Grounds of Appeal Against Termination of Employment by Stop Killer Robots

After 3+ as Government Relations Manager at Stop Killer Robots, a decision was made to terminate my employment on 27th October 2023. Public announcements were made by the campaign coordinator and Steering Committee on 30th October and 1st November, which have put my character and conduct under public scrutiny. These grounds of appeal are made public to limit any damage to my reputation flowing from the public announcements and to provide clarity regarding the termination, so that speculation is avoided.

I, Ousman Noor, Government Relations Manager at Stop Killer Robots (SKR), submit this appeal challenging the decision dated 27th October 2023 to terminate my contract of employment.

On 30th October, the coordinator of SKR (Coordinator) publicly stated that I have left the campaign. On 1st November, the SKR Steering Committee (SC) publicly stated that my termination was not about my support for Palestine, but for “other reasons”, without specifying such reasons. On each occasion, these public communications mentioned me by name, and were made without my permission or seeking my consent, in breach of confidentiality and data protection obligations.

As a consequence of these announcements, I have been informed that public speculation is taking place regarding my character and conduct, in which negative inferences are being made about me. During my 3+ years of work for SKR, I have received positive annual performance reviews, and the notice of termination accepts that I have carried out my work with skill, commitment and determination. It has therefore become necessary to make these grounds of appeal public, to limit any damage to my reputation flowing from the Coordinator’s and SC’s public communications.

Contrary to the statement made by the SC on 1st November, I submit that the termination of my employment by SKR was because I spoke out, in my personal capacity, via a X/Twitter post on 14th October relating to the escalating violence in Israel-Palestine. The post was in support of civilian protection and humanitarian assistance for Palestinians, and for the ending of ongoing breaches of international law including occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

For reasons set out in this appeal, I submit that the termination of employment was motivated by SKR’s interest in protecting its working relationship with Austria, which has provided funding to the Coordinator, and which voted against UNGA resolution (A/ES-10/L.25) on the protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations in Israel-Palestine, citing its full solidarity with Israel as justification for the vote.

The speed and severity of SKR’s decision to terminate my employment, and absence of procedural fairness, all point towards a determination to silence and isolate me from the campaign. SKR’s public announcements were humiliating, had a retaliatory nature and amounted to an abuse of power. An explanation in support of this is set out within these grounds of appeal, and relevant items of evidence are referenced as Exhibits.

Privacy & Confidentiality

To comply with requirements for confidentiality, Exhibits are not made available publicly, but have been submitted internally to the SKR Human Resources Committee (HRC). In addition, contents from such Exhibits are not reproduced verbatim within these grounds but are summarized. To protect the privacy of individuals, the names of individual SKR representatives, other than myself, are not disclosed within these grounds.

I give permission to SKR to publicly disclose these Exhibits, should the SC decide to do so, or if it is considered that the summaries contained herein do not fairly reflect their contents.

This appeal is divided into the following sections:

Sections:

I request that a response to this appeal be made within 2 weeks i.e., 22nd November 2023.

List of Abbreviations

HRC - Human Resources Committee of Stop Killer Robots
SC - Steering Committee of Stop Killer Robots
SKR - Stop Killer Robots
UN - United Nations
UNGA - United Nations General Assembly

Note: In this document, ‘Coordinator’ is used to refer to both the relevant organization, and relevant individual. The context in which it is used makes clear which one is referred to.

List of Exhibits

Exhibit 1 - 13.10.2023 - WhatsApp - Seeking Support for Gaza
Exhibit 2 - 14.10.2023 - Coordinator Requests
Exhibit 3 - 15.10.2023 - ON - SC Meeting Request
Exhibit 4 - 17.11.2023 - 1-1 Chat with Coordinator
Exhibit 5 - 18-19.10.2023 - Serious Management Problem
Exhibit 6 - 19.10.2023 - SC - SKR Statement Email Exchange
Exhibit 7 - 19.10.2023 - Suspension
Exhibit 8 - 23.10.2023 - ON - Appeal to SC
Exhibit 9 - 27.10.2023 - SKR Termination Letter
Exhibit 10 - 27.10.2023 - Remote Termination Letter
Exhibit 11 - 30.10.2023 - Coordinator - Ousman has left
Exhibit 12 - 30.10.2023 - ON - Haven’t left
Exhibit 13 - 01.11.2023 - SC - Not about Palestine
Exhibit 14 - Digital Dehumanisation WhatsApp Group
Exhibit 15 - SKR Ukraine Post
Exhibit 16 - Austrian MFA Funding to Coordinator
Exhibit 17 - Examples of Distribution List use
Exhibit 18 - ON Performance Reviews
Exhibit 19 - SKR Vision and Values
Exhibit 20 - Austria UN Twitter
Exhibit 21 - 29.09.2023 - SKR Campaign Briefing with Austria
Exhibit 22 - 17.10.2023 - Austria UNGA Side Event with SKR
Exhibit 23 - 28.09.2023 -SKR Post #VoteAgainstTheMachine
Exhibit 24 - Confusion after Coordinators email of 30.10.2023
Exhibit 25 - Negative inferences on my character following SC email of 01.11.2023
Exhibit 26 - SKR and Digital Dehumanization
Exhibit 27 - Statements by organizations in humanitarian disarmament on Israel-Palestine

A. Preliminary Issue: The public nature of SKR’s decision

Immediately after receipt of the notification of termination, access to my work account was terminated and my profile deleted from the SKR website. On 30th October, an email was sent out by the Coordinator to 250+ SKR member organizations and a wide range of government representatives, stating that I had left the campaign staff team at the end of the previous week, and wishing me well in my future endeavors.

This email was sent without my permission or seeking of my consent, in breach of confidentiality and data protection obligations. It was also sent despite the notice of termination confirming a right of appeal, and the letter of termination from my employer confirming that my employment would not be terminated until 31st January 2024.

SKR’s decision to publicly state that I had left the campaign, implying my resignation, was humiliating. This is especially because, as set out in the factual summary below, I had explicitly informed the SC by email on 23rd October that I do not feel it appropriate that I should resign due to the implication of wrongdoing on my part.

Following delivery of the Coordinator’s email, I began receiving messages from colleagues expressing concern at my decision to leave the campaign, with others expressing surprise that I would resign at such an important time for our work [Exhibit 24]. I was therefore forced into the position of having to explain to colleagues that I had not left the campaign, nor had I resigned.

