Saturday, April 20, 2024

Palestinian women and girls raped and sexually assaulted in Israeli detention: UN experts

UN experts have decried reports of rape and sexual assault of Palestinian women and girls held in Israeli detention.

The independent experts, part of the UN’s fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council, confirmed in a statement receiving reports of Palestinian female detainees being subjected to “multiple forms of sexual assault”, with at least two detainees reportedly raped, while others were allegedly threatened with rape and sexual violence.

They also described women being strip-searched by male Israeli officers and noted the circulation of degrading images of detainees online by Israeli soldiers.

The statement also cited at least one report of a woman allegedly being held in a cage in the wind and rain.

According to the statement, “hundreds” of Palestinian women and girls have been arbitrarily detained since 7 October and subjected to “inhumane and degrading treatment,” including sexual assault, beatings, and the denial of food, medicine and period products.

The experts also expressed “shock” over reports of arbitrary executions of Palestinian women and children who were taking shelter or fleeing Israeli aggression.

“Some of them were reportedly holding white pieces of cloth when they were killed by the Israeli army or affiliated forces,” the experts said.

In January, a video published by Middle East Eye revealed Hala Rashid Abd al-Ati being shot dead while her grandson was waving a white flag as they attempted to flee from Gaza City.

The statement stressed that an unknown number of Palestinian women and children have reportedly gone missing after contact with the Israeli military.

The experts added that they had received “disturbing reports of at least one female infant forcibly transferred by the Israeli army into Israel, and of children being separated from their parents, whose whereabouts remain unknown”.

Israel rejected the allegations as “despicable and unfounded”.

“It is clear that the co-signatories are motivated not by the truth but by their hatred for Israel and its people,” the Israeli authorities said in a statement.

The experts called for an independent investigation into the allegations which they said “amount to serious crimes under international criminal law that could be prosecuted under the Rome Statute.”

“Those responsible for these apparent crimes must be held accountable and victims and their families are entitled to full redress and justice,” they added.

In December, the Palestinian Authority’s Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs confirmed at least 142 females – including senior women and infants – are currently held in Israeli jails.

In a joint statement with the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, the commission warned that “horrific crimes” have been carried out against the female prisoners.

Women and girls constitute 70 percent of deaths in Gaza since 7 October, whereas, in the period from 2008 to 7 October 2023, women and girls represented less than 14 percent of the 6,542 Palestinian deaths documented by the UN.

“The sanctioned slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians in Gaza, of whom 70 percent are women and children, cannot be seen as anything but the codification of a trend that has been a long time coming: our official entry into a space and time that has no due consideration for the lives, dignity and humanity of women and children. Period,” Reem Alsalem, the special rapporteur on violence against women and girls wrote for Middle East Eye in January.

The Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on 7 October killed 1,139 people, most of them civilians. Approximately 240 people were taken back to Gaza as captives.

Israel’s subsequent attack on Gaza has killed nearly 30,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children, and destroyed most of the enclave’s civilian infrastructure and homes.

Israel’s ferocious bombardment of civilian targets has prompted South Africa to bring a case before the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza.

The court on 26 January declared provisional measures that require Israel to prevent and punish genocidal acts and incitement.

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