Muslim abused by RAF officers, tribunal hears
Thursday 10 September 2009 21.38 BST
A Muslim RAF medic was called a "terrorist" and "Paki" and was assaulted by superior officers while on duty in Afghanistan
, a tribunal heard today.
A sergeant also grabbed the medical officer by the throat in front of colleagues in a racially motivated attack, the employment tribunal in London was told, and the armed forces' failure to properly investigate the 2007 incident amounted to a further instance of racial discrimination.
Details of the alleged abuse suffered by the man, known only as AB, can now be reported after a judge partially lifted restrictions relating to some witnesses.
During cross-examination Warrant Officer Nicolas Harper of the RAF's equal opportunities investigation team (EOIT) accepted the alleged abuse was of a "particularly serious nature" deserving of an "expeditious resolution".
Details of the Afghanistan incident were heard in private but it is understood it took place in Helmand province in 2007 where AB was posted with a specialist unit.
British-born AB, who is of Pakistani origin, returned to RAF Northolt in northwest London and was signed off as sick shortly after. He launched a formal complaint in August 2007.
Jude Bunting, representing AB, told the court there were claims against two people in particular, one of whom was the commanding officer of the unit in question, and the claims were of a verbal and physical nature.
He said AB had been called a terrorist, Paki and grabbed by the throat.The EOIT initially investigated the case and then passed it on to the Specialist Investigation Branch for possible criminal proceedings. In summer 2008, some 10 months after the initial complaint, Harper said he inquired about the progress of the SIB investigation only to be told that a report was still in preparation.
He was then sent on a posting to the Falkland Islands returning in March this year. In February this year the SIB ruled that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with any court martial.
The OEIT again took over the investigation, which is now expected to finish interviewing witnesses next month.
The tribunal heard that investigations should normally be completed within six weeks. Harper said the delays were due to difficulties in tracking down more than a dozen witnesses, some of whom were only known by their nicknames. Others had now left the military
He said the OEIT investigation was halted while the CIB inquiry was under way.
Bunting told the court that the medic had suffered bad dreams every night and increased anger towards the military due to its inability to complete the investigation. "You failed to investigate the case with reasonable dispatch," he suggested to Harper. "You failed to keep AB informed. You simply wanted to cover it up."
Harper denied that was the case adding that he volunteered to work in the investigations unit because he "felt strongly about these issues in the military".
The case was adjourned until tomorrow when representatives of AB and the Ministry of Defence are expected to make closing arguments, once again in secret.