Documents of International Law

(reference for sessions 6 and 7)

This is what the Lord says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.” Isaiah 56:1Preparation for Sessions 6 & 7, Violations of International Law and The Impact Of These Violations on Palestinian LivesNow that you have become familiar with the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, our next two lessons will explore not only the moral but also the legal standards that are relevant to the conflict. Knowing the international laws will guide us in better understanding the conflict and will make clear why we as Christians and U.S. citizens must become involved and do all within our power to see that justice and peace come to both Palestinians and Israelis. Before next week’s class, carefully read this abbreviated list of international laws that are applicable to the conflict. While the list may appear rather “dry” reading, do know that it will become more meaningful as we learn about the true experiences of Palestinians living under military occupation.



The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948, and the Fourth Geneva Convention on Rules of War (“Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War”),adopted August 12, 1949 by the international community, are human rights laws responding to the Nazi atrocities during World War II. The U.S. signed the Convention in 1949 and ratified it in 1955. Israel ratified the Convention in 1951.

The Fourth Geneva Convention is a binding instrument of international law, applicable worldwide. The International Committee of the Red Cross/ Red Crescent (ICRC) has a legal mandate from the international community with respect to the Geneva Conventions. That mandate has two sources:

  • the Fourth Geneva Convention, which tasks the ICRC with visiting prisoners, organizing relief operations, re-uniting separated families and similar humanitarian activities during armed conflicts;
  • the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, which encourage it to undertake similar work in situations of internal violence, where the Geneva Conventions do not apply.

[Drawn from pp.334–338 of Alex Awad’s Palestinian Memories (2008) listing of documents.]


Article 13: (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.  Example Violation: Restriction of movement.

Article 17: No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.  Example Violation: Destruction of property.


Paragraph 11: Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property.


Article 27: Protected persons . . . shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence. Protected persons shall be treated with the same consideration by the Party to the conflict in whose power they are, without any adverse distinction based, in particular, on race, religion or political opinion.  Example Violation: Discrimination of Palestinians.

Article 31: No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons, in particular to obtain information from them or from third parties.  Example Violation: Torture, beatings and abuse, etc.

Article 33: No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.  Example Violation: House demolition as punishment.

Article 47: Protected who are in (the) occupied territory shall not be deprived, in any case or in any manner whatsoever, of the benefits of the present Convention by any change introduced, as the result of the occupation of a territory, into the institutions or government of the said terrirory.

Article 49: Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive . . . The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.  Example Violation: Deportation.

Article 50: The Occupying Power shall, with the cooperation of the national and local authorities, facilitate the proper working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of children.

Article 53: Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the state, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited.  Example Violation: Demolition of houses.

Article 56: To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining . . . the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory . . . Medical personnel of all categories shall be allowed to carry out their duties.

Article 58: The Occupying Power shall permit ministers of religion to give spiritual assistance to the members of their religious communities.

Article 71: Accused persons who are prosecuted by the Occupying Power shall be promptly informed in writing, in a language which they understand, of the particulars of the charges preferred against them, and shall be brought to trial as rapidly as possible.  Example Violation: Administrative detention.

Article 146: High Contracting Parties undertake to enact any legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions for persons committing, or ordering to be committed, any of the grave breaches of the present Convention as defined in the following Article.

Article 147: Grave breaches . . . shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the present Convention: willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile Power, or willfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in the present Convention, taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.  Example Violation: Land expropriation and settlements.

Article 148: No High Contracting Party shall be allowed to absolve itself or any other High Contracting Party of any liability incurred by itself or by another High Contracting Party in respect of breaches referred to in the preceding Article.

Both Israel and the U.S. are High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention.



Article 12: 1) Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence. 2) Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.  Example Violation: The Separation Barrier.

Article 19: Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, or (in) print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.



Article 1: 1) All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of this right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. 2) All Peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic cooperation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.  Example Violation: Economic hardship and worker issues.

Article 6: The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right to work, which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right.  Example Violation: Economic hardship and worker issues.

Article 12: The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
Example Violation: The Separation Barrier.

Article 13: The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to education. They agree that education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedom.  Example Violation: The Separation Barrier.



The law prohibits countries from exploiting their watercourses in ways detrimental to the water supply of other countries. It gives guidelines on how water should be shared between countries.