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Statement by Italy’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations Security Council Arria Formula meeting “Condemning Hostage-Taking in Israel on October 7 as a Psychological Tool of Terrorism”


Madame Chair,

Italy commends the US for convening this very timely meeting and thanks the briefers for their sobering insights and painful first-hand testimony, towards which I express the deepest and most sincere sympathy.

Since the attacks of October 7th, Italy has constantly condemned in the strongest terms the taking of hostages by Hamas as part of a brutal, heinous and completely unacceptable strategy of terror.

Subsequently, Italy has since then been constantly devoted to obtain the unconditional release of all hostages in the hands of Hamas also as a part of Italy’s longstanding commitment and effort to tackle terrorism in all of its forms and in every corner of the world.

As clearly pointed out by several interventions, the taking of hostages is prohibited under the Geneva Conventions and its Additional Protocols, in both international and non-international armed conflicts. In this respect, Italy wishes to recall that the taking of hostages may qualify as a war crime as codified in the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court. Widespread or systematic enforced disappearance of persons can also rise to the level of crimes against humanity. .

Madame Chair,

Bearing in mind also the tragic consequences on the mental health and well-being of hostages and their families and communities, it should be recalled that the International Convention against the Taking of Hostages further specifies that anyone in the custody of a party to a conflict – and I quote – “shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, shall be protected from violence to life and limb and that the wounded and sick shall be cared for” – end of quote.

Under customary international humanitarian law, persons deprived of their liberty must also be able to correspond with their families, while wounded hostages and those with medical needs are entitled to receive adequate medical care with as little delay as possible while in captivity. Those in most urgent need of medical attention should be treated first. As a minimum, the ICRC should be granted immediate access to all hostages, as persons deprived of their liberty for reasons related to the armed conflict.

Madame Chair,

harms inflicted on hostages, including elderly and disabled hostages, and their enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention may amount to torture and cruel treatment, in violation of Geneva Conventions and customary international humanitarian law, as well as the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Elderly hostages may suffer from mental and physical health conditions, impaired mobility and altered senses, which require routine medical care and monitoring. As particularly vulnerable members of the civilian population, they have the right to be protected from abusive behavior.

Drawing attention to the specific risks for women in armed conflicts, the Geneva Conventions explicitly state – and I quote – “Women shall be accorded special respect and shall be protected in particular against rape, forced prostitution and all other forms of indecent assault” – end of quote.

Moreover, the Geneva Conventions prohibit any violation of personal dignity, including humiliating and degrading treatment, regardless of gender. According to the ICRC, customary international law requires respect for the specific protection, health and assistance needed by women affected by armed conflict and prohibits sexual violence, both in international and non-international armed conflicts. Rape and sexual violence that are part of a widespread or systematic attack directed at a civilian population constitute crimes against humanity.

I thank you, Madame Chair.