Once a States become an occupying power, several fundamental rules should be respected in the treatment of prisoners, civilians and their properties. The main rules of occupation are summarised below.
- Civilians shall be treated as protected persons (article 4 IVGC and article 47 IVGC). They are entitled to respect for their person, their honour, their family rights, religious convictions, and traditions. They shall be treated humanely and never be discriminated against (article 27 IVGC).
Read more about protected persons
To ICRC and Article 4
To ICRC and Article 27
To ICRC and Article 47
- Forcible transfers and deportations of civilians into the territory of the occupying power or any other country are prohibited. Nevertheless, civilians may be evacuated from a given area if the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand. Civilians who have been evacuated shall be transferred back to their homes as soon as hostilities in the area have stopped (article 49 IVGC).
To ICRC and Article 49
- The occupying power shall not deport or transfer members of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies (article 49 IVGC). This means that settlements are prohibited. The occupying power cannot confiscate land in the occupied territory for the sole purpose of establishing settlements for its nationals. The occupying power also has the responsibility to preserve and maintain the demographic and social configuration of the occupied territory, which may entail restricting even voluntary migrations.
- The occupying power may not force protected persons to serve in its armed forces; moreover, pressure or propaganda aimed at securing voluntary recruitment is prohibited (article 51 IVGC).
To ICRC and Article 51
- Protected persons may only be instructed to perform such work as is necessary to meet the needs of the occupation army, or to provide public utility services, or for the feeding, sheltering, clothing, transportation, or health of the population in the occupied territory. No one under the age of 18 may be instructed to perform work (article 51 IVGC).
- Penal law shall remain in function within the occupied territory, unless those laws threaten the safety of the occupying power’s forces or collide with the international law of occupation. The occupying power may issue new penal laws, however, they must be issued in the language of the occupied state and may not be retroactive in effect (article 64 IVGC).
To ICRC and Article 64
- Collective punishment is prohibited (article 50 of the Hague Regulations of 1907). The Fourth Geneva Convention clearly prohibits the occupying power from punishing a group for the actions of individuals if the group members are not jointly responsible. No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed, and “collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.” (article 33 IVGC).
To ICRC and Article 50
To ICRC and Article 33
- Taking of hostages is prohibited (article 34 IVGC).
To Article 34
- Detention - “If the occupying power considers it necessary, for imperative reasons of security, to take safety measures concerning protected persons, it may at the most, subject them to assigned residence or to internment.” (article 78 IVGC).
To ICRC and Article 78
- Civilian internees are protected in a similar way to prisoners of war (POW). The internees should be treated humanely, fundamental judicial guarantees, such as not guilty until proven guilty in fair trial, and by a competent court, right to know the reason for the detention, right to a legal counsel (article 32 IVGC, article 43 IVGC, article 72 IVGC, article 76 IVGC).
To ICRC and Article 32
To ICRC and Article 43
To ICRC and Article 72
To ICRC and Article 76
- The fundamental judicial guarantees are stated in article 75 of the First Additional Protocol (IAP), which reflects international customary law. They are also found in various human rights treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
To ICRC and Article 75
To the UN and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Qalandia Checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem, November 2004. Photo: Kate O'Rourke