Later the same day, I sent an email to rectify the Coordinator’s mischaracterization of the circumstances of my termination in which I confirmed that I had not left, but that I had received a notification of termination. I provided a brief explanation of what had happened in response to requests from colleagues who, incorrectly, believed that I had resigned [Exhibit 12 & 24].

Although I no longer have access to my work account, I have been informed that a range of colleagues have expressed concern over this situation, asking for transparency regarding the circumstances of my termination.

On 1st November, the SC emailed the 250+ SKR member organizations stating that my dismissal was not due to my expression of support for Palestine, but because of other issues. The decision by the SC to send this email to the entire campaign coalition, commenting on the reasons for my termination, was a decision to engage with questions relating to my termination publicly, undermining the assertion that the decision to terminate my contract is a purely internal matter for the SC.

Following this email, I have also been informed that discussions are being held among campaign member organizations, with speculation taking place and negative inferences made about my conduct and behavior being the potential reason for the termination of my employment [Exhibit 25].

Since the commencement of this process, I have complied with all SKR demands sent to me relating to the suspension and termination of my employment contract. This has included not using the campaign email listservs, not engaging in advocacy for the campaign, not attending meetings for the campaign, and taking a period of imposed leave. Even after the notice of termination was received on 27th October, I had been diligently working on grounds of appeal to be sent to the SC for internal consideration only.

However, due to the actions of SKR to publicly, and incorrectly, announce that I have left the campaign, and subsequently to make additional public comments on the reasons for my termination – each without my permission or seeking of consent – it has now become necessary to make these grounds of appeal available to the public and alleviate potentially misleading speculation regarding these events, in which my own character, actions and behavior have been placed under public scrutiny.

B. Chronology

Note: Events listed on the same date are presented in order of occurrence.

Date Event
8th – 14th October
[all dates in 2023]
Ousman present in New York, USA to participate in UNGA with SKR in support of resolution on autonomous weapons systems.
12-13th October Israel terminates food, water, gas, and electricity supply to the residents of Gaza, and issues 24-hour evacuation notice.
13th October Ousman messages Coordinator seeking advice and support relating to the humanitarian situation, requesting use of campaign email listserv to assist in advocacy calling for a humanitarian corridor.

Request denied by Coordinator, Ousman told not to use campaign email listserv.

Further plea for support to Coordinator, citing urgency of situation.
14th October Coordinator ignores further plea, commends team on positive night at SKR event.
14th October Ousman makes X/Tweet post from personal account, drawing attention to humanitarian concerns in Israel-Palestine and calling upon listeners to speak out against occupation, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing.

X/Tweet post is shared with family, friends, colleagues, and a limited number of government representatives via Ousman’s WhatsApp only.
14th October Coordinator messages Ousman advising to focus communications on autonomous weapons and not use campaign lists.
15th October Ousman requests urgent SC meeting to consider making a campaign statement on humanitarian concerns and international humanitarian law violations in Israel-Palestine.
17th October Discussion between Coordinator & Ousman
17th October SC meeting held to discuss making a campaign statement on humanitarian concerns and international humanitarian law violations in Israel-Palestine.
18th October Coordinator notifies Ousman of intention to terminate employment contract, communication delivered to Ousman by telephone and email.
19th October Ousman emails SC urging SKR to make a campaign statement.
19th October Coordinator notifies Ousman of suspension, requesting him to refrain from work activities, not attend meetings and to take leave.
23rd October Ousman emails requesting SC to provide written reasons for suspension, and for compliance with due process for consideration of the termination of employment contract.

SC does not provide reasons for suspension, nor details relating to the process for termination.
27th October Coordinator sends notice of termination to Ousman containing reasons for termination.

Additional email received from payroll company used by SKR to facilitate employment, confirming notice of termination and employment to end on 31st January 2024.
27th October Resolution at the UNGA calling for protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations in Israel-Palestine (A/ES-10/L.25).

120 states vote in favor, 14 against, 45 abstentions.

Austria among states voting against the resolution.
30th October Coordinator sends public email stating Ousman has left the campaign staff team.
30th October Ousman emails to rectify mischaracterization of Coordinator’s email.
1st November SC sends public email to state that Ousman’s termination was not due to support for Palestine, but for other reasons.

C. Factual Summary

About Stop Killer Robots & My Work

Stop Killer Robots (SKR) was founded in 2013 and is a global coalition of 250+ civil society organizations across 70+ states, advocating for new international law on autonomous systems, to counter digital dehumanization and protect our shared humanity in the face of rapidly evolving technological change. SKR’s Steering Committee (SC) and member organizations are united by a shared vision and values [Exhibit 19], which include:

  • Belief in the inherent dignity of all people, in life and in death.
  • Belief in pursuing non-violent solutions to problems, and using cooperation, negotiation, and activism to build the social responses that are needed, not merely convenient.
  • Promoting law as a social process, created by people for people, and requiring social engagement to ensure it works to assist the vulnerable, not the already powerful.
  • To work together, as activists, to build a better society and overcome inequalities and systems of oppression.

The SC, responsible for leadership and the primary decision-making body of SKR, is composed of 9 organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Article 36, Association for Aid and Relief Japan, International Committee of Robots Arms Control, Mines Action Canada, PAX, Latin America Human Security Network (SEHLAC) and the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom.

Since September 2020, I have been employed to work as Government Relations Manager for SKR. Throughout this time, my work has involved representing SKR at meetings and conferences at the UN and other multilateral fora, engaging with diplomats and government representatives in support of the protection of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and ethical values and principles, to achieve the launch of negotiations of a legally binding instrument on autonomous weapons systems.

Throughout my 3+ years of work, I have remained a loyal and determined member of the staff team, and have not faced any disciplinary actions by the Coordinator or SC of SKR. There have been two annual performance reviews during my work, one in 2021 and another in 2022, both of which make positive remarks about the quality of my work and commitment to the campaign [Exhibit 18]. The notice of termination from SKR provides appreciation for my work, noting that I have had an important impact in building the campaign’s policy and political position, and states that the work has been done with skill, commitment, and dedication [Exhibit 9].

