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Complaints against the Palestinian Society

Disclosure date: 12 June 2012

Reference: FOI2012/037

Request

1. Please provide me with the official statement of the SOAS covering the physical assault of Mr. Richard Millett during a public and open meeting of the SOAS Palestine Society.

2. Please also provide me with the number of complaints lodged against the Palestine Society with the SOAS alleging racism, intimidation, abuse and assault.

Response

1. I have reproduced a statement that was issued on 16 May 2012 below. Please note that since this response was sent, the police have confirmed that Mr Millett has asked them to investigate an alleged assault. To date, nobody has been charged.

“As with any complaint or concerns regarding events at SOAS, we have looked into the event on 14 May in detail to establish the facts. This includes discussion with the organisers of the event, the police and our security teams. We can confirm that, having spoken with those involved, the police are satisfied that no assault took place and will not be taking any further action regarding this matter.

The event which you refer to was organised by a Students’ Union (SU) society, not by SOAS. Although these events are separate to SOAS, anyone hosting an event on our premises, including the SU, must abide by our code of conduct http://www.soas.ac.uk/admin/governance/policies/file37327.pdf and our filming policy.

Any individual or organisation wanting to film an event at SOAS must get permission from the communications office. Unfortunately, it appears that Mr Millett failed to abide by the policy and filmed a number of people without their permission. No request for filming was received by SOAS or the SU. On this occasion, Mr Millett was repeatedly asked to cease filming. When he refused to do so, he was asked to leave.

Mr Millet has been a frequent visitor at SOAS and SU events and is welcome to engage in open and constructive debate. However, we cannot allow any individual or group to disrupt events. The SU has received complaints from some attendees who said they felt intimidated by Mr Millett’s behaviour.

SOAS takes all complaints about events held on our premises very seriously and we will be meeting the SU to discuss this further. We will also ask the SU to ensure that all clubs and societies, as well as those chairing events, are reminded of the code of conduct, and to ensure that participants behave in an orderly and courteous manner and that rules on filming are enforced politely.

As a leading centre of political debate in the UK, SOAS and our SU host a wide range of events, seminars and lectures concerning issues confronting the areas of the world we study, some of which are divisive and politicised. Many of these events are open to the public and it is our responsibility to ensure that those attending and/or participating are able to engage in open and constructive debate in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance. It is a responsibility we take very seriously.”

2. No formal complaints have been received by SOAS regarding the Society. Following the allegation you refer to, approximately 20 complaints about the Society were received by SOAS from those who had read about the allegation. The Palestine Society is a society of the SOAS Students’ Union, which is a separate body to the School, so we are unable to say whether they have received complaints relating to the Society.