The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) in London has been alarmed by emerging reports of potential rape and sexual assaults that might have been committed by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip.
In light of the widespread human rights abuses and genocides committed by the Israeli army in the besieged enclave, PRC warns of potential cases of rape and sexual abuse.
Reports of sexual abuse have increasingly emerged after more than 100 Palestinian men detained by Israeli forces have been stripped to their underwear, blindfolded and made to kneel on a street in northern Gaza, according to images and videos widely circulated on social media and confirmed by the Israeli army. The men were dragged to unknown locations.
This shocking scene reflects Israel’s retaliatory mindset and its intent to humiliate Palestinians by whatever means possible.
The Israeli army has repeatedly been accused of sexual violence and other crimes that it continues to commit with impunity and under a state-sponsored shield. PRC warns of systematic sexual assaults being or are likely to be committed against Palestinian women and children.
PRC, among other international human rights organizations, have kept record of scores of cases of sexual assault committed by Israeli soldiers and security officers against Palestinian civilians, including children, in the West Bank over recent years. Though many such cases have been brought to Israeli courts, judiciaries often opt for symbolic procedures that would only allow perpetrators of sexual crimes to further evade punishment.
These incidents make concerns over potential cases of rape and sexual assaults against civilians in the Gaza Strip more alarming than ever, particularly in light of Israel’s expanded ground operation and incursions into densely-populated neighborhoods.
The international community and concerned human rights organizations should stand on guard to Israel’s potential crimes of sexual abuse and call for the protection of civilians and vulnerable people, particularly women and children, against any such acts that might harm their sexuality as well as their physical and psychological well-beings.
International law explicitly incorporates rape and other forms of sexual violence in the list of war crimes and therefore recognizes sexual violence as a grave breach of international humanitarian law.
In the context of an international armed conflict, fundamental assaults on human health, physical integrity and dignity are grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. The Conventions explicitly require nations to prosecute persons of any nationality who commit acts such as "torture or inhuman treatment" and "wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health" against any person. There is absolutely no question that most forms of sexual violence purposefully inflicted by Israeli military forces upon any Palestinian are covered by one or both of these categories.
International humanitarian law does forbid acts of sexual violence in internal armed conflicts. Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions prohibits "violence to life and person," "cruel treatment," "torture" or "other outrages upon personal dignity." Protocol II Additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, governing the protection of civilians in internal armed conflicts, explicitly outlaws "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, rape, enforced prostitution and any form of indecent assault" at Article 4(2)(e).
All western governments, including the British government, should take all necessary measures to urge the Israeli army to backtrack on any premeditated intent of sexual violence against civilians in the Gaza Strip and the occupied Palestinian territories and to impeach those charged with such indecent assaults.