Prior to my work for SKR, I worked as a barrister (lawyer) in the United Kingdom specializing in the field of refugee, detention, and human rights law. Again, throughout my 9 years of practice, I have never received any disciplinary warnings or actions from any former employer or regulatory body.

My work for SKR has been an immense source of pride for me, and I have been privileged throughout this time to work alongside many passionate and inspiring individuals in the field of humanitarian disarmament, for whom I have the utmost respect.

Lobbying for UNGA Resolution on Autonomous Weapons Systems

Throughout 2023, I managed government relations for SKR in advocating for states to table a resolution at the 78th Session of the UNGA in October 2023. This included conducting over 60 bilateral meetings with diplomatic representatives of states throughout June-September and attending a range of disarmament conferences at the United Nations, Geneva, including the Biological Weapons Convention, Arms Trade Treaty and Convention on Cluster Munitions. During this time, campaign resources advocating for states to table a resolution on autonomous weapons systems at the UNGA were shared with government representatives.

By August 2023, Austria confirmed that it would be taking a leadership role in this process and made a commitment to table a resolution at the First Committee on Disarmament and International Security at the UNGA in October 2023. In this period, SKR worked closely with Austria, conducting diplomatic outreach, national lobbying efforts and media engagement in support of the resolution.

As Government Relations Manager for SKR, I flew to New York to participate in the UNGA meetings and was present from 8th-14th October. I worked together positively with other members of the team, including the Coordinator, to conduct lobbying activities. This was a productive period of work, during which the resolution itself was tabled, and broad support was garnered from states on the issue. The working relationship between myself, the Coordinator, and other campaign members could be characterized as energetic, friendly, and effective throughout this time.

In the background to this work, the violent conflict in Israel-Palestine had been escalating. During this week, I raised concerns about the conflict to the SC, stating that it was exerting a strain on the political dynamics within the UNGA. I also commented that I was grateful to be working with supportive colleagues during this period, and called upon our team to be sensitive to the issue in our work throughout the rest of the month.

Termination of Food, Water, Gas and Electricity in Gaza & 24-Hour Evacuation Notice

On the morning of 13th October, news had been reported that the government of Israel had cut off food, water, fuel, gas, and electricity to the population of Gaza and issued a 24-hour warning to residents to evacuate the Northern part of the territory. This news followed a statement of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, vowing to turn Gaza into a "deserted island” which a wide range of UN and legal experts have described as incitement to commit genocide.

Request and Denial of Support from SKR Coordinator re: Humanitarian Corridor

The news of this escalating violence and expression of genocidal intent by the Israeli Prime Minister was deeply concerning, both personally and professionally. As Government Relations Manager for SKR, I have responsibility to uphold the vision and values upon which the campaign stands, which include working to assist the vulnerable, and pursuing non-violent solutions to problems, using cooperation, negotiation, and activism to overcome systems of inequality and oppression.

In aspiring to apply these values to this context, I contacted a member of the SC on 13th October to seek views on how SKR could respond to the escalating violence in Israel-Palestine. During this meeting I set out my concerns that a population of 2.2 million people, half of whom are children, were being threatened with collective punishment, ethnic cleansing, and potential genocide. In response, I was advised to take the day off, and not attend the UNGA meetings taking place that day. I complied with this advice.

Later the same morning, I reached out via WhatsApp to the Coordinator regarding the situation. I explained that I was seeking both advice and support, setting out the circumstances of what was happening in the Israel-Palestine, and specifically asking if the internal campaign email listserv could be activated to help mobilize campaigners to call for a humanitarian corridor to be established to allow civilians to seek safety from the conflict [Exhibit 1].

The Coordinator responded by acknowledging the horror and urgency of the situation but rejected the request to use the campaign listserv on this issue. In response to this, I reiterated that the situation felt extremely urgent due to the lack of humanitarian aid, or humanitarian corridor [Exhibit 1]. Throughout the day, I complied with the Coordinator’s advice and did not communicate via the campaign listserv on the issue. I did not receive any additional advice from the Coordinator that day in response to my message highlighting the urgency of the situation.

On 14th October the next morning, an additional message was sent by the Coordinator commending the team on a successful event the night before and congratulating the team for their work. This message concretely ignored my previous message regarding the humanitarian situation in Israel-Palestine and avoided dealing with the issues that I had raised [Exhibit 1].

The lack of support from the SC member that I had spoken with, or from the Coordinator, to respond to the pressing humanitarian concerns in Israel-Palestine, and rejection of my request to seek the support of the SKR campaign network, produced a deep sense of isolation.

Recording and Sharing of X/Tweet – Calling for Upholding of Humanitarian and Legal Obligations.

On the morning of 14th October, upon learning further details of the mounting civilian deaths and ongoing escalation of the conflict in Israel-Palestine, I decided to express myself as an individual, and share my view that action needed to be taken to help prevent the evident breaches of international law that were unfolding. This decision was based upon my own principles as an experienced human rights activist and lawyer, and also consistent with the values of SKR, including the need to take action to protect human dignity, assist the vulnerable, and overcome inequalities and systems of oppression.

Using my own mobile phone, I recorded a short video statement outside the UN building in New York, in which I called for viewers to take action to help prevent the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people that was, and remains, underway.

In this video I introduced myself simply as “Ousman”. This was a conscious decision to distinguish this video from those that I have made on behalf of SKR, in which I have always introduced myself as “Ousman from Stop Killer Robots”. This was intended to help ensure that viewers did not get the impression that this was a formal communication made on behalf of the entire SKR coalition.

After uploading this video as a X/Tweet post on my personal account, I drafted a short WhatsApp message, to accompany a link to the X/Tweet post, as follows:

I am in New York for the UN General Assembly, while the world witnesses the premeditated ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people underway. We must break the silence and use whatever ability and influence we have to speak up against occupation and apartheid now. I write this message to you, and to share a tweet containing a video message, requesting that you take immediate action and use your voice in every way possible. Never again is now.

Again, in this message I use the first-person singular to make clear that this is a message from me alone. The purpose of both the video statement, and the accompanying text, was to communicate it to others and encourage them to speak out on these issues.

The message that I shared was not a political one, but a humanitarian and legal one. I do not belong to a political party, nor do I offer political solutions to the conflict. Rather, the terms “occupation”, “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid” are all legal terms, with catastrophic humanitarian consequences. The purpose of my message was to highlight these practices and call for their end.

