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The Geneva Conventions are the most important treaties to establish international legal standards for humanitarian treatment in war.
Collective punishment upon innocent people is not allowed in the Geneva Conventions. The Geneva Conventions are four treaties, and three additional protocols. The singular term Geneva Convention usually denotes the agreements of 1949, negotiated in the aftermath of the Second World War (1939–1945), which updated the terms of the two 1929 treaties and added two new conventions.
The Geneva Convention specifically states, "Persons taking no active part in the hostilities...shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria."
Here is the Complete Text of Article 3 of the Geneva Convention Written in 1949
"In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions: (1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; (b) taking of hostages; (c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment; (d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples. (2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for. An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict."
"The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention."
"The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict."
Read the 1949 Geneva Convention Here
Our Note on Sanctions
Therefore, as we see from the text above, the murder of innocent people by sanctions is explicitly condemned.
We are not against all sanctions. Sometimes there are good reasons to use sanctions. However, it is important to understand that sanctions have frequently led to war throughout history. They can result in mass starvation and deprivation of medical supplies from civilians. They often kill more people than some wars. Sanctions are a type of collective punishment. They should be used sparingly. They are not the magic solution to everything. They also pose a threat to the world economy as they can interrupt supply chains.
Failure to Follow Geneva Convention
UN: Catastrophic failure as civilians ravaged by war violations 70 years after Geneva Conventions (Amnesty International, 5-22-19)
A Definition of Collective Punishment
"Collective punishment is a punishment or sanction imposed on a group for acts allegedly perpetrated by a member of that group, which could be an ethnic or political group, or just the family, friends and neighbors of the perpetrator. Because individuals who are not responsible for the wrong acts are targeted, collective punishment is not compatible with the basic principle of individual responsibility. The punished group may often have no direct association with the perpetrator other than living in the same area and can not be assumed to exercise control over the perpetrator's actions. Collective punishment is prohibited by treaty in both international and non-international armed conflicts, more specifically Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions."
Sources For Definition Above
Garner, Bryan A., ed. (2007). Black's Law Dictionary (8th ed.). St. Paul, MN: Thomson West. p. 280. ISBN 978-0314151995. Collective punishment was outlawed in 1949 by the Geneva Convention.)
Klocker, Cornelia. Collective Punishment and Human Rights Law: Addressing Gaps in International Law. Routledge.
Other Links on Collective Punishment
Definition of Collective Punishment (Oxford Public International Law)
Regulations Related to Collective Punishment (International Humanitarian Law Database)
Collective punishments - How Does Law Protect in War? (Online Casebook)
Collective Punishments Are Prohibited in International Law (International Humanitarian Law)