“No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidations or of terrorism are prohibited. Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.” Article 33 of the 4th Geneva Convention.
Forms of collective punishment against all or parts of the population have included, inter alia, the imposition of curfews and sieges on entire villages or urban centers, often for prolonged periods of time, raids, home demolitions, blanket closures of schools and universities, and the destruction and confiscation of property, including agricultural and private lands and the uprooting of trees and crops.
Another form of collective punishment is the severe restriction on the freedom of movement of persons and goods within the Occupied Palestinian Territory, between the West Bank and Gaza and between the occupied territory and the outside world. Generally, all Palestinians are required to carry Israeli-issued identity cards and to obtain permits to enter East Jerusalem and to travel abroad. For the past several years, East Jerusalem has been placed off limits to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, despite the city’s economic, social and religious importance to the Palestinian population.
The occupying Power also continues to collectively punish the population by its imposition of military closures and restrictions on the movement of persons and goods, seriously compounding the hardships of Palestinian civilians. There are now more than 600 checkpoints and roadblocks throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, at which civilians are forced to wait long hours, regardless of the weather, and endure harassment and abuse by the occupying forces, who can arbitrarily deny the movement of anyone.
These restrictions continue to severely hamper, and often completely obstruct, access to jobs, schools, health care, holy places, access to sufficient food supply and clean water, travel and even separate families from each other due to the effective confinement of people in a collection of Bantustans and cantons. Ambulances also continued to be subject to long delays, with instances of persons, including newborns, dying due to lack of emergency medical care. The negative impact on the troubled economy, education system, medical system and the functioning of the Palestinian Authority has been extensive, with innumerable short and long-term consequences. Poverty and unemployment are rampant as thousands of people have lost their livelihoods and socio-economic and health and living conditions continue to deteriorate. Regrettably, efforts to ameliorate this situation through the provision of humanitarian assistance by U.N. agencies and other organizations also continued to be impeded, deepening the humanitarian crisis, since the occupying Power continues to refuse their unfettered access. In this regard, in March and April 2008, UN agencies lost more staff hours than all lost staff hours in 2007, due to Israeli restrictions at crossings and across the Wall.