Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative Maria Zabolotskaya at UNSC briefing on the issue of sexual violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories


Russia strongly condemns sexual violence in all forms, as well as any other crimes in armed conflict and post-conflict situations. Such acts must be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. In the context of the crisis around Gaza, we unequivocally condemned from the outset the acts of violence committed against Israelis on 7 October. We firmly believe that those crimes, no matter how heinous, cannot be seen as a justification for collective punishment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and for Israel's flagrant violations of IHL against Palestinian civilians. That is our position, and as far as we can tell, the vast majority of the world's states thinks the same.

In this regard, we welcome any efforts aimed at shedding light on the crimes committed during the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

We are convinced that the UN is not doing enough in this area. Thousands of people are being killed. According to the International Court of Justice, there is a high probability of genocide currently taking place in the Gaza Strip. And the UN, in fact, has no access to reliable information. Israel deliberately impedes such access.

Against this backdrop, West Jerusalem invited SRSG Patten, in the company of nine experts on sexual violence, for a brief visit to Israel and the West Bank. Upon her return, SRSG Patten issued a separate report on the visit. It is important to note that her itinerary did not include a stop-by in Gaza. The visit did not offer opportunities for investigation or attribution either. Therefore it is not quite clear what Israeli cooperation with the mission the report refers to.

In general, it is clear that West Jerusalem uses a selective approach to UN visits to the country and the occupied Palestinian territories. We must, of course, take that fact into account in our respective assessments. Nor can we ignore Ms. Patten's general reputation for the use of falsehoods in her work, which, of course, undermines the credibility of her conclusions and findings. All the circumstances I have mentioned create a specific context for this meeting.

In other words, we are expected to respond to partial information collected within the framework of a specific mandate. Essentially, it is half-truth which in no way gives an overall picture of what is happening and does not cancel the requirement for the Government of Israel to ensure access to the region for UN mechanisms and agencies (in particular to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict) to gather full information on the gross and systematic violations of international humanitarian law against civilians during the operation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

It is only after a comprehensive and objective study of the situation in its full geographical scope that we will be able to draw any conclusions. The time for this has clearly not arrived. All the more so because the report that was issued on the outcomes of one mission cannot be called exhaustive, even on the topic stated. According to the report, P.Patten's team did not manage to meet with the victims of sexual violence that took place during the sad events of October 7. SRSG admits that the data was mainly received from the Government of Israel and needs further study and investigation. We would like to point out separately that the definitions and working methods of P.Patten are not agreed upon, and our participation in this discussion on her report and on this topic does not imply that we either accept or endorse them.

This being said, the report's information on rape, as well as the mission's findings on the likelihood of further sexual violence against hostages, are shocking. There is no justification for sexual violence against Israelis. The perpetrators must be held accountable.

By the same token, there can be no justification for sexualized violence against Palestinians and Palestinian women by Israeli security forces, particularly in the form of rape threats, stripping, genital slapping. According to the UN and human rights watchdogs, such violations are systematic and have decades-long record. With the intensification of the campaign of arbitrary arrests of Palestinians in the West Bank, with some 7,500 detained since October 7, the situation has only worsened.

Yet, as the report indicates, those crimes are not investigated and the perpetrators enjoy impunity. We call on Israel to put an end to this shameful practice and to ensure that victims of violence have access to justice.

We also note that SRSG’s mission did not find confirmation of the "high-profile" cases reported in the Israeli press, in particular in Kibbutz Beeri and at the Nahal Oz base. This proves once again that conclusions, especially with regard to conflict situations, can be drawn only once data has been verified. One should not trust press coverage blindly and should be mindful that statements may be made in the course of armed conflict with the aim of provoking public hostility and hatred, which is critically dangerous in the current escalation in the Middle East.

It is only possible to overcome impunity and put an end to violence, including sexual violence, when we have objective and verified information.

Russia resolutely rejects attempts to manipulate the important issue of combating sexual violence in conflict. We consider it unacceptable that the suffering of survivors of sexual violence or accusations of this grave crime may become a "bargaining chip" in political games.


Since the violence of 7 October that Russia condemns in strongest terms, crime has assumed truly monstrous proportions. We condemn the gross and systematic violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by Israel against the civilian population in Gaza, where 30,000 people have been killed, most of whom women and children.

While the agenda of combating sexual violence is important, it should not overshadow the dire humanitarian challenges and threats to peace and security posed by the Israeli operation in Gaza - the massacre of civilians, including children, catastrophic hunger and the provoking of mass displacement.

Everything must be done to end impunity, end violence, including sexual violence, and stop this conflict. What is needed now is an urgent and unconditional ceasefire. We hope that the UN Security Council will still be able to demand this from the parties in the very near future.

Thank you.

Video of the statement