On December 30th 2019, a 19-year old British woman was found guilty of public mischief by a Cyprian court for alleging that she had been gang-raped by 12 Israeli men in Avia Napa. Unnamed for her protection, she was handed a 4 month prison term, suspended for 3 years on January 7th 2020. After reporting an alleged rape on July 17th, she was later labelled a criminal by police officers and arrested for fabricating the sexual assault. After an 8 hour police interrogation with no lawyer or translator present, the 19 year-old signed a confession that she had lied about the alleged rape, later claiming that she was forced to do so after multiple police threats of imprisonment. During the court proceedings, Judge Michalis Papathansiou refused to hear evidence of the rape, stating that it was the Briton’s embarrassment of being filmed having sexual relations with one man that caused her to make false allegations.
The case has created significant controversy in the UK over infringements on human rights and the erosion of due process. The UK Foreign Office said it would discuss the “deeply distressing” situation with Cypriot authorities. One of the Briton’s lawyers, Nicoletta Charlambidou, told reporters that they would appeal the case to the Supreme Court on the grounds that there was a lack of procedural fairness. The lawyer representing the Israeli men accused of rape claimed the girl refused to “take responsibility for the horrible act she has done against the boys,” and that civil procedures would be launched to compensate his clients.
The entire process has been shocking to the extreme, highlighting the need for continued awareness of the serious impacts of sexual violence and the importance of upholding due process rights. Having no lawyer present during an 8 hour interrogation in a foreign country undermines the very idea of procedural fairness. The fact that women are not only disbelieved for reporting sexual violence, but then punished and attacked in an adversarial court proceeding is horrifying. What is worse is the deplorable celebratory behaviour of the Israeli men accused of rape, calling the Briton a “Brit whore,” and vowing to sue her for damages. Deeply entrenched stereotypes that women invent accusations for attention are not only outdated, but out of place in 2020.
During the trial, Judge Papathansiou refused to hear evidence about whether the alleged rape occurred, despite expert doctors confirming that bruising and blood were consistent with sexual violence. Instead, the Judge placed the blame on the Briton, stating that her embarrassment caused innocent men to be harmed. Protestors were present during the hearing with many women wearing white scarves depicting lips sewn shut to symbolize how often women are silenced in discussions of sexual violence. On social media, many Israelis have also condemned the actions of the 12 men, pointing out that they would have been prosecuted for filming the sex had the crime occurred in Israel.
For the young woman, the entire proceeding has been traumatic. Not only has she lost her position at university, she has spent over a month in prison, estranged from her family and friends. Her story highlights the importance of continued activism for gender equality. For conflict to be reduced, attitudes surrounding women and the way they are treated must change. The continued reliance on stereotypes about women undermine the very tenets of world peace. Problematic events must continue to be called out and challenged to achieve true equality.