Israel-Hamas war

Israel seeks recognition of Hamas sexual violence at UN meeting

Reuters

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Israel seeks recognition of Hamas sexual violence at UN meeting

FILE PHOTO: Yosi Shnaider shows a video allegedly released by Hamas, of his cousin Shiri Bibes and her children Kfir (9-months-old) and Ariel (4) who were taken hostage during a violent incursion by Hamas militants from Gaza, in Holon, Israel October 24, 2023

REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

Israeli authorities open an investigation into sexual violence during the most deadly attack on Israel in its history, including rape, after evidence emerged pointing to sexual crimes, such as victims found disrobed and mutilated

GENEVA, Switzerland – Israel held a meeting at the UN in Geneva late on Monday, November 27, to raise awareness of sexual violence against women perpetrated during Hamas’ October 7 attacks amid criticism that the global body has kept quiet about the issue.

Israeli authorities have opened an investigation into sexual violence during the most deadly attack on Israel in its history, including rape, after evidence emerged pointing to sexual crimes, such as victims found disrobed and mutilated.

Hamas denies the abuses.

The UN human rights office said it has condemned the October 7 attacks as “heinous, brutal and shocking” and that Israel has so far not granted its monitors access to the country.

The private event, attended by diplomats, rights groups and UN agencies, is the first Israel-organised event outside the country to address acts of sexual violence by Hamas, which Israel’s diplomatic mission described as “widespread”.

UN rights bodies “downplayed” and “minimised” the sexual violence, said Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, an Associate Professor at the Bar-Ilan University, who spoke at the event.

“We expected a clear and loud statement that says that there is no justification for using the bodies of women as a weapon of war. None of this came up until now,” she told Reuters on the sidelines. Asked to explain, she said: “It turns around the conventional framing of viewing Israel as the aggressor, and Palestinians as the ultimate victim.”

Halperin-Kaddari, formerly Vice-President at the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), is meeting UN Human Rights chief Volker Turk on Tuesday to convey this message, supply him with new evidence and request a strong condemnation of the attacks, she said.

A UN rights office spokesperson said Turk’s office had requested access to Israel to monitor and collect information on the October 7 attacks but had not received a response from Israel.

“The Office is attempting to carry out remote monitoring of these and other human rights violations reported in Israel and the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories). Lack of direct access to Israel and the OPT has hampered the work,” said Ravina Shamdasani in response to emailed questions.

“We have repeatedly stressed the need for rigorous investigations and accountability for all serious breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law, irrespective of the identity of the alleged perpetrators,” she added.

Evidence about sexual violence includes testimonies by first responders at the sites of the attacks as well as military reservists who tended to the bodies in the identification process. Reuters has seen photos corroborating some of those accounts.

Halperin-Kaddari said she has been given access to some evidence and testimonies by Israeli authorities in order to “raise awareness and demand condemnation and accountability”.

She described meeting a paramedic who tended to a woman after the October 7 music festival who was bleeding heavily after being raped by four attackers.

Halperin-Kaddari said she would also like to see independent bodies investigate the crimes. – Rappler.com

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