UN report: ‘Convincing’ proof of sexual crimes against hostages, proof ‘reasonable’ of Oct. 7 rapes

The report comes in the wake of Israeli fury over the lack of UN action on accusations of Hamas’s sexual violence.

By Mike Wagenheim | | Topics: Gaza, Hamas, United Nations
Pramila Patten (left), special representative of the UN secretary-general on sexual violence in conflict, and Chloe Marnay-Baszanger, leader of the team of experts on the rule of law and sexual violence in conflict, brief reporters at UN Headquarters on March 4, 2024. Credit: Mark Garten/UN Photo.
Pramila Patten (left), special representative of the UN secretary-general on sexual violence in conflict, and Chloe Marnay-Baszanger, leader of the team of experts on the rule of law and sexual violence in conflict, brief reporters at UN Headquarters on March 4, 2024. Credit: Mark Garten/UN Photo.

There is “clear and convincing” evidence that terrorists committed sexual violence, including rape, against hostages in Gaza, and there are “reasonable grounds” to conclude that terrorists raped and gang raped Israeli women in multiple locations on Oct. 7, according to a United Nations report released on Monday.

“With respect to hostages, the mission team found clear and convincing information that some have been subjected to various forms of conflict-related sexual violence including rape and sexualized torture and sexualized cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” according to the report, “and it also has reasonable grounds to believe that such violence may be ongoing.”

“At the Nova music festival and its surroundings, there are reasonable grounds to believe that multiple incidents of sexual violence took place with victims being subjected to rape and/or gang rape, and then killed or killed while being raped,” the report stated. It added that there are also “reasonable grounds” to think that sexual violence, including rape, occurred on Road 232, on which people fled from the festival, and at Kibbutz Re’im, where they sought shelter.

“Reasonable grounds to believe” is the “primary standard of proof” used in the report, it stated. It added that “clear and convincing” refers to “evidence rises above ‘reasonable grounds to believe’ yet falls below ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’” Nowhere in the report does it state that any of the detailed violence is true “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“Our conclusions are based on our own assessments of the credibility of witnesses, verification of sources and cross-referencing material,” said Pramila Patten, the UN secretary-general’s special representative on sexual violence and conflict.

Patten’s team also found a pattern of victims, mostly women, found fully or partially naked, bound and shot across multiple locations that “may be indicative of some forms of sexual violence.”

 

‘Months or years’

UN leadership and several of its agencies have come under extreme fire from Israel and others for refusing for months to acknowledge claims of sexual violence during Hamas terrorists’ killing and hostage-taking spree.

Patten visited Israel, Judea and Samaria for 17 days in late January and early February at the Israeli government’s invitation.

During a Monday press release, she stressed repeatedly that her mission was not to investigate. She and a team of nine experts went to collect information, including during 33 meetings with Israeli representatives and 34 confidential interviews—with survivors and witnesses, released hostages, first responders and others—and examining more than 5,000 photos and 50 hours of video footage.

The team included “specialists trained in safe and ethical interviewing of survivors and victims and witnesses of sexual violence crimes, a forensic pathologist, and a digital and open-source information analyst,” Patten said.

The true and full extent of sexual violence committed on Oct. 7 and in its aftermath could “take months or years to emerge, and may never be fully known,” Patten said, citing a lack of forensic evidence collected in the immediate chaotic hours following the massacre, the alteration of crime scenes, excessive burning of some victims and the lack of forensic collection training of some first responder volunteers.

Patten did not speak directly with victims of sexual assault on Oct. 7. She said she was told that several were undergoing treatment for trauma and were unavailable to speak with her while she was in Israel.

In response to a JNS question, Patten said she has asked the Israeli government about a follow-up mission, during which her office would speak directly with victims who are ready to do so, as well as hostages who have been released from Gaza. Jerusalem has not yet responded, she said.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and its Commission of Inquiry on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should carry out a legal investigation, Patten said. That commission has drawn extensive criticism—from Israel and other nations—for the composition of its membership and its open-ended mandate with an extensive budget.

 

‘I didn’t have a chaperone’

Patten said her team only gathered information about sexual crimes within a scope about which it agreed in advance with Israel.

The team found some reported claims, including that terrorists cut an unborn baby out of a pregnant woman’s stomach on Oct. 7, to be unfounded.

Patten said that the “credible” information in the report was insufficient to assign crimes specifically to Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or to Gazan civilians who are believed to have participated in the massacre.

Israel didn’t interfere with her team’s efforts to gather information. “I didn’t have a chaperone,” she said.

Patten also traveled to Ramallah to meet those who accused Israeli security forces of rape. The report mentions threats but not rape itself.

“While no instances of rape were reported, Palestinian women’s organizations consistently stressed that in addition to intimidation and insecurity, the high level of stigmatization, conservative cultural norms and the power imbalance in the context of occupation impedes reporting of sexual violence,” the report stated.

Patten didn’t publish a specific number of sexual crimes committed to avoid the report being sensationalized or politicized, she told reporters on Monday.

JNS asked Patten at the press conference what António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, and the UN Security Council ought to do next, now that they possess her report.

Patten said only that the report was more cause to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Pramila Patten, special representative of the UN secretary-general on sexual violence in conflict, briefs reporters at UN Headquarters on March 4, 2024. Credit: Mark Garten/UN Photo.

‘Whoever harmed them will pay’

“The latest UN report starkly details Hamas’s atrocities on Oct. 7, including mass murders, rapes and systematic sexual offenses,” Israel Katz, the Israeli foreign minister, wrote on social media.

“Yet, silence from the chairman. It’s time for action, António Guterres. Hamas must be globally recognized as a terrorist entity, its supporting nations labeled as terrorism sponsors,” Katz wrote. “UNRWA’s removal from Gaza is imperative, and the immediate release of hostages must be prioritized.”

“I ordered our ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, to return to Israel for immediate consultations regarding the attempt to silence the serious UN report on the mass rapes committed by Hamas and its allies on Oct. 7,” he wrote in Hebrew.

“Despite the authority granted to him, the UN secretary-general did not order the convening of the Security Council in view of the findings, in order to declare the Hamas organization a terrorist organization and impose sanctions on its supporters,” he added.

Using a rabbinic term hefker, which refers to ownerless property, he added: “Our daughters are not hefker. Whoever harmed them will pay.”

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the Jewish state “welcomes the definitive recognition that Hamas committed sexual crimes by an official UN representative in the important report.”

“For the first time, a UN official has specifically acknowledged the sexual crimes committed by Hamas and other terrorist organizations on Oct. 7,” the ministry added. “The UN also recognizes that the crimes were committed simultaneously in different locations and point to a pattern of rape, torture and sexual abuse.”

It added that the report “acknowledges the existence of ongoing sexual crimes against the Israeli women and men being held hostage by Hamas and calls for the immediate release of the hostages.”

The ministry added that “Israel rejects the report’s call to investigate Palestinian claims regarding ‘sexual violence by Israeli elements.’”

“That is a derisive and deliberate Palestinian maneuver aimed at creating an intolerable equivalence between the horrific crimes that were committed, and continue to be committed, by Hamas and malicious and baseless claims made against Israel and Israelis,” it said.

Israel also rejected Patten’s mention of cooperation with the Commission of Inquiry, which it said is “known for its hostility, and the hostility of its members led by its chairperson Navi Pillay, towards Israel.”

“Following the publication of this grave report, Israel is calling for the immediate convening of the Security Council with the aim of designating Hamas as a terrorist organization and the imposition of international sanctions on it,” the ministry stated. “Israel will continue to act resolutely to free the women and men being held hostage and to fight the Palestinian campaign of lies.”