Between 16:00-17:00, the message was shared with a range of contacts via WhatsApp from my personal phone, the vast majority of whom were my own family and friends. In addition, the message was sent to SKR colleagues, and to a limited number of government representatives who I have worked alongside and have friendly relations with, all of whom were already on my phone as contacts on WhatsApp, and who had freely provided their number to me on previous occasions.

In addition to sending the message directly to individuals, there were several WhatsApp groups that I sent the messages to. However, the only one containing diplomats was one titled “Digital Dehumanisation”, which contained 5 diplomats who had attended a campaign conference in Costa Rica earlier in the year. I had personally set this group up, and its purpose was to provide location details for the conference, and directions to a social event/party. These 5 diplomats were all individuals to whom I had also sent the message directly [Exhibit 14].

It should be noted that SKR has a separate contacts database, containing the names and contact details of several hundred government representatives, as well as a range of email listservs established for campaign work. Neither of these were used by me in sharing my X/Twitter post via WhatsApp.

The message that I shared via WhatsApp was from my personal phone and mobile network, which I pay for myself, and from my telephone number that predates the start of my work with SKR. The only guidance I had received at the time was to not use the SKR email listservs, and I complied with this guidance. I did not therefore believe that I was breaching my employment contract or going against the Coordinator’s guidance. On the contrary, I believed it to be consistent with SKR values.

Guidance from SKR Coordinator

On October 14th at 17:20, after my WhatsApp messages had been sent, I received a message from the Coordinator which stated that I should not use campaign specific lists to send out communications that are not related to autonomous weapons systems at this time [Exhibit 2]. I complied with this request.

Request for Urgent Steering Committee Meeting to consider Campaign Statement

After my return from New York, I reached out to the SC to request an urgent meeting of the SC to discuss the possibility of a campaign statement relating to the ongoing violence in Israel-Palestine.

In this email, I set out the reasons for seeking such a statement [Exhibit 3]. In summary, I stated:

  • As Government Relations Manager for SKR, I have been inspired by the Campaign’s vision and values in my work.
  • This includes working for a world in which we respect each other’s inherent dignity and work together as activists to build a better society and overcome systems of oppression.
  • These values, as well as SKR’s commitment to humanitarian disarmament, and our defense of the principles of international humanitarian law in all circumstances, are what must drive our response to the unfolding horror we are witnessing in Israel-Palestine.
  • It is crucial for SKR to provide a response, made on behalf of the campaign, that is consistent with SKR’s vision and values.
  • As the conflict is rapidly deteriorating, our response should be swift.

Following this request, SC members agreed to hold such a meeting.

Discussion with SKR Coordinator

On the morning of 17th October, a video meeting took place between me and the Coordinator [Exhibit 4]. We discussed work relating to the UNGA resolution on autonomous weapons systems, and shared views on the upcoming SC meeting about the possibility of a campaign statement relating to the ongoing violence in Israel-Palestine. I expressed gratitude for this meeting, and the positive exchange gave me a sense of hope that a campaign statement made by SKR might be possible.

SC Meeting to Discuss Making a Campaign Statement

An SC meeting was held online to discuss the possibility of making an SKR statement relating to the ongoing violence in Israel-Palestine. During this meeting, I stated that as a campaign that is driven to protect international law, and to challenge systems of oppression and to protect human dignity, it was vital for SKR to make a statement on behalf of the campaign. I provided details of evidence of various breaches of international law underway, including collective punishment, ethnic cleaning, apartheid, use of incendiary weapons and incitement to commit genocide, and that an SKR statement should reflect these concerns.

To protect the privacy of SC members that engaged in this discussion, I will not comment on the views shared within this meeting.

Notice of Intention to Terminate Employment Contract

On 18th October, the following morning at 9am, I received a telephone call from the Coordinator. During this call, the Coordinator informed me that a diplomat had informed him that he had received my WhatsApp message containing the X/Twitter post on a WhatsApp group titled “Digital Dehumanisation” which contained other diplomats. Based on this, the Coordinator informed me that I could no longer be trusted, and that a process would be started to consider the termination of my employment at SKR.

I was genuinely startled by this, and tried several times to explain to the Coordinator that I had complied with his instructions. I explained that I had not used the campaign email listservs, or the government contacts database, and that the message had only been sent via WhatsApp to contacts whose numbers I had on my phone, all of whom had freely given their number to me directly.

Given the positive exchange that we had the day before, I was shocked that the Coordinator was now intending to terminate my employment. Shortly after this phone call, the Coordinator emailed me [Exhibit 5] stating, inter alia, that:

  • It has come to his attention yesterday evening that I had sent my message on Israel-Palestine to diplomats.
  • My choices are incompatible with him having confidence in me operating in my role as Government Relations Manager.
  • That the Coordinator was willing to overlook the sharing of my X/Twitter post to colleagues but sharing to diplomats warranted the termination of my employment.
  • If I decide to leave the campaign on my own, he would recommend that the HRC accept that decision.
  • Until formal action is taken, I should refrain from external advocacy communications on behalf of Stop Killer Robots.

The Coordinator asked me to provide him with a full list of all government representatives that the WhatsApp message had been sent to, and to explain whether I had made it clear that the communications were made in my personal capacity rather than from the campaign.

I complied with this request, providing details of the names of government representatives that I sent my personal WhatsApp message to, explaining that the message was sent in my personal capacity, and refraining from any external advocacy communications on behalf of SKR. I also explained that the only group chat that contained diplomats was the “Digital Dehumanisation” one, containing the 5 diplomats [Exhibit 5].

Urging SC to Make a Campaign Statement

On 19th October, I emailed the SC as part of the ongoing discussion in relation to making a campaign statement on behalf of SKR on the humanitarian situation in Israel-Palestine [Exhibit 6]. In these emails I state, inter alia, that:

  • I have the utmost respect for the SC and have felt inspired to work alongside them at SKR.
  • Members of the SC have an individual and collective responsibility to take action at this time to speak out.
  • An occupied and besieged population was being bombed in Gaza.
  • That incendiary weapons were also being used.
  • Collective punishment and starvation are being used as a means of warfare.
  • Many of the government representatives that we work with as colleagues, and socialize with as friends, represent governments that are condoning these actions, and supplying arms to enable the destruction.
  • That if we remain silent at this time, we are in danger of becoming complicit.
  • The unfolding horror was the result of a brutal, and historic, system of occupation and apartheid of the Palestinian people.
  • I urged the SC to make a decision to tell the truth about what we are witnessing and deliver a statement from SKR that is commensurate with the humanitarian situation we are all witnessing.

