The 50th Anniversary Of the Geneva Conventions

Published: 
11 Aug 1999

Tomorrow, the 12th of August, marks the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Geneva Conventions and Protocols. These instruments provide the basis for humanitarian law and establish, in part, rules to protect civilians of occupied territories and ensure their proper treatment. Israel ratified these conventions and protocols in 1951.

Israel has continuously evaded its responsibility to implement the Fourth Geneva Convention, the convention that deals most comprehensively with the obligations of an occupying power toward civilians in occupied territory. Israel argues that the occupied territory was not under another nation's sovereign control, which it contends is a prerequisite to application of the Convention. Israel's position is disputed universally, even by Israel's close friend the United States. The International Committee of the Red Cross, the organization charged with overseeing implementation of the Convention, also opposes Israel's position.

Since 1967, Israel has systematically violated significant provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. These violations have been directed against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including the territory of east Jerusalem annexed into Israel, and civilians in southern Lebanon.

The Israeli violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention include, in part, the following:

  • Systematic torture, in violation of articles 27, 31, 32, and 147.
  • Collective punishment, like demolition and sealing of houses and restrictions on movement, in violation of articles 33 and 53.
  • Prolonged closures that lead, for example, to loss of income from employment, without providing alternative sources of income for the residents, in violation of article 39.
  • Massive establishment of settlements of Israeli citizens in the occupied territory, in violation of articles 49 and 53.
  • Detention and imprisonment of residents of the occupied territory in prison facilities located within Israel, in violation of article 76.
  • Administrative detention of thousands of Palestinians for prolonged periods, grossly exceeding the provisions of article 78, in violation of article 49.
  • Revocation of residency rights in the occupied territory comprising East Jerusalem, in violation of article 47.
  • Expropriation and exploitation of the natural resources existing in the occupied territory to meet the needs of the occupying power, in violation of article 55.

B'Tselem cautions against further attempts by Israel and the Palestinian Authority to use provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention as bargaining chips during the peace process. According to the Convention, neither Israel nor the PA, as representative of the local, protected population, has any right to agree to any act that is not in full compliance with the Convention. Neither Israel nor the PA has any right to sacrifice human rights in the name of achieving peace.

On its part, B'Tselem will continue its fight to ensure strict compliance with all the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and protect human rights in the Occupied Territories.