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Our View: Overturning of rape case verdict welcome, but have the police learned their lesson?

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Supporters outside the Supreme Court on Monday

Many will have welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the appeal against the conviction of the young British woman, whom the Famagusta district court found guilty of public mischief for reporting she had been gang-raped in an Ayia Napa hotel room in the summer of 2019 and then retracting her statement.

The case was an embarrassment for the country, police force, the state prosecutor and the judiciary, whose treatment of a teenage girl who reported that she had been raped, was nothing short of disgraceful. The impression given, even if it were mistaken, was that the authorities’ only concern was to find an excuse to release from custody the 12 Israeli youths she had accused of involvement in the case. They were released and put on a flight home, as soon as the police extracted a statement that she had lied.

How was this statement extracted? The teenage girl was subjected to police questioning for six hours without legal representation, until she told the police what they wanted to hear. There was no female officer present, which is standard practice in most countries, when questioning an alleged rape victim. Not only was zero sensitivity shown to the teenage girl, who said she was a victim of a gang rape, but the police appeared have treated her as the offender, and went out of their way to prove that she had lied.

How many 19-year-olds in a foreign country, being questioned on their own and in a police station for six hours, would not tell the officers what they wanted to hear? Why had the attorney-general not asked this question before deciding to bring charges of public nuisance against her? Was this so the decision to release Israeli youths could be legally justified? As for the judge who tried the case, he spoke so aggressively and disdainfully to the young woman during the proceedings, he gave the impression he was dealing with a hardened criminal.

This harsh treatment of a woman making allegations of rape should never occur in a country that calls itself civilised. Perhaps political considerations influenced the callous actions of the authorities, but this can never be an excuse. In 2019, however, we did not hear any of the politicians that took a strong public stand about a rape case in Greece last month, asserting that ‘rape is rape’ and that the victim should not be blamed, saying anything about the ordeal of the British teenager. Only some women groups stood by the victim that had been made the defendant.

Perhaps society’s attitudes are changing. That the Supreme Court ruled that the woman had not been given a fair trial was a positive. We can only express the hope the authorities have drawn the right lessons from this disgraceful episode which advertised Cyprus as a place where a woman that reports a rape case could end up being charged.

 

 

 

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