Essex

Paratroopers win Colchester barracks racial harassment claim

Hani Gue (L) and Nkululeko Zulu Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Hani Gue (L) and Nkululeko Zulu claimed they were subjected to racial harassment

Two former British army soldiers have won a racial discrimination claim against the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Nkululeko Zulu and Hani Gue alleged they faced years of harassment and took their case to an employment tribunal.

A judgement ruled they had been the victims of racist graffiti written on a photo of them in their barracks at Colchester in January 2018.

The tribunal ruled their other claims inadmissible, including the barracks having being decorated with Nazi flags.

The men, who served with 3rd Battalion (3 Para) based at Merville Barracks in Colchester, intend to seek compensation.

The tribunal heard that someone had drawn a swastika, a Hitler moustache and a racist remark on photographs of the men attached to Mr Gue's door.

A written judgement said: "The conduct was unquestionably unwanted; the graffiti in question was of the most unpleasant nature, set out on Mr Gue's personal photographs and was racially highly offensive."

It added that the even though the perpetrator was unknown and therefore the motivation had not been explained, "the carrying out of this act was so unpleasant that it can only have been done with the purpose of violating the claimants' dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating and offensive environment for them".

Image copyright Geograph/Jeremy Bolwell
Image caption The men served with 3rd Battalion (3 Para) based at Merville Barracks in Colchester

Mr Zulu had told the tribunal that when he joined the Army he held it in high regard but now considered it to be a racist institution.

The men's solicitor Amy Harvey, of Banks Kelly Solicitors, said: "The claimants have succeeded in establishing their claim against the MoD that they suffered racial harassment during their time in the Army and that the MoD did not take all reasonable steps to prevent such harassment."

An MoD spokesperson said: "We note the decision of the tribunal today.

"As a modern and inclusive employer, the Armed Forces do not tolerate unacceptable behaviour in any form.

"Any allegations of inappropriate behaviour are taken extremely seriously and investigated thoroughly, as evidenced by our taking up of recommendations in the Wigston review into inappropriate behaviours published earlier this year."

The Army says it's been working hard to stamp out racism. It wants to attract more BAME recruits. This judgement will serve as a reminder that there's still a problem.

Though most of the allegations made by the two former soldiers were dismissed by the tribunal, it concluded that Mr Gue and Mr Zulu had been the target of racist graffiti at their Colchester barracks. It contributed to Mr Zulu's decision to leave.

It might be seen as an isolated incident but a recent internal review carried out by a senior officer for the MoD called for a change in culture in the armed forces to deal with "unacceptable" levels of racism sexism and bullying.

It noted there'd been a "disproportionate" number of complaints from women and ethnic minorities in the armed forces. The MoD says it's now introducing the recommendations from the report to improve the climate and the complaints process.

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