Physicians for Human Rights-Israel: Sexual Violence Perpetrated by Hamas Must be Investigated as Crimes Against Humanity
“Sexual violence was used as a weapon of war; The objectification of both living and deceased victims is a horrific and brazen violation of human dignity.”
The position paper is available online:
A new position paper published by Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) analyzes the evidence and reports of sexual assault committed during the October 7 Hamas attacks. The evidence was gathered from media reports, social networks, and interviews conducted by PHRI with professional sources. This is the first document to be published by a human rights organization on the subject.
Given that accumulated experience has shown that survivors of sexual assault are only able to speak, if ever, after sufficient time has passed; the difficulties in collecting forensic evidence of sexual abuse due to the conditions of victims’ bodies and the circumstances of their evacuation; as well as privacy protection concerns – a complete picture of Hamas’ violence is yet to be uncovered. Though the full scale of the crimes cannot yet be determined, the position paper concludes that the evidence and reports of sexual violence perpetrated during the attacks are enough to warrant an investigation into the incidents as crimes against humanity.
Yet, first and foremost, the publication of the paper is motivated by the need for institutional recognition of the violence experienced by the victims and those who witnessed it in order to support their rehabilitation. Recognition is also vital to ensuring the allocation of social, professional, and financial resources to facilitate the optimal conditions for their healing.
The paper concludes that incidents of sexual violence occurred across all arenas of the October 7 attacks, including the Nova music festival, private homes in the Gaza Envelope, and an Israeli military base outside the Gaza Strip. The paper relies primarily on the following sources, as they appeared in media reports:
The position paper includes a testimony collected by the Lahav 433 police detailing the group rape and murder of a young woman by assailants dressed in military uniforms: “They bent some woman over, I realized he was raping her and passing her on to another man in uniform.” She later noted that one of the rapists shot the woman in the head and then mutilated her body.
Testimonies by medical personnel
Medical personnel and ZAKA search and rescue volunteers provided additional testimonies to media outlets. Itzik Batach, a ZAKA volunteer, described witnessing a couple undressed and bound together in a home in Kibbutz Be’eri. Simcha Greinman, another ZAKA volunteer, stated that the body of a woman he encountered three days after she was murdered had been left with her lower half exposed. A video testimony presented by the Prime Minister’s Office Spokesperson included a military paramedic who described entering a home in a Gaza Envelope community while the combat was still ongoing and seeing a girl lying on the floor: “She was lying on her stomach, half-naked, her legs spread open, and there were remains of semen on her back. Someone executed her after brutally raping her…”
Testimonies by military representatives
The paper also cites public statements by military officials stationed in the Shura military base, to which most bodies and remains from the massacre were brought. Among these is the testimony of Ma’ayan, a female reserves officer and dentist who was assigned to the forensic medical team. Ma’ayan stated that she observed many signs of abuse in groins, broken legs and pelvises, blood-stained underwear, and women who were exposed from the waist down.
In addition to these accounts, the paper also analyzes videos circulated during the attacks and additional visual evidence.
The authors of the paper conclude that Hamas used sexual violence as a means of warfare and a psychological weapon. The objectification of both living and deceased victims is a horrific and brazen violation of human dignity.
The document also raises serious concerns that the individuals currently held captive in Gaza face an ongoing threat of violence and neglect. These concerns are based on the nature of the collected accounts and reports, scientific literature on the vulnerability of hostages, and accumulated experience from armed conflicts in other regions, including women of the Yazidi community and detainees at the US military prison of Abu Ghraib.
PHRI emphasizes that while the full scale of the assault is yet to be uncovered, it is essential to present the information that is currently known. In doing so, the organization hopes to encourage the reporting and documentation of violations of international humanitarian law, promote adequate support for those who survived and witnessed sexual and gender-based violence, and bring attention to the urgent need to release the hostages still being held in Gaza.
IMRA – Independent Media Review and Analysis
Since 1992 providing news and analysis on the Middle East with a focus on Arab-Israeli relations
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