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A UN Commission of Inquiry, led by Chair Navi Pillay, is set to investigate war crimes in the recent Israel-Hamas conflict, with a particular focus on allegations of sexual violence committed by Hamas during the attacks on October 7.
Pillay emphasized the seriousness of the commission’s intent to investigate these crimes, stating, “I’m now sitting as chair of a commission with the power to investigate this. So there’s no way we will not do so.” She plans to forward the collected evidence to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for potential prosecutions.
The commission’s task is challenging, especially given Israel’s non-cooperation, which it attributes to perceived anti-Israel bias. Some have argued that this lack of cooperation may hinder the collection of substantial evidence. Despite this, Israeli authorities have launched their own investigation into the sexual violence during the attacks, including rape, after reports of such crimes being committed. Despite the accusations, Hamas denies them and has labeled the accusations as “zionist propaganda.”
How the inquiry will work:
The UN Commission of Inquiry is set to issue a public request for evidence submissions related to the sexual violence allegations against Hamas. This evidence will be critical for the commission, which has a broad mandate to identify perpetrators of international crimes. The evidence gathered could potentially be used for war crimes prosecutions by the ICC, which has jurisdiction over the conflict.
Pillay has already met with ICC prosecutors to discuss collaboration in evidence sharing, highlighting the ICC’s interest in investigating incidents of sexual violence. Despite criticism from the US and some European allies over the commission’s indefinite timeframe and perceived disproportionate focus on Israel, Pillay remains committed to the investigation. She has also expressed concern over the high death toll in Gaza, reported to be over 15,000, and the killing of reporters during the conflict.