To date, no statement has been made by SKR relating to the humanitarian situation in Israel-Palestine.

Notice of Suspension

On 20th October, the following day, I received an additional email from the Coordinator [Exhibit 7] which, inter alia, stated that until 27th October I should:

  • Refrain from work and communications during this period.
  • Not participate in meetings and communications.
  • Take paid leave from my work at SKR, during which time I am free to take time off and engage in other things.

Since the previous email of 18th October had already informed me that I should not engage in external advocacy communications, which I complied with, this subsequent email was a clear escalation of a disciplinary process imposed upon me.

Following this email, I asked the Coordinator to provide me with written reasons for the suspension, and to set out the next steps in the disciplinary process that would be taken. I did not receive a response to this request [Exhibit 7].

Request to SC for Reasons for Suspension & Application of Due Process

Since I did not receive a response from the Coordinator to my request seeking written reasons for the suspension, and details of the procedure to determine the termination of employment, I emailed the SC as the primary decision-making body for SKR.

In an email dated 23rd October [Exhibit 8], I set out the facts relating to what had happened, from the time of attending the UNGA up to the notice of suspension. I stated, inter alia, that:

  • The past week had been the most demoralizing and painful period of my entire career.
  • The lack of support, imposed isolation, suspension from my role and notification of intention to terminate my contract, had felt utterly dehumanizing.
  • The lessons learned over the course of the Humanitarian Disarmament Forum from 2021-2022, co-hosted by SKR, which included practicing empathy, compassion, solidarity, as well as recognizing the importance of an intersectional approach to our work, had felt fundamentally lacking throughout this period.
  • While some sympathy has been expressed towards the suffering caused by this violence, the emphasis has been on ensuring that engagement with the issue is avoided, and voices to be silenced throughout this period.
  • I do not feel it appropriate that I should resign due to the implication of wrongdoing on my part.
  • Adherence to due process in relation to my suspension and termination of my contract was required.

After detailing what had happened, outlining the effect it had on me, and confirming that I would not resign, I requested that the SC provide written reasons for my suspension, and to set out the procedure for consideration of my termination [Exhibit 8].

I did not receive a response to these requests from the SC. However, a short email was received from the HRC confirming that my termination was being considered by the HRC, which is a subdivision of the SC.

Notice of Termination

On 27th October, I received a “Notice of Termination” of employment from the Coordinator [Exhibit 9]. The notice set out the following reasons for termination:

  • The Coordinator’s trust in me had been destroyed.
  • The destruction of trust had resulted from my undertaking personal communications to key stakeholders on a sensitive political issue.
  • This communication was made against the Coordinator’s guidance, and further guidance.
  • I used distribution lists established for the work of SKR.
  • I had stopped communicating with the Coordinator at this time.

At the bottom of the notice of termination, the Coordinator states:

  • The Coordinator appreciates the work that I have done for the campaign.
  • I have had a very important impact on building the campaign’s policy and political position.
  • I have undertaken my work with skill, commitment, and dedication.
  • The situation that led to my termination resulted from decisions I made about a cause and situation that I care about deeply.
  • Although the Coordinator respects my commitment to this cause, my actions are incompatible with continuing to represent SKR as the Government Relations Manager.

The notice confirmed that I have a right of appeal, which can be exercised in writing to the HRC by 10th November.

In addition, I received a separate email from the payroll company, based in Switzerland, used by SKR to service my employment [Exhibit 10]. This email states that my employment is being terminated, but that my last date of employment would be 31st January 2024.

Immediately after the notice of termination had been served, access to my work account was terminated. In addition, my profile was deleted from the campaign website, and my UN grounds pass revoked.

UNGA Vote on Protection of Civilians and Upholding Legal and Humanitarian Obligations

On 27th October, a vote was held at the UNGA on the ‘protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations’ (A/ES-10/L.25) relating to the ongoing violent conflict in Israel-Palestine. The resolution called for an immediate, sustained humanitarian truce, for the protection of civilians and civilian objects and for immediate, unhindered access to ensure civilians are not deprived of food, water, medicines, fuel, and shelter indispensable to their survival.

Austria was among a minority of 14 states to vote against this resolution, stating via online communications in relation to the vote that “Austria stands in full solidarity with Israel in fighting against terror” [Exhibit 20].

Coordinator’s Email to Stakeholders – ‘Ousman has left.’

On 30th October, the Coordinator sent an email to the 250+ SKR member organizations, and a range of diplomats and government representatives, stating that I had left the SKR staff team at the end of the week before [Exhibit 11].

This communication was made without my permission, or the seeking of my consent, and in breach of confidentiality and data protection obligations. In addition, I had stated in my email to the SC on 23rd October that I do not feel it appropriate that I should resign due to the implication of wrongdoing on my part [Exhibit 8]. Following the sending of the Coordinators email, I began receiving messages from colleagues expressing surprise that I would leave the campaign at such a crucial time for our work [Exhibit 24]. The Coordinator’s email forced me into the position of explaining to colleagues that I had not left the campaign, nor had I resigned.

I therefore sent an email, later the same day, explaining I have not left the SKR staff team, and to the contrary, I received a ‘Notice of Termination’ on 27th October, which explicitly stated that my employment would end on 31st January 2024. I stated that it was misleading to state that I had left the staff team on 27th October 2023, especially since my employment is ongoing, and my right of appeal is still being exercised [Exhibit 12].

I am unable to view emails sent by SKR members organizations, due to the restrictions placed on my account. However, I have been informed that a range of organizations have called for transparency in the circumstances relating to my termination.

SC Email to Stakeholders – ‘Other Reasons’

On 1st November, the SC sent an additional email to SKR member organizations stating that the reason for my terminations was not because I had expressed support for Palestine, but because of “other reasons”, without specifying any other reasons [Exhibit 13]. Again, this email was sent without my permission or the seeking of my consent.

The consequence of this email has been to put my conduct, behavior, and actions under public scrutiny. I have been informed that discussions are now taking place among campaign organizations in which speculations, including negative inferences, are being made about why SKR terminated my employment contract [Exhibit 25].

