On 14 July 2020, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) coordinated a webinar with Palestinian partners with the participation of the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, Professor Michael Lynk. Titled “The Price of Impunity: How Israel Uses Collective Punishment as a Tool of Domination,” the webinar was organized in parallel to the 44th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, and attended by Member States, representatives of UN bodies, human rights organizations, civil society, and academics. During the webinar, the organizations called on Member States to take effective measures to put an end to the illegal and inhumane policy of collective punishment against the Palestinian people, and in the context of the 44th Regular Session, to deliver statements at the Human Rights Council condemning and calling for an end to Israel's use of collective punishment against the Palestinian people.
Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations, including the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC), Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, the Community Action Center (CAC) at Al-Quds University, and Al-Haq addressed aspects of Israel’s illegal policy, including the withholding of bodies, arbitrary detention, collective punishment against Palestinian prisoners, detainees, and their families, residency revocation, and punitive house demolitions. The organizations also highlighted Israel’s use of various forms of collective punishment with the intention of maintaining an apartheid regime over the Palestinian people as a whole. UN Special Rapporteur, Professor Michael Lynk, introduced his report to the Human Right Council, which was discussed on Thursday, 16 July 2020, under item 7 of the Council’s agenda. The report focuses on the illegality of collective punishment. In his presentation, Professor Lynk, warned that “like torture, there are no permissible exceptions to the use of collective punishment in law. And, like torture, the use of collective punishment flouts law and morality, dignity and justice, and stains all those who practice it.”
Nada Awad, the International Advocacy Officer at CIHRS, moderated the webinar. In her opening remarks, she explained how Israel, the Occupying Power, uses collective punishment as a tool to dominate and control the Palestinian people, while utilizing so-called “security” pretexts and rhetoric to justify its inhumane policies. While the UN Human Rights Committee has clearly stated that the prohibition of collective punishment is non-derogable even in a state of emergency, Israel consistently uses the alleged “security” rationale to escalate its punitive policies against the Palestinian people, with the aim to punish, oppress, subjugate, and forcibly transfer Palestinians.
Budour Hassan, JLAC’s Legal Researcher, presented Israel’s withholding of the bodies of deceased Palestinians as a case of collective punishment. She discussed Israel’s decades-long practice of withholding the mortal remains of deceased Palestinians, tracing the evolution of the practice, its underlying objectives, and its violations of Palestinians’ fundamental rights. She also examined the role played by Israel’s High Court of Justice in perpetuating and endorsing the withholding Palestinians’ bodies, including under the pretext of using them as so-called “bargaining chips” in potential negotiations.
Advocate Sahar Francis, the General Director of Addameer, presented Israeli policies and practices of collective punishment against Palestinian prisoners, detainees, and their families. She explained that the Israeli occupation forces have used imprisonment as a tool of oppression and control against the entire Palestinian society for more than five decades. Mass arrest campaigns, torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, bans on family visits, restrictions on education, and raids on prisoners’ sections are all used as methods of collective punishment imposed by the Israeli occupying authorities against Palestinian prisoners and their family members.
Dr. Munir Nusseibeh, CAC’s General Director, addressed the impact of collective punishment on Palestinians living in East Jerusalem under occupation and annexation since 1967. He detailed how Israel has been using the pretext of “security” to punish Palestinians in Jerusalem and advance its unlawful demographic goals by displacing Palestinian family members of persons allegedly involved in undefined breaches of the Israeli occupying authorities’ “security” regulations. Not only is collective punishment a violation of international humanitarian law, but population transfer also constitutes a war crime and crime against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. He added that the crimes described should not be met with impunity and that third States must take action to put an end to illegal collective punishment.
Rania Muhareb, Al-Haq’s Legal Researcher and Advocacy Officer, contextualized Israel’s widespread and systematic use of collective punishment within Israel’s regime of settler-colonialism and apartheid over the Palestinian people. She explained that illegal policies and practices of collective punishment are not carried out in a vacuum. Through collective punishment and other measures of subjugation and control, Israel continues to entrench its strategic fragmentation of the Palestinian people in an effort to prevent Palestinians from collectively challenging Israeli apartheid, with the ultimate goal of denying Palestinians the exercise of their inalienable rights to self-determination and return.
Professor Lynk concluded the webinar by calling on Israel, the Occupying Power, to “end all measures amounting to collective punishment, including an end to: the closure of Gaza, all restrictions on freedom of movement across the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the punitive demolitions of homes, the punitive residency revocations, the cutting of benefits, the punitive closures of towns and all delays in returning bodies for burial.” In line with the recommendations presented in his report, Professor Lynk called on the international community to “take all measures, including countermeasures and sanctions, necessary to ensure the respect by Israel of its duty under international law to end the occupation.”
Watch our joint webinars on collective punishment at the margins of the 44th Regular Human Rights Council Session:
The Price of Impunity: How Israel Uses Collective Punishment as a Tool of Domination, organised by CIHRS on 14 July 2020
Collective Punishment in Gaza: 13 Years of Illegal Closure with Impunity, organised by Al-Haq on 15 July 2020
 Palestinian civil society organizations Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, Al Mezan Center For Human Rights, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Adalah, Community Action Center – Al-Quds University, Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC), Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCPRJ), Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC), the Palestinian Counseling Center (PCC), Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC), Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO) co-sponsored this event.