Essex

Army racism tribunal: Officer 'referred to coloured people'

Hani Gue Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Former paratrooper Hani Gue told a tribunal he was subjected to racist abuse in the Army

A British Army officer questioned if the n-word was racist and referred to "coloured people", an employment tribunal has been told.

Former paratrooper Hani Gue claimed Lt Col Geoff Hargreaves made the comments in an interview in 2018 after he had complained about racist language.

Mr Gue and ex-colleague Nkululeko Zulu have taken the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to a tribunal alleging they suffered racial discrimination.

The MoD is contesting the claims.

The pair served with 3rd Battalion (3 Para), based at Merville Barracks in Colchester, the tribunal in central London has heard.

On a trip to Kenya in 2017 the paratroopers claimed they heard colleagues use the n-word to refer to locals.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Nkululeko Zulu has also taken the Army to an employment tribunal over alleged racist abuse

Christopher Milsom, representing the claimants, said in a subsequent interview Lt Col Hargreaves asked Mr Gue why the use of the term was an issue.

He is alleged to have said: "If the coloured guys can do it why can't a Caucasian?"

The officer insisted to the tribunal his use of the word coloured was appropriate in the context.

'Bit of a minefield'

Lt Col Hargreaves said: "You can no longer call a blackboard a blackboard, you have to call it a chalkboard because it is deemed offensive."

Adding told the tribunal the n-word was used in films, adding language about race was "a bit of a minefield".

The two former paratroopers claim the Army did not do enough to prevent racial discrimination and harassment.

Mr Gue has told the tribunal the barracks was decorated with Nazi flags and pictures of Adolf Hitler.

Capt Kurt Perzylo, who was Regimental Sergeant for 3 Para at the time of the Kenya trip, told the tribunal he did not think it had a racism problem, although he said BAME soldiers made up only a small percentage of the battalion.

The MoD said the armed forces took such complaints seriously and at least one was referred to the Royal Military Police.

The tribunal continues.

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