D. Challenges to Process

There are a range of procedural issues relating to how SKR terminated my employment, which amount to an abuse of power. These issues include:

  • I. Coordinator’s Failure to Provide Written Reasons for Suspension or Set out Process for Termination

    Following the notice of intention to terminate my employment received on 18th October, a further suspension notice was made on 19th October requesting that I refrain from work activities, not attend meetings, and to take leave until 27th October 2023 [Exhibits 5 & 7].

    In response to this notification, on 19th October I requested that the Coordinator provide written reasons for suspension and to provide details relating to the process that would be followed to consider my termination [Exhibit 7].

    I did not receive a response to these requests.

  • II. SC’s Failure to Provide Written Reasons for Suspension or Set out Process for Termination

    Due to the lack of response from the Coordinator, on 23rd October, I emailed the SC, setting out details of circumstances, and requesting that the SC provide written reasons for suspension and to set out the process for consideration of termination [Exhibit 8]. In this email, I stated that:

    • The past week has been the most demoralizing and painful period of my entire career. The lack of support, imposed isolation, suspension from my role and notification of intention to terminate my contract, had felt dehumanizing.
    • The lessons learned over the course of the Humanitarian Disarmament Forum from 2021-2022, co-hosted by Stop Killer Robots, which included practicing empathy, compassion, solidarity, as well as recognizing the importance of an intersectional approach to our work, have felt fundamentally lacking throughout this period.
    • There had been an emphasis of silence and avoidance of engaging with the grave breaches of international law underway in Israel-Palestine.

    I requested that the SC provide a response by 27th October. I did not receive a substantive response to these requests.

  • III. Lack of Disciplinary Hearing

    At no point throughout this process was I invited to a disciplinary hearing to assess the circumstances, and to consider my termination. I have been informed that a meeting of the HRC took place, but I was not invited to it. As set out in the factual summary, I have never faced a disciplinary action from the SC throughout my work for SKR and have received positive annual performance reviews [Exhibit 18]. I have not received an explanation as to why a disciplinary hearing was not considered necessary.

  • IV. Disregard for My Compliance with SKR Demands

    Throughout this entire process, I have complied with all requests and demands made of me by the Coordinator and the SC. This has included not using the government contacts database or SKR email listservs, refraining from advocacy for the campaign, refraining from meetings for the campaign, taking a period of imposed leave, and providing all information requested of me by the Coordinator.

    Despite my compliance with SKR policy and with all demands made to me, SKR engaged in a series of escalating disciplinary actions, culminating in the sudden termination of my employment.

  • V. Termination of Work Account & Deletion of Profile from SKR Site

    Following receipt of notice of termination, access to my work account and email was terminated within 1 hour. This meant that I have been unable to access a range of documents relating to my work for the campaign, some of which are relevant to this appeal, including access to the SKR Code of Conduct, HR policies, annual performance reviews, and recommendations of the Intersectionality Working Group. I have instead been required to seek these documents through private requests. I have been unable to retrieve additional documents, such as email communications between me and the Coordinator.

    Considering that has been my primary account for 3 years, there is a vast range of personal and sensitive data, including details relating to my location, date of birth, financial, passwords and passport details contained on this account. It has not been explained to me who the legal owner of the data on my SKR work account is, nor have I received details of which entities/ people currently have access to the data within that account.

    In addition, my profile was deleted from the SKR website and UN Grounds pass immediately terminated. These actions reveal a strong emphasis on swiftly removing my association from SKR.

  • VI. Disregard for Appeal Process

    The notice of termination specified that I have a right of appeal against termination, to be submitted by 10th November, and which I am now exercising [Exhibit 9].

    Despite the availability of this appeal, I had already received official notice of termination of employment, was disconnected from access to my work emails, deleted from the SKR website, and had my UN Grounds Pass revoked, all prior to the appeal process being exercised.

    The disregard for the appeal process again reveals a determination to rapidly isolate me from the campaign, prior to the completion of due process.

  • VII. Disregard for 3 Month Notice Period

    The notice of termination also specified that, in accordance with the law, my employment would not be terminated until 31st January 2024 due to the requirement of a 3 month notice period [Exhibit 10].

    Despite this, the Coordinator publicly announced that I have left the campaign as of 27th October 2023 when the notice was served [Exhibit 11], effectively disregarding the 3 months’ notice period for the termination of my employment.

  • VIII. Coordinator Informing Stakeholders without Permission or Seeking of Consent

    On 30th October, an email was sent out by the Coordinator to 250+ SKR member organizations and a wide range of government representatives, stating that I had left the campaign staff team at the end of the previous week, and wishing me well in my future endeavors [Exhibit 11].

    This email was sent without my permission or seeking of my consent, and despite the notice of termination confirming a right of appeal, and the letter of termination confirming that my employment would not be terminated until 31st January 2024 [Exhibit 10].

    As the Coordinator is not my employer, the public sharing of information relating to my employment without my consent is a breach of confidentiality and data protection obligations on the Coordinator.

    The Coordinator’s decision to publicly state that I had left the campaign, implying my resignation, was contrary to my explicit statement to the SC by email on 23rd October that I do not feel it appropriate that I should resign – due to the implication of wrongdoing on my part [Exhibit 8].

    As a consequence of the Coordinator’s announcement, I began receiving communications from stakeholders enquiring about my departure and expressing surprise that I would leave at an important time in the campaign’s work [Exhibit 24]. This caused significant personal distress, and forced me into the position of needing to explain to individuals that I have not left the campaign.

    The Coordinator’s actions amounts to a deliberate attempt to mislead stakeholders regarding the circumstances of my termination, a disregard for my explicit statement that I would not resign due to the implication of wrongdoing, and an undermining of my data protection and confidentiality rights.

  • IX. Elaborating to Stakeholders without Permission or Seeking of Consent

    On 1st November, the SC sent an additional email to the 250+ SKR member organizations in which it is stated that I was not dismissed because of my expression of support for Palestine, but because of “other issues”, although no other issues were specified [Exhibit 13].

    Again, this communication was made without my permission or seeking of my consent. This decision by the SC to send this email to the campaign coalition, commenting on the reasons for my termination was a decision to publicly engage with the issue, contradicting the assertion that the decision to terminate my contract is a purely internal matter f or the SC.

