Judge Asher Grunis
Judge Asher Grunis Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Supreme Court President, Justice Asher Grunis said Monday that a media attack on a panel of judges for allegedly humiliating a rape victim was based on unfounded allegations.

"We found ourselves on the defensive, faced with an unbridled campaign in the media that usually lacked a minimal factual basis, which meaningfuly hurt the court system and its judges,” Grunis said, at a conference of judges in Tel Aviv.

About two months ago, Israeli media began discussing allegations by a lawyer who represented a young woman who complained in 2006 about a rape by three Arabs from eastern Jerusalem, who followed her and attacked her in a north Jerusalem neighborhood when she was 14. These men were later convicted of sexually assaulting her but not of rape and received short jail sentences.

The woman later requested recognition as a victim of terrorism, because – so she claimed – the attack was nationalistically motivated. She recently complained through her lawyer that the three District Court judges who discussed this request asked her to physically demonstrate how the rape took place, thus humiliating her. Allegedly, she had to get down on her knees in the course of this demonstration.

The matter received very high profile media coverage and the judges involved were thoroughly denounced. In addition, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni herself filed a complaint against the three juges involved and her spokeswoman announced that judges would undergo sensitivity training regarding victims of sex crimes.

The Court System Ombudsman, Judge (ret.) Eliezer Goldberg, established last week that these publications were not based on facts. He made clear that the physical demonstration in the courtroom took place at the request of the victim, and in the course of her own lawyer's presentation. She demonstrated how one of the rapists sat on her but at no time did she kneel on the floor as had been alleged in the media.

"Based upon baseless statements by a lawyer, who had not represented her in the case and was not present in the courtroom, and without examining the actual facts, various media declared that three judges forced a victim of rape to go the the center of the courtroom, kneel down on all fours and demonstrate the rape that she had undergone,” Grunis charged.

"The photographs of the judges appeared in the newspapers. They – and the legal system in general – were besmirched, and their professional rectitude was impugned.”

According to the head of the legal news desk at Makor Rishon / Maariv, Yehuda Yifrach, senior judges have expressed their anger at Minister Livni, for failing to support the Magistrates' Court judges against the spurious allegations and even making all judges undergo sensitivity training, supposedly as a lesson learned from the allegations. 

The original case, in which a 14-year-old Jewish girl was raped by three Arabs, received little to no coverage in the media and the attackers reportedly received sentences of under 2 years in jail.