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US ‘can’t independently confirm’ UN charges of IDF sexual assault

Israel has "forcefully" rejected the allegations, which it calls "despicable and unfounded."

Matthew Miller, the U.S. State Department spokesman, moderates a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, on June 19, 2023, as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken looks on. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
Matthew Miller, the U.S. State Department spokesman, moderates a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, on June 19, 2023, as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken looks on. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.

The United States is aware of allegations being investigated by the United Nations that the Israeli military sexually assaults and rapes Palestinian women and girls in detention, Matthew Miller, the U.S. State Department spokesman, said in a press briefing.

“I have seen the allegations. I cannot independently confirm the reports,” Miller said, on Tuesday. “I will say that we have been clear that civilians and detained individuals must be treated humanely and in accordance with international humanitarian law.”

“We strongly urge Israel to thoroughly and transparently investigate credible allegations and ensure any accountability for abuses and violations, and that will continue to be our position,” he added.

On Monday, a group of what the U.N. Human Rights Council called “experts” said that allegations of violence against Palestinian girls and women in Gaza and in Judea and Samaria must be looked into.

“We are particularly distressed by reports that Palestinian women and girls in detention have also been subjected to multiple forms of sexual assault, such as being stripped naked and searched by male Israeli army officers,” the panel said. “At least two female Palestinian detainees were reportedly raped while others were reportedly threatened with rape and sexual violence.”

Francesca Albanese, the special rapporteur for the Palestinian territories, who has long been accused of Jew-hatred and who has blamed Israel for being attacked by the Hamas terrorist organization on Oct. 7, is a member of the panel.

The United Nations said that special rapporteurs and independent experts “work on a voluntary basis and are independent of any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and are not U.N. staff and do not receive payment for their work.”   

The panel also alleges that the Israeli army has taken photos of female Palestinian detainees “in degrading circumstances” and uploaded them online.

“Taken together, these alleged acts may constitute grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and amount to serious crimes under international criminal law that could be prosecuted under the Rome Statute,” the panel said. “Those responsible for these apparent crimes must be held accountable and victims and their families are entitled to full redress and justice.”

The United Nations has faced widespread criticism for its nearly 50-day silence” about Hamas terrorists raping and sexually assaulting Jewish women and girls.

Israel “forcefully rejects the despicable and unfounded claims published today by a group of so-called U.N. experts,” the Israeli mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland stated.

It noted that one of the “experts,” legitimized Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre “just days ago” and another “publicly doubted the testimonies of Israeli victims of gender-based and sexual violence.”

“These mandate holders have remained silent on the horrific sexual violence and gender-based violence perpetrated by Hamas on and since Oct 7,” the Israeli mission stated. “It is clear that the co-signatories are motivated not by the truth but by their hatred for Israel and its people.”

It added that the Jewish state will “continue to abide by its obligations under international law” and that Israeli authorities have received no complaints. “Israel remains ready to investigate any concrete claims of misconduct by its security forces when presented with credible allegations and evidence,” it said.

“‘Allegedly.’ ‘Apparently.’ ‘Reportedly,'” wrote Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, of the U.N. call for an investigation of alleged Israeli sexual violence. “There isn’t a single fact—not a name, not a place, not a detail—in this statement.”

“Shame on the U.N.’s Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Palestine for legitimizing a transparent effort to blur Hamas’s horrific use of sexual violence,” Satloff added.

‘Credible medical expert’

At the press briefing on Tuesday, Matt Lee, the Associated Press diplomatic reporter, asked Miller if the State Department received “confirmation of what Hamas allegedly did to Israelis, who were women and girls.”

“There are Israeli medical experts who have testified to that, and that is something we consider credible. Yes,” he said.

“You consider those instances to be confirmed, but not what the U.N. was talking about yesterday?” Lee asked.

“We have seen this report, and we have called for an investigation to confirm whether the allegations are true or not,” Miller said.

Lee wanted to know if the department is “willing to take [the] word of an Israeli—and I’m not saying you shouldn’t—but if you’re willing to take the word of Israeli medical experts on what happened to the people who were abducted on Oct. 7, whose word are you willing to take—if not the U.N., who?”

“A full, independent, credible investigation,” Miller said.

“Would it have to be an Israeli medical expert?” Lee asked. “Or a Palestinian?”

“Of course, it would not have to be an Israeli medical expert. A credible medical expert,” Miller said. “I don’t want to prescribe who it would be—a credible medical expert that can testify to it would be something we would look at, of course.”

“I’m not going to opine on a matter that hasn’t been conducted,” he said.

Miller added that it is “a well-accepted fact” that Hamas assaulted and raped Israeli women and girls, “because the investigations produced credible evidence that not just the United States accepted but countries around the world accepted.”

“With respect to these new allegations, we want to see an investigation, and we will, of course, look at the investigation, make our judgements when that investigation is concluded.”

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