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Statement on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

Statement by Representative of Slovenia to the UN Security Council Ambassador Samuel Žbogar at the briefing on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

At the outset I would also like to thank SRSG Pramila Patten for her briefing and presentation of the Mission report on the Official visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank, which took place earlier this year.

We welcome the visit of SRSG and we acknowledge significant challenges to the Mission team’s efforts. We are extremely concerned about findings in the report, which underscore the urgent need for action. I would like to once again strongly condemn the terrorist attack of Hamas and other armed groups on 7 October 2023.

We urgently call for the release of all hostages.

We continue to call for an immediate ceasefire.

Let me now make the following remarks on the report.

First,

Slovenia condemns any form of conflict-related sexual violence as a gross violation of human rights. We are concerned that there are reasonable grounds to believe that conflict-related sexual violence occurred during the 7 October attacks in multiple locations across Southern Israel. We believe there is a need to further investigate these allegations in order to find perpetrators and hold them accountable. In this respect we expect Israel to grant access to relevant UN mechanisms, including OHCHR and Commission of Inquiry to be able to carry out fully-fledged investigation.

Second,

We remain extremely concerned about the situation of hostages and we insist on their immediate and unconditional release. We also urge for the crucial access of the ICRC to the hostages. The mission found clear and convincing information about some hostages being subjected to various forms of conflict-related sexual violence. The mission further informed there are reasonable grounds to believe that such violence may still be ongoing. We have repeatedly called for a ceasefire in Gaza, in order to achieve the release of hostages and prevent their continued torment, and to prevent further civilian suffering and destruction in Gaza.

Third,

Sexual violence has no justification and it cannot neither serve as justification. We are equally concerned about reports of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of Palestinians in detention, during house raids and at checkpoints. These reports, too, need to be investigated. Let me express our concern over the dramatic growth in the number of Palestinians arrested and detained in the recent months.  The ICRC must be notified of and allowed to visit Palestinians in Israeli detention.

Moreover, I want to touch upon the immense suffering of women in Gaza. While we are still awaiting the solution by this Security Council and/or through negotiations between the parties, the totality of harm done to the women in this conflict must not be forgotten.

Women in Gaza have been facing a collapse in the health system, hunger and starvation and unprecedented destruction. They have also been facing severe limitations in access to food, water, medicine, hygiene products, and safety in every sense of the word. We call for respect of international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Mr. President,

Sexual violence in conflict is on the rise globally and only a strong international response to it can change that. It continues to be used as a tactic of war and intimidation tool in many situations on the agenda of the Security Council. Once again, Slovenia strongly condemns the use of sexual violence in all settings. It must stop immediately, as it represents a serious violation of international humanitarian law and human rights law, and may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. We advocate for international collaboration to ensure that evidence is meticulously gathered and perpetrators are brought to justice. Ensuring accountability is of paramount importance.

Let me conclude by expressing our strong support for the UN and the mandate of the Special Representative. We are looking forward to the upcoming discussion on the Secretary General’s Annual Report on conflict related sexual violence, where we will be able to touch upon this, and other tragic situations.

Thank you.

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