UNSC could debate Hamas’s Oct. 7 sexual violence this Monday

The United Nations Security Council could debate as early as Monday a report which found that there were “reasonable grounds” to believe Hamas committed acts of sexual violence during its October 7 invasion of Israel, according to the Foreign Ministry.

On Friday morning, it reported that three permanent members of the UNSC—the US, France, and the UK—had requested an emergency session on the matter. Israel is not a member of the UNSC and can not request a debate on its own.

It had hoped that the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres would use a rare mechanism to push the Security Council to focus on the issue.

When he didn’t do so, Foreign Minister Israel Katz turned to UNSC members and asked that they advance the issue. Slovenia, one of ten non-permanent members, is also expected to join the call, and Malta is weighing the matter, the Foreign Ministry said.

The United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council have adopted a number of resolutions on Gaza but have yet to condemn Hamas for the brutality of its October 7 invasion of Israel, in which victims were raped, dismembered, and burned alive.

Algeria’s Ambassador to the United Nations Amar Bendjama votes in favor as US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield vetoes a vote on a UN Security Council resolution to demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. New York, U.S., February 20, 2024. (credit: REUTERS/MIKE SEGAR)

This week, Pramila Patten, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, issued a report that complied with Guterres’s request.

Conflict-related sexual violence

It concluded “that there are reasonable grounds to believe that conflict-related sexual violence occurred in multiple locations during the 7 October attacks, including rape and gang-rape in at least three locations, namely: the Nova music festival site and its surroundings, Road 232, and Kibbutz Re’im.”

Israel has pushed for UN action based on that report. Her report is expected to be discussed in an upcoming UNSC meeting on Sexual Violence in Combat.

Katz has believed that Guterres, who has been highly critical of the high civilian cost of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas, has not been outspoken enough on Hamas’s atrocities.

The Foreign Minister said Friday, ”I congratulate all the countries that supported our request to convene an emergency discussion of the Security Council” and expect that others will join them.

The aim is for the UNSC to discuss the report’s “serious findings” and to issue an “explicit condemnation of Hamas for its sexual crimes” as well as “an unequivocal call for the immediate release of all the hostages in Gaza,

Such a move would be “a great victory for justice and morality and an important step on the way to returning the abductees home.”

He emphasized the specific importance of the immediate release of the remaining 134 hostages out of the 253 taken on October 7, particularly as the report found substantial credible evidence that some of them had been raped in captivity.

With every passing moment, the hostages are in mortal danger, Katz said.

He charged that the “UN Secretary-General continues to close his eyes and cover his ears as if nothing happened. Precisely on International Women’s Day, his continued silence is a disgrace and casts a stain on his head that will not be erased.”

He has been issuing such statements since the release of the report.

Guterres’s spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, has responded in the past, stating that the “Secretary-General has fully supported the work of Pramila Patten in her visit to Israel to look into conflict-related acts of sexual violence linked to the 7 October terror attacks. The work was done thoroughly and expeditiously. His only instruction to her was “tell the truth.” In no way, shape, or form did the Secretary-General do anything to “bury” the report.”

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