Why do Israeli officials deny UN investigators access to evidence they allegedly have about sexual violence they claim was commited by Hamas

Three months since the start of the 2023 Gaza war and weeks after Israel’s presentation at the UN, where it presented allegations that Hamas committed sexual violence, a crime against humanity as per many treaties and international law, and still,  UN officials have not been granted access to the investigate the alleged abuses.
Just this week, Israeli media reported that direct evidence (like actual victims of the crime--not second hand reports, is still hard to find, more than three months after the event. 
On January 4, 2024, the Israeli newspaper "Haaretz" said, that "the Israeli police are finding it difficult to find eyewitnesses to confirm that sexual assaults were committed on the seventh of last October."
On December 12, AFP reported that “witnesses and experts interviewed by AFP said a full picture of the atrocities or their systematic nature had still not been established after the chaos of the huge attack, which killed about 1,140 people in Israel, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.”

The language in the media reports and the limited investigative reporting suggest that the Israeli government was more interested in securing a UN condemnation of Hamas, and a “recognition” of Hamas’s guilt and less interested in fact finding. 

Here is an example of a news story as reported in international media:

Israel seeks recognition of Hamas sexual violence at UN meeting

The U.N. human rights office said it has condemned the Oct. 7 attacks as "heinous, brutal and shocking" and that Israel has so far not granted its monitors access to the country.

 In addition to the pressure on the UN to “recognize” Hamas’s culpability, Israeli officials continued to deny UN officials access and allow them to investigate the allegations. A sample of media reporting on “repeated denial” is available, although it is ranked low by news aggregators’ algorithms.

On Nov. 28, UN officials indicated that they were not given access to any of the evidence:
A U.N. rights office spokesperson said Turk's office had requested access to Israel to monitor and collect information on the Oct. 7 attacks but had not received a response from Israel.

"The Office is attempting to carry out remote monitoring of these and other human rights violations reported in Israel and the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories). Lack of direct access to Israel and the OPT has hampered the work," said Ravina Shamdasani in response to emailed questions.

"We have repeatedly stressed the need for rigorous investigations and accountability for all serious breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law, irrespective of the identity of the alleged perpetrators," she added.

A week later (Dec. 6), UN officials still complained that their repeated requests to have access to the evidence were still ignored by Israeli officials. AFP report on the matter:

The UN rights chief voiced deep concern on Wednesday over allegations of sexual violence by Hamas militants during their October 7 attack, calling on Israel to allow his team in to investigate.

"These are very, very serious allegations and they need to be investigated, they need to be properly documented," Volker Turk, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, told a press conference.

"Justice must be served for the victims," he said, stressing that he had repeatedly asked Israel for access to investigate the claims, with no response.

This is not the first time Israel has denied UN investigators access to look into alleged war crimes,  crimes against humanity, torture, and other crimes. Following the 2014 Gaza war, UN officials were barred from collecting evidence and investigating alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity as well.

The language of news stories about sexual violence may reveal why some governments are more interested in making the story viral news story than their interest in investigating the alleged crimes and holding perpetrators accountable.

The fact that some media outlets, including the New York Times and other international media platforms, were able to conduct their own "investigation" but not the UN and other independent human rights organizations shows that political priorities are different from human rights advocates' priorities and interests. While human rights advocates are interested in establishing facts and demanding accountability, political leaders are often interested in instrumentalizing human rights claims for short-term political gains.




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