Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians illegal and an affront to justice: UN expert
17 July 2020
GENEVA (17 July 2020) – A UN human rights expert has called on Israel to immediately stop all actions amounting to collective punishment of the Palestinian people, with millions of innocent harmed daily and nothing achieved but deeper tensions and an atmosphere conducive to further violence.
"It is an affront to justice and the rule of law to see that such methods continue to be used in the 21st century and that Palestinians collectively continue to be punished for the actions of a few," said Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967. "These practices entail serious violations against Palestinians including the right to life, freedom of movement, health, adequate shelter and adequate standard of living."
In his report to the 44th session of the Human Rights Council, Lynk said Israel's strategy to control the Palestinian population violates a foundational rule of virtually every modern legal system: Only the guilty can be punished for their acts, and only after a fair process. The innocent can never be made to be punished for the deeds of others.
"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," the Special Rapporteur said.
"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," the Rapporteur said. "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's new report also criticised Israel's continued policy to punitively demolish Palestinian homes. "Since 1967, Israel has destroyed more than 2,000 Palestinian homes, designed to punish Palestinian families for acts some of their members may have committed, but they themselves did not," he said. "This practice is in clear violation of Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention."
Lynk said it was disheartening that the demolition of Palestinian homes is still viewed by the Israeli political and legal leadership, including the Israeli High Court, as a permissible deterrent. "In fact, these demolitions only further contribute to an atmosphere of hate and vengeance, as the Israeli security leadership has itself acknowledged."
Mr. Michael Lynk was designated by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016 as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the then UN Commission on Human Rights. Professor Lynk is Associate Professor of Law at Western University in London, Ontario, where he teaches labour law, constitutional law and human rights law. Before becoming an academic, he practiced labour law and refugee law for a decade in Ottawa and Toronto. He also worked for the United Nations on human rights and refugee issues in Jerusalem.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.