January 10, 2024 | Flash Brief

UN Experts to Investigate Allegations of Hamas Sexual Violence as Crimes Against Humanity

January 10, 2024 | Flash Brief

UN Experts to Investigate Allegations of Hamas Sexual Violence as Crimes Against Humanity

Latest Developments

Israel announced on January 10 that a United Nations (UN) expert accepted an invitation to investigate allegations of sex crimes committed by Hamas on October 7. Pramila Patten, the UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict, is expected to arrive in Israel in the coming weeks to begin her investigation.

On January 8, two UN human rights experts — Alice Jill Edwards, a special rapporteur on torture, and Morris Tidball-Binz, a special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions — called for an independent investigation into evidence that Hamas used sexual violence during its massacre in Israel. Edwards and Tidball-Binz wrote in a statement that there was a “growing body of evidence about reported sexual violence” that amounts to premeditated war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Expert Analysis

“It’s taken some UN officials more than three months to contemplate the mere possibility that crimes against humanity occurred on October 7. Meanwhile, many of their colleagues justify Hamas’s actions. Documenting what took place is important for history. Yet with a UN that fails to recognize Hamas as a terrorist organization, enables its war crimes every day, and tries to turn Jewish victims into villains, it remains unclear what the United Nations will do with this documentation once completed.” Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

“UN officials need to work more quickly and thoroughly to document reports of sexual violence by Hamas against Israeli women. These war-time atrocities are particularly horrific and destabilizing to the victims, their families, and communities. Any delayed action on the part of the UN will only undermine its role in protecting vulnerable citizens and holding accountable those who commit gender-based atrocities.” Elaine Dezenski, Senior Director and Head of FDD’s Center on Economic and Financial Power

“With the exposé of UN Women’s deputy chief’s anti-Israel conduct and the systemic bias against Israel in the UN system writ large, the jury is out on how this investigation will unfold. If it’s a truthful investigation, it will underscore that rape and sexual violence were integral parts of Hamas’s terror attack about which the terrorists boasted. If it’s honest, it should be a call to action for policymakers throughout the United States and around the globe and serve to delegitimize all those who give any legitimacy to Hamas, its enablers, or those protesting in support of Hamas’s goals.” Toby Dershowitz, Managing Director of FDD Action

Statement Recalls Atrocities

Edwards and Tidball-Binz reported that some bodies of Israeli women showed signs of mutilation, decapitation, or both. Others were burned alive in their homes or bomb shelters, and many showed signs of injuries consistent with beatings at or near the time of death. The rapporteurs also listed allegations from witnesses of sexual torture, including “rapes, gang rapes, sexual assaults, mutilations, or gunshots to genital areas. Female bodies were found with their clothing pulled up to their waists, with underpants removed or torn or stained with blood.”

A December report by The New York Times, which interviewed 150 witnesses and first responders and reviewed video footage and photographic evidence, validates the rapporteurs’ claims of widespread sexual violence. Hamas denies that its members committed sexual crimes, but captured terrorists have admitted to rape in interrogations with Israeli authorities.

UN Slow to Respond

The United States and Israel have criticized the UN, including Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN Women — an agency tasked with promoting women’s rights — for taking too long to call out Hamas’s sexual violence. Guterres first acknowledged reports of sexual violence on November 29, seven weeks after Hamas massacred more than 1,200 victims in Israel. UN Women waited until December 1 to call out Hamas’s “gender-based atrocities and sexual violence.”

Slow International Response to Hamas’s Sexual Violence Chastised by Blinken,” FDD Flash Brief

The unmaking of the United Nations,” by Clifford D. May

10 Things to Know About the UN and Hamas,” FDD Insight


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