• Sunday, May 26, 2024

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Former civil servant accuses Cabinet Office of ‘systemic racism’

Rowaa Ahmar filed a lawsuit against Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and other senior officials at an employment tribunal

Photo: iStock

By: Pramod Thomas

A former civil servant alleged that the head of the civil service and other senior officials allowed “unrelenting and systemic” racism to thrive within the Cabinet Office, court documents have revealed.

Rowaa Ahmar, formerly a senior Treasury official with Egyptian and French heritage, filed a lawsuit against Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and other senior officials at an employment tribunal.

She alleged instances of both sexual and racial discrimination, citing eight grievances and named 27 individuals specifically.

However, Ahmar withdrew her claims after nearly two years of legal proceedings.

On Thursday (18), Tribunal judge Richard Nicolle granted permission for the publication of document details following a successful request by media outlets.

In her complaint, she claimed that the racism present within the Cabinet Office seemed persistent and widespread, leading her to feel excluded from ministerial meetings after raising concerns about it.

She asserted that she faced hostility and discrimination from her manager based on her race and nationality. Additionally, Ahmar pointed out instances where she felt marginalised and victimised due to her ethnicity.

Ahmar had been seconded to the Cabinet Office in June 2021 to help lead Britain’s preparations for the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.

She claimed she was the only black, asian and minority ethnic official at her level within the Cabinet Office. Furthermore, she accused her manager of targeting her with hostile treatment due to her race.

“She criticised my communication skills and referred to English being my third language. I was performing well but she still singled me out for hostile treatment,” she alleged, according to court documents.

“She clearly disliked me for some reason (others noticed it), wished and sought to ignore or humiliate men, and could not contain her hostility towards me.

“She did not conduct herself in that hostile manner towards her white staff”.

Ahmar’s grievances extended to the handling of her complaints by senior officials, including Simon Case, Alex Chisholm, the permanent secretary and Sarah Harrison, the chief operating officer, whom she accused of being untrustworthy.

Although the officials downplayed their involvement, Ahmar insisted on their accountability for their handling of her complaints.

Ahmar also alleged Cop26 staff wasted taxpayers’ money by organising needless trips to the Highlands.

Upon assuming a senior position in an illegal migration task force in January 2022, she accused civil servants involved in combating illegal boat crossings of endorsing a culture of racist hostility.

She said that directors within the civil service regarded the harsh treatment of migrants as ‘pragmatic, indispensable, and satisfying’.

According to tribunal documents, Case and the other officials argued that their involvement in the matter was minimal. Ahmar tendered her resignation on July 21, 2022, citing a lack of trustworthy individuals in leadership positions. She lamented the pervasive and systemic nature of racism within the Cabinet Office, which she viewed as a significant factor contributing to her decision to resign.

“These allegations are completely unfounded and the Cabinet Office has always firmly denied all of the claims in this case. We were prepared to robustly defend them in court,” a Cabinet Office spokesman was quoted as saying.

“The claimant has withdrawn all of these claims and we have agreed to that. No payment has been made, including in relation to the legal costs incurred.”

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