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UN experts demand accountability for Oct. 7 war crimes

Hamas's crimes may also qualify as crimes against humanity, say U.N. special rapporteurs.

Protesters bring attention to the crimes and sexual violence against women during the Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 7 massacre, as well as reports of abuse of those taken hostage, outside of U.N. headquarters in New York City on Dec. 4, 2023. Photo by Yakov Binyamin/Flash90.
Protesters bring attention to the crimes and sexual violence against women during the Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 7 massacre, as well as reports of abuse of those taken hostage, outside of U.N. headquarters in New York City on Dec. 4, 2023. Photo by Yakov Binyamin/Flash90.

Two U.N. human rights experts on Monday called for full accountability for the multitude of alleged crimes, including sexual torture, committed against civilians by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, saying they amount to war crimes.

Alice Jill Edwards, special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and Morris Tidball-Binz, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said violations include killing, hostage-taking, torture and sexual torture.

“As armed Palestinian groups rampaged through communities in Israel bordering the Gaza strip, thousands of people were subjected to targeted and brutal attacks, the vast majority of whom were civilians,” the experts said in a statement.

“The growing body of evidence about reported sexual violence is particularly harrowing,” they said. Violence included gang rapes, mutilations and 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.”

“These acts constitute gross violations of international law, amounting to war crimes which, given the number of victims and the extensive premeditation and planning of the attacks, may also qualify as crimes against humanity,” the experts said.

They said a letter had already been sent to the “State of Palestine” as the official U.N. Observer State and party to relevant human rights and humanitarian law treaties, and that a copy had also been sent to the de facto Hamas authorities in Gaza, which claimed responsibility for the overall attack.

On Dec. 28, The New York Times published the results of a two-month investigation it conducted into allegations of sexual violence on Oct. 7.

Everywhere Hamas terrorists struck on Oct. 7—at the rave near Kibbutz Re’im, at the military bases along the Gaza border, and at kibbutz after kibbutz—they brutalized women, it found.

The full scope of the rapes may never be known because many of the victims and witnesses were murdered by Hamas.

For months, Israeli activists condemned U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres along with the UN Women agency for failing to acknowledge allegations of abuse until weeks post-attack.

In early December, as a presentation took place at U.N. headquarters in New York, hundreds protested outside, accusing the world body of ignoring the sexual horrors perpetrated on Oct. 7. “Me too, unless you’re a Jew,” they chanted.

“Silence is complicity,” said Sheryl Sandberg, a former Meta executive, at the presentation.

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