STATEMENT IN CONDEMNATION OF THE OXFORD UNION’S IRRESPONSIBLE AND VIOLENT TREATMENT OF EBENEZER AZAMATI
Issued by the Oxford University Oxford Africa Society
The Oxford University Africa Society (AfriSoc) strongly condemns the violent, unjust, inhumane, and shameful treatment of our member, Mr. Ebenezer Azamati, a Ghanaian MPhil student in International Relations at St. John’s College, at the Union Chambers by a Union staff on the evening of 17 October, 2019. No individual deserves to be treated in that manner.
Our attention was first drawn to this incident by an article in the Oxford Student, by various pained accounts from witnesses and by Mr. Azamati himself, and. Our understanding is that Mr. Azamati, who is visually impaired, was forcibly and violently prevented from re-entering the Union to resume his seat, and subsequently, forced to leave the debate Chamber after simply exiting and re-entering when the program had not even begun. Even if he had re-entered when the debate had started, such poor treatment through violent means remains unjustifiable.
Assuming that rules for re-entry prevent anyone from stepping into the Chamber at a stipulated time before sessions begin, it is only out of courtesy, out of consideration to a fellow Union member and beyond these, out of a needed awareness of the physical needs of Mr. Azamati, that he should have been treated far more courteously and with dignity. He should have actually been helped to resume his seat inside the Chamber. Should the debate have even begun already, the Union ought to have a well thought out procedure for a situation where a physically impaired individual may need to exit and resume their place within your chamber.
Following these reports, we sent a letter to the Oxford Union via the President, Mr. Brendan McGrath on Wednesday, 6 November, 2019 making the following demands from the Union to be fulfilled within three business days:
- An unreserved public apology to Mr. Azamati by the Oxford Union and the President, Brendan McGrath;
- The recantation of Mr. Azamati’s ban and a reinstatement of his Oxford Union membership;
- Adequate punishment of the security personnel who assaulted Mr Azamati; and
- Compensation agreed with Mr. Azamati.
That the Oxford Union neither acknowledged receipt of our letter nor reacted to its contents is not surprising in the least as it perfectly represents the wanting manner in which this case has been handled from the start, and the irresponsible leadership which characterises the Oxford Union today.
What is more disturbing is that, after the terrible treatment meted out to Mr. Azamati,—Brendan McGrath, the President of the Union—who was absent at the scene of the incident personally lodged a complaint against Mr. Azamati for violent behaviour. This is a shocking response given that he was not, in fact, the perpetrator of violence but a victim. Brendan McGrath then proceeded to oversee an unfair hearing where Mr Azamati was not given sufficient time to bring his witnesses and which resulted in the suspension of Mr. Azamati’s Union membership until May 2020.
The manner in which Brendan McGrath and the Union have handled this matter is inhumane, not least given the dignity of an individual at stake. AfriSoc is deeply concerned by the physical, emotional and psychological trauma Mr. Azamati has had to endure in the past few weeks due to reckless leadership on display at the Oxford Union.
To ensure the safety of all persons—not least those that are physically or otherwise challenged—should be more intuitive than even legally prescribed. In this case, it is prescribed, and Schedule G of the Union’s rules and standards (policy for the protection of children and vulnerable adults) explicitly calls for the protection of vulnerable adults and children with disabilities who come to the premises of the Union.
That the Union failed in this basic responsibility is sufficient grounds to demand for the resignation of the Union President, Mr. Brendan McGrath. AfriSoc thus calls on the President of the Union to consider his position given that he his conduct on this matter renders him unfit to assume the position of responsibility.
In addition, AfriSoc will proceed to protest against the Oxford Union until our demands are fully met. AfriSoc holds this case as not only a grave injustice to Mr Azamati but to all African students, students with disability needs and all students at the University of Oxford with the heart and mind to appreciate the unfair and undignified treatment of Mr. Azamati.
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You can download the press statement here
President, Oxford University Africa Society
Vice President, Oxford University Africa Society
General Secretary, Oxford University Africa Society