Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : The UK is deeply concerned by Special Representative Patten’s findings of sexual violence on 7 October: UK statement at the UN Security Council [March 2024]

The press release issued by the Foreign Office on 11 March 2024.

Statement by Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon at the United Nations Security Council meeting on the Middle East.

Thank you, Mr President.

May I firstly thank the Special Representative Pramila Patten for briefing us on her recent visit and may I take this opportunity, SRSG, to applaud your tireless work on this agenda in standing up in defence and protection of victims and survivors of sexual violence.

Your visit was profoundly important. And your report, an essential insight into the shocking crimes you’ve just illustrated. It is therefore right that the Security Council considers it today.

As we have seen in conflicts around the world, it’s a tragic fact, sexual violence is used to terrorise civilians. Mr President, it shatters lives. It leaves brutal and lifelong scars on victims, their families, and communities.

We are collectively and rightly appalled by reports of sexual violence committed by Hamas on 7 October and against hostages.

I refer to the report and note with deep concern the findings of SRSG Patten, including “reasonable grounds” to believe that sexual violence occurred in Israel on 7 October and the existence of, and I quote, “clear and convincing” information that sexual violence has been committed against hostages.

Mr President, it is deeply disturbing to know that “such violence may be ongoing against those still in captivity” a direct quote from the report. We continue to call an immediate, safe and unconditional release of all hostages.

And to work through every channel to secure an immediate stop in the fighting, then progress towards a sustainable ceasefire – because, for us, that is the best route to achieve this.

I am also deeply shocked by the very concerning reports, referenced in the SRSG report and also by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, of sexual violence perpetrated by Israeli forces against Palestinian detainees of which we’ve just heard, who have been arrested and held by Israel.

These reports, as we’ve heard, are being investigated. I therefore call on Israel to take immediate measures to prevent conflict-related sexual violence, to abide by international humanitarian law, and to ensure thorough investigations into these reports, and ultimately for perpetrators to be held to account.

Mr President let me be absolutely clear – we the United Kingdom condemn conflict-related sexual violence unequivocally, wherever it occurs, and stand in solidarity with all victims and survivors.

Put it simply, it must stop. Perpetrators must be held accountable. Survivors must receive holistic support and I call on all members of this Security Council to be unequivocal on these points.

And may I say to both Israelis and Palestinians, and their representatives here today that the United Kingdom, as a friend to both, is ready to support.

As The PM’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, here is my offer on behalf of the United Kingdom. We have our PSVI Team of Experts, who have already deployed over 90 times.

We have The Murad Code, launched last April in this very Council, which sets out minimum standards to ensure survivors are not retraumatised when they are interviewed.

We have our Stigma Toolkit which provides practical measures to address the stigma faced by survivors in criminal justice systems.

Indeed, earlier today I chaired a meeting with members of the International Alliance on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, and I was pleased that SRSG Patten was able to attend. Alongside a colleague of mine, Baroness Helic who was instrumental in establishing this very initiative I lead in 2012, to consider new and innovative ways to ensure crimes are fully investigated, testimonies are held to allow for successful prosecution and those who survive these shocking and abhorrent crimes – the incredible, courageous, brave survivors – are supported fully in rebuilding their lives.

We fully agree with the SRSG that investigations should be conducted in a safe and ethical manner consistent with a survivor-centred approach.

Mr President, all reports of sexual violence must be fully investigated to ensure justice for survivors and victims.

Mr President, justice delayed is justice denied. And for the United Kingdom it remains that a two-state solution is the only way to achieve justice and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.

The first step must be an immediate stop to the fighting leading to a permanent, sustainable ceasefire. The release of all hostages, and vital humanitarian, life-saving aid to be delivered to Gaza. It is this solution that we seek.

We owe it to the legacy of every innocent civilian killed in Israel and across the Occupied Palestinian Territories to utilise every lever we have and every channel we have in pursuit of this noble objective.

Thank you, Mr President.