Former NUS president challenges dismissal at tribunal

The national student body for the UK has maintained the investigation into allegations of antisemitism was robust

March 17, 2023
Source: iStock

The former president of the UK’s National Union of Students – who was dismissed after an investigation into antisemitism allegations – has begun employment tribunal proceedings against the organisation.

Shaima Dallali contended that her dismissal in November last year formed part of a course of discriminatory conduct against her, and was seeking compensation for damages.

The NUS has maintained that the independent King’s Counsel-led investigation – which found “significant breaches” of the organisation’s code of conduct – was robust.

In a statement announcing proceedings, Carter-Ruck, the law firm acting on Ms Dallali’s behalf, said she had “deeply held, publicly articulated beliefs on the right of Palestinians to live free of occupation”, but complaints were made that these “amounted to antisemitism”.

The statement alleged that the former president of the students’ union at City, University of London was disadvantaged at every stage of the dismissal process, including by the complaints being made public, which meant the “allegations, however distorted, will follow her for the rest of her life”.

Furthermore, it claimed the NUS refused to take into account Ms Dallali’s written submissions and that the organisation repeatedly leaked, or allowed to be leaked, sensitive information into the public domain.

Carter-Ruck said their client was ultimately dismissed for four tweets from before she joined the organisation – three of which the NUS had previously found to be “discourteous” rather than antisemitic.

The final tweet, sent when Ms Dallali was 18, included an Arabic expression that she did not appreciate had an antisemitic meaning, and for which she had apologised, the statement said.

“She has repeatedly made clear her opposition to all forms of racism, including antisemitism, while continuing to campaign to denounce the plight of the Palestinian people,” it added.

Ms Dallali contended that the tweets did not amount to a dismissible offence and that there was no rational explanation for dismissing her.

“She considers her dismissal (and the unfair process preceding it) to have been motivated by antipathy towards her protected anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian protected beliefs, the fact that she supported the Palestinians and her religion as a Muslim,” the statement said.

She is seeking suitable declarations, compensation (including compensation for loss of earnings, stigma damages, personal injury, injury to feelings and aggravated damages) on four bases.

In response, the NUS said its focus was to represent all students and to be an inclusive and progressive force for good.

“We are confident that the independent, KC-led investigations that led to the dismissal of the previous president were conducted in a thorough and fair way – and in the strictest parameters of the law,” a spokesperson added.

“There is no room for doubt that this process has been as robust as it gets.”

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