Fourth Geneva Convention, August 12, 1949, Article 33 on “Individual responsibility, collective penalties, pillage, reprisals” prohibits collective punishment as a war crime:
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.
Pillage is prohibited.
Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.
Typically, United States officials are very cautious about throwing around technical terms, including those mentioned above, that could trigger legal consequences. Vice President Joe Biden tends not to be so careful:
Vice President Joe Biden called on Israel to stop the demolition of homes of terrorists’ families, which he described as “collective punishment.” Biden also criticized expansion of Jewish settlements “in the West Bank and East Jerusalem” and called on the government to do more to stop “vigilante justice” attacks against Palestinians.
Biden was speaking at a noon plenary on Saturday at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum being held at the Willard Hotel in Washington DC. His speech ignored the upcoming elections, focusing instead on America’s bedrock support for Israel and the “tactical disagreements” that “should be honestly discussed between friends.”
I wonder how fast he will be forced to apologize for making an accurate remark about an ally once again.