–507.

Jeschek, Hans-Heinrich. “Collective Punishment.” In Encyclopedia of Public International Law , edited by R. Bernhardt, 3:103–4. Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1982.

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