Justice system failures after alleged gang-rape lead many to #BoycottCyprus

The Cypriot justice system and Pambos Napa Rocks hotel have failed to protect women from sexual violence and hold perpetrators to account.

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A shocking case is unfolding in Cyprus after a young British girl accused 12 men of attacking her in a brutal gang-rape. The young woman, 19, was imprisoned following signing a police-written recantation, one that came after 10 hours of police interrogation without a lawyer or diplomat present. Charged with causing mischief, the British girl faces up to one year in jail.

The Cypriot justice system has come under global fire for their handling of the case, with new details on police mismanagement and Judge Michalis Papathanasiou’s reportedly abusive behaviour towards the girl emerging on a near-daily basis. Disturbing details about the evidence neglected in the case have left the global community outraged, and have resulted in prolonged protests outside Cypriot courthouses and police stations.

The young woman was staying at Pambos Napa Rocks hotel in the southern town of Ayia Napa. According to her testimony, she met a man and agreed to an intimate evening with him. He recorded their sexual encounter without her consent, and invited 11 other men to her room, who refused to leave despite her demands. After being attacked, she searched for help and was brought to a hospital where she was found to have multiple external injuries. A newly-released medical assessment form shows she had bruises and injuries on her face, buttocks, legs, back, hands, and arms. Forensic Pathologist Marios Matsakis also testified that the DNA of multiple men was found on her, and that the rape kit done by the police was “incomplete,” further calling into question police competency.

The men accused in the case — all Israeli — were released after only eight days. Twitter users have since circulated information suggesting one of the men is the son of a high-ranking politician in Israel, and photos have been released of Israel’s security minister attending his bar mitzvah, raising questions about foreign influence in the handling of the case.

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The Sun reports that some of the other men involved have a history of troubling behaviour, including posting Instagram videos of women being “harmed.” Until recently, Israeli media has largely sided with the men accused, but on January 1st, renowned journalists Orly Vilnai and Guy Maroz became the first Israeli media to visit Cyprus and interview the young woman. After interviewing her, they told Israeli Network 13, “She was raped physically, unequivocally,”

Since the case went global, other disturbing reports on Cyprus sex attacks and legal mismanagement have emerged. BBC Radio host Jeremy Vine heard from a mother whose daughter faced an almost identical situation, and was forced to recant a rape accusation after police interrogation in Cyprus.

On December 12th 2019, a Scandinavian woman also came forward and alleged the Cypriot police had forced her to recant a report of sexual assault after hours of interrogation.

The resort where the young Brit was attacked also has a history of female guests being attacked by males. In a recent review of the resort on TripAdvisor, an 18-year-old guest reports she woke up with a man on top of her.

The situation has caused many vacation-goers to reassess Cyprus as a holiday destination. The hashtag #BoycottCyprus has been trending, with thousands of Twitter users taking to their platforms to voice their disgust at the treatment of the young woman.

One mother who wrote in to Pambos Napa resort to voice concerns about the safety of her young daughter who was planning on staying there posted the resort’s responses to her.

In the Facebook Messenger conversation, the resort appears to blame the young Brit who is currently facing the ordeal, claiming she was not raped because she “was a friend with those boys.”

Katy Wilmshurst says she hopes the attention will stir change. “I hope, with the negative publicity for the hotel and Ayia Napa as a whole, it will be working much harder to secure the support of guests next season.”

Another vacation goer, Soph Hudson of Midlands, took to Twitter to strike Cyprus off as a destination in a tweet that went viral on Monday.

She added:

“I was planning on going to Cyprus this year, I’ve heard great things about the place and the people,” Hudson says, noting she believes the full blame falls on the alleged rapists. “It’s not about protecting myself from [the people], it’s about how I don’t feel safe from the justice system there.”

Hudson says that after her tweet went viral, she received replies from tourists who went to Cyprus and faced similar ordeals with the justice system. “I’ve had people tweet me saying they totally get the case as they had a theft from their apartment and were threatened by the police into retracting.”

Anna Slatz is a freelance writer and sociology graduate student in New Brunswick, Canada. She tweets @YesThatAnna.

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