British Foreign Office apologizes for mishandling Egypt rape case
The victim said she “would never trust a British embassy official again” after being left to her own devices after reporting the rape
The British Foreign Office has apologized and paid compensation to a British woman who was raped by an Egyptian army officer and then left by embassy staff to seek medical treatment on her own.
She was also left to report the crime to the same authorities to whom her attackers belonged, reported the Guardian on Wednesday.
A report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman highlights a series of “failures” by on-the-ground embassy staff and chides the Foreign Office for not being “open and accountable.”
“[The actions] were so poor that they were maladministrative,” says the report, which goes on to add that the victim had suffered an “injustice.”
The report found that, contrary to the Foreign Office's own guidelines, embassy staff failed to offer to accompany the woman to report her crime; help her arrange a medical examination; help her find a lawyer; and help her to understand that she would need to be treated with a post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV infection once the virus has entered the body.
The woman, a 35-year-old humanitarian worker living in Egypt, was sexually assaulted after being stopped at a security checkpoint near el-Arish, in Sinai.
The victim said she “would never trust a British embassy official again. I am pleased with the [ombudsman's] report but it does not go far enough. The Foreign Office failed to respond to a victim of sexual assault and a victim of torture.
They did not identify me as being in their care, as vulnerable. They did not do anything for me,” according to the Guardian.
The Foreign Office has apologized to the woman suffered and has paid her £1,000 compensation for the way her complaint was handled.
The victim was supported by charity Redress. Sarah Fulton, its international legal officer, told the Guardian that initially the Foreign Office had been “very defensive” and it had taken two years of a parliamentary investigation to get the Office to admit culpability.
“The Foreign Office initially in January 2012 said with hindsight they could have handled it better. What the victim needed was a speedy, fair resolution of her complaint rather than fighting the civil service for two years,” she said.
Simon Fraser, permanent under-secretary and head of the diplomatic service, said: “We apologise unreservedly to Ms M for the mistakes we made in her case and fully accept the recommendations in the ombudsman's report. We have taken a number of actions to ensure that this does not happen again and we will give Ms M a comprehensive update on the steps we have taken in December.”