    Again, as the SC are not my employers, this communication was another undermining of my data protection and confidentiality rights.

    Following this email, I have also become informed that discussions are being held among campaign organizations, with speculation taking place, including negative inferences, about my conduct and behavior being the potential reason for termination of my employment [Exhibit 25].

    These actions amount to a deliberate attempt to fend off growing demands for transparency relating to my termination, by publicly casting doubt on my own character and conduct.

Conclusion

Throughout this period, SKR has shown a flagrant disregard for procedural fairness, legal obligations relating to the process for termination, and management of my personal data. Neither the Coordinator, nor the SC, provided reasons for my suspension or provided details of the process that would be followed for termination. No disciplinary hearing was held with my presence, and the SC and Coordinator were indifferent towards my compliance with SKR’s demands. Access to my work account, which includes personal and sensitive data, was immediately terminated. My profile on the SKR website was deleted, and the 3 months’ notice period required by law was ignored.

In addition, the Coordinator publicly, and falsely, stated that I had “left the campaign”, leading campaigners to assume that I had resigned. This communication was made without my permission or seeking my consent, and after I had informed the SC that I do not feel it appropriate that I should resign due to the implication of wrongdoing. The SC’s subsequent email, stating that my termination was not due to support for Palestine, but for other reasons, has now called my own character, behavior, and actions into public scrutiny. Neither the Coordinator, nor the SC are my employers and these communications were made in breach of confidentiality and data protection requirements.

The speed and severity of SKR’s decision, and absence of procedural fairness, all point towards a determination to silence and isolate me from the campaign. The publicly misleading announcements regarding my termination were humiliating, impacted my legal rights and well-being, and had a retaliatory nature. To conclude, I submit that SKRs actions throughout this period amount to an abuse of power.

E. Challenges to Substance

The notice of termination dated 27th October sent by the Coordinator contains a range of reasons for my termination [Exhibit 9]. These reasons are factually incorrect and/or unsustainable bases for my termination. However, as set out in the conclusion below, the notice does also reveal the ultimate reason that my employment was terminated. These grounds of appeal deal with each stated reason in turn:

  • I. Undertaking personal communications to key stakeholders on a sensitive political issue

    The communication that I made should not be characterized as a political issue, but rather a humanitarian issue and/or legal issue. In my X/Tweet post of 14th October, I refer to the issues of apartheid, occupation, and ethnic cleansing. These are recognised legal terms, with humanitarian consequences. It should be noted that a wide range of UN and legal experts have also used these exact terms in communications relating to Israel-Palestine.

    The purpose of making this statement was not to make a political point, but rather to call attention to the ongoing breaches of international humanitarian law, to recognise the horrors that they inflict, and call upon listeners to speak out against them. I do not belong to any political party, nor do I claim to offer political solutions on these matters. Describing my communications as a political issue is a fundamental mischaracterisation of my message.

    It should be noted that a range of organizations working in the field of humanitarian disarmament, including several within the SC, also made statements during this period with similar content to my own statement, including calling for an end to occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing [Exhibit 27].

    Notwithstanding the above, I have always communicated with key organizational stakeholders on a range of political, humanitarian, and legal issues throughout the course of my 3+ years employment as Government Relations Manager. For example, I regularly speak with diplomats, government representatives and other civil society organizations about the conflict in Ukraine, or tensions between NATO and Russia. My job requires me to have such discussions, and these conversations could be characterized as both personal and professional. It is not straightforward to draw the line between the two because discussions can range from autonomous weapons systems, security concerns, breaches of international law, or just sharing views on wider political contexts and dynamics out of mutual interest with whoever it is that I'm speaking with. Oftentimes, such discussions are initiated by diplomats themselves during conversations together.

    The necessity to speak about political matters is even reflected in my annual performance review of 2021 [Exhibit 18], prepared by the Coordinator, which states:

    Ousman has reflected positively on his experience of political engagement over the last year – being part of a political process, contributing to the discussion and developing relationships within the diplomatic community.

    Furthermore, discussing political issues with key organizational stakeholders is something I have frequently observed other members of the campaign, including the Coordinator, do. I have been in various formal and informal meetings between the Coordinator and government delegations, where political matters have been discussed. Such communications made by campaign members have never been criticized or deemed unacceptable. Throughout my 3+ years of employment, I have never been criticized by the Coordinator, for having such discussions myself.

    Finally, the Coordinator has not identified what it was about my Tweet that was sensitive compared to other communications made in the course of my employment. In early 2022, a portion of a campaign video call, organized by SKR, was dedicated to discussions relating to the conflict in Ukraine, during which campaign members shared details of calls to action, pledges, and petitions. In addition, an SKR online post dated 17th October, refers to Russia’s “illegal invasion” of Ukraine, a statement that was not universally accepted by states [Exhibit 15]. It is not therefore clear why communications around the Israel-Palestine conflict were considered sensitive, but in relation to the conflict in Ukraine, SKR was content to adopt politically controversial language.

    For all these reasons, this basis for termination is factually inaccurate and unsustainable.

  • II. Against guidance

    The notice suggests that my actions were against the Coordinator’s guidance.

    As set out in the chronology and factual summary above, on 13th October I messaged the Coordinator requesting the use of the campaign’s email listserv to seek coalition engagement and advocacy for a humanitarian corridor in Gaza. This request came following the announcement that food, water, electricity, and gas were cut, and a 24-hour evacuation notice announced by the Israeli government [Exhibit 1]. The request was denied by the Coordinator.

    The X/Tweet post that I made on 14th October was not against this guidance. The message that I shared via WhatsApp message was from my personal phone and mobile network, and to WhatsApp contacts that I already had on my phone. The majority of recipients to my message were my own family and friends. The limited number of government representatives that I sent the message to were all people with whom I had an established relationship, and who had given me their contact details directly. I did not go against the Coordinator’s guidance which referred to use of the campaign’s email listserv.

    It is therefore factually incorrect to state that I went against the Coordinator’s guidance.

  • III. Against further guidance

    The notice also suggests that my actions went against further guidance.

    It is correct that after sharing the X/Twitter post on 14th October, additional guidance was sent by Coordinator which stated that campaign lists should focus on communications relating to autonomous weapons systems [Exhibit 2]. I complied with this further guidance.

