Police have taken statements from three Greek Cypriot women — aged 59, 37 and 30 — two of whom were captured on video hurling a stream of racist and other abuse at a 40 year old Russian woman in a car park in Larnaca.
It came as the Commissioner for Human Rights expressed ‘shame’ over the racist language in the video.
Police spokesman Christos Andreou said that police have also taken a statement from the victim who filmed the incident on her mobile and yesterday handed over a copy of the video to police. Police have also taken CCTV from the parking area and are interviewing witnesses.
Police are investigating the incident under the law on racism. They are also investigating a case of common assault, public insults and creating a disturbance as well as possible violation of personal data.
The racist abuse has been roundly condemned, including by political parties as well as Ombudswoman Maria Stylianou Lottidou whose brief also includes the protection of human rights
A video of the incident has gone viral on social media. It shows the woman being insulted and abused by two Greek Cypriot women angered by the fact that she had taken a video and photographs of a minor collision they had been involved in at the car park.
The Russian woman told media she had stopped the car as it was trying to leave the car park and taken photos of the damage. She said she had been punched while on the video one of the Greek Cypriot women can be heard spitting.
The Cypriot women denied they intended to leave the scene of the accident and started hurling obscenities and racial slurs at the woman.
The whole incident took place in front of two children which the police spokesman and Lottidou said potentially raised other issues as well.
In a written statement issued on Sunday night, the human rights commissioner said the video contained the element of verbal assault to such an extent that it is not only racist speech, but if reproduced can influence third parties to such a extent that through copycat action and behaviour may lead to violent acts.
“It is sad that in democratic societies there are behaviours which stigmatise persons and reproduce stereotypes and prejudices,” she said.
The content of the video was such as to create feelings of shame among all and the need to protect human dignity. The language used, the intensity and the gestures lead to the conclusion that enmity was shown to a woman simply because of her ethnic origin, she said.
“Such behaviour suspends or at least delays the possibility of cultivating a culture of acceptance and respect for diversity. That is why the presence of the minor is important. It became a victim of hostile behaviour and verbal insult of the dignity and reputation of a third person based on different ethnic origin,” she said.
Every child is the present and future and adults have the responsibility to give only good examples. “Through this incident an arrow hit the present and wounded our future. Reversal is the obligation for all of us,” she concluded.
Ανακοίνωση Επιτρόπου Διοικήσεως και Προστασίας Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων ημερομηνίας 6 Οκτωβρίου 2019, με θέμα “Δημοσίευση και άμεση αναμετάδοση βίντεο με περιεχόμενο προσβλητικό ως προς την υπόληψη τρίτων προσώπων”#Cyprus pic.twitter.com/0YHYqgSOTM
— Cyprus Ombudsman (@CYOmbudsman) October 6, 2019