United States of America
Practice Relating to Rule 103. Collective Punishments
The US Field Manual (1956) reproduces Article 87 of the 1949 Geneva Convention III, Article 33 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV and Article 50 of the 1907 Hague Regulations.
The US Air Force Pamphlet (1976) prohibits collective punishment imposed on prisoners of war for individual acts.
The Pamphlet refers to Article 33 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV and states that “collective penalties (punishment of a protected person for offences which he has not personally committed)” are prohibited.
The US Naval Handbook (1995) states: “Prisoners of war may not be subjected to collective punishment.” The same provision applies to interned persons.
The US Naval Handbook (2007) states: “Prisoners of war may not be subjected to collective punishment.”
The Handbook also states that “interned persons must … not be subjected to … collective punishment.”
In the Calley case
in 1973, a US army officer was convicted of murder for killing South Vietnamese civilians. The US Army Court of Military Review dismissed the argument that the acts were lawful reprisals for illegal acts of the enemy and held: “Slaughtering many for the presumed delicts of a few is not a lawful response to the delicts … Reprisal by summary execution of the helpless is forbidden in the laws of land warfare.”
In 1987, the Deputy Legal Adviser of the US Department of State affirmed:
We support the principle that [all persons who are in the power of a party to a conflict and who do not benefit from more favorable treatment under the Conventions] not be subjected to … collective punishments.
In 1992, in its final report to Congress on the conduct of the Gulf War, the US Department of Defense stated:
Iraqi policy provided for the collective punishment of the family of any individual who served in or was suspected of assisting the Kuwaiti resistance. This punishment routinely took the form of destruction of the family home and execution of all family members. Collective punishment is prohibited expressly by Article 33 [of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV].
According to the Report on US Practice, “Articles 4, 5 and 6 [of the 1977 Additional Protocol II] reflect general US policy on treatment of persons in the power of an adverse party in armed conflicts governed by common Article 3” of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. The report also notes: “It is the opinio juris
of the US that persons detained in connection with an internal armed conflict are entitled to humane treatment as specified in Articles 4, 5 and 6 [of the 1977 Additional Protocol II].”