UN to send special envoy on sexual violence to investigate Hamas brutality in Israel

Pramila Patten is due to meet with survivors and released hostages in Israel late this month


Pramila Patten, the UN special representative for sexual violence in conflict, will visit Israel later this month to investigate allegations of rape and mutilation that took place on Oct. 7.

The UN is scheduled to send a special envoy to Israel to gather information on reports of sexual violence committed by Hamas during its attack on October 7, a spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Pramila Patten, the UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict, will visit Israel and the West Bank to “gather information on sexual violence reportedly committed in the context of the attacks of October 7 and its aftermath,” said Stephane Dujarric, the UN secretary-general’s spokesperson.

“She is expected to meet with survivors, witnesses, and others affected by sexual violence to identify avenues of support,” Dujarric told the Times of Israel. He also said that Patten is due to meet with “recently released hostages and detainees” during the trip, which is set to take place at the end of the month.

Patten, who has served as the UN’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict since 2017, will be joined by “experts in safe and ethical interviewing, forensic evidence, digital analysis, and accountability,” Dujarric said, with the trip part of “the exercise of her mandate in accordance with a standard UN methodology.”

The Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict (OSRSG-SVC) tracks global concerns related to conflict-based instances of sexual violence, including the perpetration of sexual violence as a tactic of war and terrorism. Israeli officials said that Patten was invited on the information-gathering mission by the Foreign Ministry to investigate claims of sexual assault committed by Hamas as part of its terror attack on southern Israel.

The UN has faced backlash for its slowness to condemn the acts of sexual violence reported after October 7, with women’s rights groups accusing the organisation of ignoring the rape and mutilation of Israeli women. In December, Israel spearheaded a UN special session to address the accounts of sexual violence; Israeli ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan told The Times of Israel that he picked UN Headquarters as the venue to “highlight the hypocrisy and double standards of UN Women and other UN agencies that completely abandoned Israeli women assaulted by Hamas.”

Last month, The New York Times published an investigation which revealed a pattern of brutal sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on October 7, using video footage, photographs, GPS data and witness testimonies to build a clear portrait of the atrocities committed. Hamas denied the allegations in a statement, calling them a part of Israel’s attempt to justify the killing of Palestinian civilians, according to The New York Times.

On Monday, two UN human rights experts said the sexual violence committed by Hamas on October 7 could constitute war crimes if not crimes against humanity.

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