IVth Geneva Convention (Israel and the -)

a) Alongside all the European countries, Israel is also a signatory to the Geneva Convention of 12 August 1948 on the protection of civilian populations in time of war.

b) Israel, occupying power, reject the applicability of the Convention to the territories it occupies (it « administers » these territories according to its own terminilogy). The whole international community contests this situation, including the United States (UN, General Assembly Resolution 31/106 B of 16 December 197 and Security Council resolution 607 (1988), both uninanimously adopted).

c) Israël is violating several articles of the Convention, in particular:

  • Art. 47 (refusing the applicability of the Convention to those territories Israel says it « annexed », East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, or « administers », the West Bank and the Gaza Strip)
  • Art. 49 (practising deportation which is prohibited on any grounds, and by allowing settlements which is prohibited as it involves the transfer of people from the occupying country to the occupied territory)
  • Art. 50 (closing down educationnal institutions over extended period of time)
  • Art. 53 (destroying houses, shelters and crops)
  • Art. 76 (holding occupied territory prisonners in detention in Israel)

d) Article 1 of the Convention lays down, on an exceptional basis, that « The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all cicumstances ». The issue of the juridical status of the occupied Palestinian territories, and of the related conventions, has become considerably more complex since the launch of the Oslo Process and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in certain parts of the Gaza Stripand the West Bank (excludire East Jerusalem). The Palestinian Authority bhaving the jurisdiction in local security matters and in policing 18% of the West Bank and 80% of the Gaza Strip, everyone believes that Israel is henceforward no longer responsible for these areas according to the Convention. However, and this fact is confirmed by the preambles of the redeloyment agreements- Israel remains ultimately responsible for the autonomous areas, in as much as Israel is still considered to be the power of ALL territories.

In February 1999, the UN General Assembly called for a conference to be held in July 1999 to ensure that the IVth Geneva Convention is respected in the Israeli Occupied Territories, particularly the Convention’s ban on settlements. The resolution calling for this conference was adopted by 115 votes (of which all 15 European Union countries) to 2 (Israel and the USA) with 5 abstentions.

The conference, officially called « Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the 4th Geneva Convention on Measures to Enforce the Convention in the Occupied Territories, including Jerusalem », was held on 15 July 1999 at the Geneva UN HQ.

Despite an intense campaign of pressure against it, the Conference was convened on time but, taking into consideration the new political situation created by the election of Mr. Ehud Barak as Prime Minister in Israël, it was short, without debate and with a limited outcome.

Attended by the majority of States High Contracting Parties, the conference adjourned adopting a Statement reaffirming « the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem » and reiterating « the need for full respect for the provisions of the said Convention in that Territory ».

Australia, Canada, Israel and the USA did not participate in the Conference.

See also:

IVth Geneva Convention (essential articles)