Mr. President,

Thank you for convening this meeting of the Security Council. It is important for the Council to address this issue. I would also like to thank Special Representative Pramila Patten for her briefing and report.

Sexual violence in conflict situations is a serious violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, and can constitute a war crime or even a crime against humanity.

It is therefore imperative that the Security Council unanimously condemn all conflict-related sexual violence, in the context of the Middle East conflict as in all armed conflicts, and act to prevent their recurrence.

Switzerland is deeply shocked by the facts presented in Ms. Patten's report. I would like to take this opportunity to express my country's sympathy and support for the survivors and victims of this violence - first and foremost the women and girls who were subjected to it, and their families. We call for the dignity of survivors and victims to be respected in all circumstances.

Since October 7, we have repeatedly expressed our firm condemnation of the acts of terror perpetrated by Hamas, which have claimed more than 1,200 victims in Israel. Among these victims, the report stresses that there are "reasonable grounds to believe" that sexual violence, including rape, gang rape and sexual torture, was committed in several places.  The report also mentions similar violence against hostages. It is to be feared that such violence will continue to be suffered by the hostages still in captivity, whose immediate and unconditional release Switzerland has repeatedly called for.

Switzerland reiterates its firm condemnation of all sexual violence. 

We call for the facts to be established by the competent bodies - such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights or the Commission of Inquiry - to help identify the violations and their perpetrators, so that they do not go unpunished. We also call for the Office of the High Commissioner and the Commission of Inquiry to be given the necessary access for this purpose.

All violations of international law committed in Israel and throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory must be investigated, and the perpetrators brought to justice before the relevant bodies. To this end, the International Criminal Court is currently conducting an investigation into the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, covering the events of October 7 and those underway in Gaza and the West Bank.

Mr. President,

Switzerland also supports the report's recommendation for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. Such a ceasefire is necessary to protect the civilian population, provide them with urgently needed humanitarian aid, and free the hostages.

Expertise in conflict-related sexual violence must be taken into account in the design and implementation of any agreement. The continuation of hostilities in Gaza is indeed accompanied by an increase in gender-based violence.

Switzerland condemns the fact that hostilities continue to claim numerous civilian victims in Gaza, including almost 9,000 women. According to the United Nations, 3,000 have been widowed, and 95% of mothers do not have enough to eat. The specific needs of women and girls in terms of privacy, safety and hygiene are not being met. They have no access to health services, including sexual and reproductive health, protection against gender-based violence, and face the most serious forms of obstetric violence.

We are very concerned by the information contained in the report concerning sexual and gender-based violence against Palestinians in places of detention, during raids on homes and at checkpoints in Gaza and the West Bank.

We take note that this information will complement the information already verified by other UN entities, and may be included in the Secretary-General's next report on sexual violence in armed conflict.

Mr. President,

As Special Representative Patten said: "The ultimate goal is not a war without rape. It is a world without war".

This Council must at all costs put an end to the current spiral of violence in the Middle East, and relaunch a process of dialogue with a view to a political solution to this conflict.

In this process, the full, equal and meaningful participation of Palestinian and Israeli women is essential to contribute to a solution of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side, in peace, within secure and recognized borders of which Gaza is an integral part.

Thank you.

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