Judge Nissim Yeshaya who caused a stir by saying "some girls enjoy rape" announced Wednesday he is stepping down from his present capacities.
The statement came after a meeting Yeshaya held with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Supreme Court President Asher Grunis in which the judge offered to step down as an appeals committee panel member.
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Livni welcomed the decision saying this was the only way to restore public trust to the judiciary. "All judges need to know they are under scrutiny and must conduct themselves in a manner becoming those entrusted with safeguarding the law and deciding the fates of others."
She further added, "This isn’t just about any single statement, it's about a perception women have fought against for years whereby victims are being blamed for the rape. Such a statement, even if unintentional, could legitimize rape in the twisted minds of potential offenders. And judges too need to know that when a woman says 'no' she means 'no'."
Judge Yeshaya of the District Court in Tel Aviv made the outrageous statement during a hearing on the rape six years ago of a 13-year-old girl by four Palestinian youths from the Shuafat refugee camp, Army Radio reported. The rape victim was not present at the hearing.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Yeshaya's remark unfortunate and unacceptable, adding he was withdrawing his support for the judge's appointment as the head of the Likud Party's court.
Knesset Member Aliza Lavie, chairperson of the House's Committee on the Status of Women, announced her plan to approach Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and demand that Yeshaya be dismissed immediately.
Attorney Aloni-Sadovnik, who is representing the rape victim, described the scene in the courtroom to Army Radio: "In the midst of the passionate debate, he (Judge Yeshaya) suddenly said aloud, in earshot of everyone present, 'There are some girls who enjoy being raped.'"
"The room fell into silence," the attorney continued her description. "Even the panel members were silent for several minutes. And he didn’t even get what he had just said. He didn’t understand why everyone became quiet all of a sudden."
She said two panel members tried to calm the situation down and minimize the damage of the judge's statement.
Yeshaya said "this isn’t serious. They are trying to gain publicity off of me. I do not believe a rape victim is not hurt or that rape is not a severe offence. (My comments) were misinterpreted."
Sources who are familiar with the incident said the rape victim was not present at the hearing. "The hall was empty apart from the attorneys," one source said. "This was not a rape trial, but a hearing of the appeals committee of the National Insurance Institute."
Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat called the judge's comment "appalling and outrageous."
The Courts Administration said the judge had no intention of offending the rape victim, who is 19-years-old, and that he regrets making the comment. It stressed that Yeshaya was a retired judge who still attends court hearings, adding that he would be summoned by the Administration shortly
for an inquiry.
Minister Livnat, who chairs the ministerial Committee on the Status of Women, urged the head of the courts administration, Judge Michael Spitzer, to bar Yeshaya from court hearings.
"Rape victims experience severe mental trauma. It is difficult to gauge the damage caused by such a comment, which may deter other victims of sexual assault from (turning to the authorities)," Livnat said.
MK Lavie said "a judge who holds such an opinion cannot sit in court even one more hour. I call on the justice minister to dismiss the judge immediately."
Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On urged Supreme Court President Asher Grunis to suspend Yeshaya. "It is inconceivable that judges who are a part of the judicial system, which is supposed to protect the victims, will run it in such a backwards, shameless and irresponsible manner," she said.
"In this case, an apology is not enough, and action must be taken at once to dismiss Judge Yeshaya before other women are hurt by his dark outlook," she said.
The judicial review panel assembled in the Tel Aviv District Court discussed the rape victim's appeal of a decision of the Defense Ministry not to recognize her rape as an act of terrorism, as she had requested.
In Israel, a Victim of Terrorism is a person injured as a result of a terrorist act committed for nationalistic reasons, in Israel or overseas.
Victims of terrorist attacks are eligible for compensation, pursuant to the Compensation for Victims of Hostilities Act of 1970.
In 2009, the year he retired, Judge Yeshaya caused an uproar when he told The Marker "they always appoint a token Sephardic judge to the Supreme Court."
Attila Somfalvi, Aviel Magnezi and Neri Brenner contributed to the report
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