    It is therefore factually incorrect to state that I did not comply with this further guidance.

  • IV. Stopped communicating with the Coordinator

    The notice suggests that I stopped communicating with the Coordinator.

    Throughout the week at the UNGA, the Coordinator and I were both present in NY at the same time. At no point during the time around the sending of the X/Twitter post did the Coordinator try to call me or visit me. It is factually incorrect to suggest that I stopped communications.

    In addition, as set out in the factual summary, the Coordinator and I had a video call together on 17th October, after the sending of the X/Twitter post on 14th October [Exhibit 4]. During this time, we discussed a range of matters including work relating to the resolution on autonomous weapons systems, and the potential for making a campaign statement relating to the conflict in Israel-Palestine. It is odd therefore to suggest that my termination relates to stopping communications with the Coordinator, given our ongoing communication during this time.

  • V. Using distribution lists established for the work of Stop Killer Robots

    The notice also refers to use of distribution lists established for the work of Stop Killer Robots.

    At the outset, I confirm that I did not use the government contacts database, which has several hundred contacts, nor did I use the campaign email listservs, which the Coordinator had told me not to use. Instead, my message was from my personal phone to WhatsApp contacts I already established on my phone. At the time of sending my X/Twitter post on 14th October, the only guidance I had received was specifically about the campaign email listservs [Exhibit 1].

    It is correct that the WhatsApp message was shared on a group that I set up on my personal phone titled ‘Digital Dehumanisation’ which contained 5 diplomats and had been set up to provide logistical information relating to the conference in Costa Rica, and for the social event/party afterwards [Exhibit 14]. Each of these 5 diplomats are individuals with whom I had established friendly relations, have discussed political matters with, and to whom I had also sent the message to directly.

    The Coordinator telephoned me on the morning of 18th October to inform me that I shared my X/Twitter post with diplomats, and that he had knowledge of this because a diplomat had informed him that I shared the message on a group titled Digital Dehumanization.

    However, using this as a basis for termination is unsustainable. Individuals and campaign organizations have often used campaign email listservs and campaign WhatsApp groups to comment on matters unconnected to autonomous weapons systems. Although access to my work account was terminated, meaning I can no longer access the full range of communications on the campaign listservs, I have evidence of the following examples [Exhibit 17]:

    • In November 2022, an SC member used a WhatsApp group established for the work of SKR, to comment on Ukraine’s compliance with its legal obligations unconnected to autonomous weapons systems.
    • In July 2022, a member organization used the campaign listservs to communicate on the conflict in Burma.
    • In October 2021, a member organization used the campaign listserv to communicate on racism and intersectionality.
    • In October 2023, an SC member used the campaign listserv to communicate on algorithmic racism.

    None of these communications, which include ones made by members of the SC, were criticized by the SC or the Coordinator. It is inconsistent therefore to have terminated my employment for using a WhatsApp group on my personal phone, which had only 5 individuals, when the SC and member organizations have used much larger distribution lists established for the work of Stop Killer Robots to communicate on issues beyond the scope of autonomous weapons systems, and which have been considered fine.

    From this inconsistency, it is my view that the only reason my communication was considered problematic, is because it related to Israel-Palestine and was communicated to diplomats, as identified in the Coordinator’s email of 18th October [Exhibit 5] and which was identified as politically sensitive by the Coordinator in the notice of termination of 27th October [Exhibit 9].

  • VI. Not about the specific content of the messaging you undertook

    The notice suggests that my termination is not about the specific content of the message I undertook.

    This statement is contradictory to the Coordinator’s own previous statement on the issue. In the email of 18th October, the Coordinator explicitly states that my termination relates to sending my message relating to Israel-Palestine to diplomats [Exhibit 5], and the notice of termination describes this as a politically sensitive issue [Exhibit 9].

    In addition, the concluding paragraph of the notice of termination states that the Coordinator recognizes that the situation that has led to this termination resulted from decisions about a “cause and situation that I care about deeply” [Exhibit 9]. The recognition that my termination relates to a cause and situation, and the statement that it relates to Israel-Palestine, suggests that the specific content of my message was indeed relevant to the decision to terminate my employment contract. It is therefore disingenuous to state that my termination was not related to the specific content of the messaging that I undertook.

  • VII. Responsibility to focus on the issue of autonomous weapons

    The notice states that the campaign staff team has a responsibility to focus on the issue of autonomous weapons systems.

    While a primary goal of Stop Killer Robots is to establish a new treaty on autonomous weapons systems, the campaign’s vision and values are broader than that. The following principles are contained in these vision and values:

    • Belief in the inherent dignity of all people, in life and in death.
    • Belief in pursuing non-violent solutions to problems, and using cooperation, negotiation, and activism to build the social responses that are needed, not merely convenient.
    • Promoting law as a social process, created by people for people, and requiring social engagement to ensure it works to assist the vulnerable, not the already powerful.
    • To work together, as activists, to build a better society and overcome inequalities and systems of oppression.

    Stop Killer Robots is a shared movement of campaigners and activists, united by these visions and values. These principles transcend the specific issue of autonomous weapons systems and require campaigners to acknowledge and overcome inequalities and systems of oppression, to promote the rule of law, to assist the vulnerable and to protect human dignity in all circumstances. Campaign members, including those from the SC, have made communications on campaign listservs that go beyond the scope of autonomous weapons systems, but are consistent with these vision and values [Exhibit 17].

    Throughout 2022-2023, SKR has championed the interconnectedness between types of negative harm caused by humans being reduced to data, through digital dehumanization. Publications on this issue by SKR refer to harms relating to banking, administration of social welfare, policing and criminal justice [Exhibit 26]. These are issues that go beyond the immediate focus of autonomous weapons systems.

    In the weeks building up to the UNGA resolution, I attended meetings of the Biological Weapons Convention, Arms Trade Treaty and Convention on Cluster Munitions at the UN, Geneva and would speak in detail with diplomats in those spaces about political issues relevant to all those treaties, and so my discussions are very often beyond the specific topic of autonomous weapons systems. My engagements with these forums were not criticized by SKR but were in fact encouraged due to a recognition that SKR owes a duty of solidarity to other disarmament processes, as per SKR’s vision and values.

    It is unsustainable to suggest that my work and communications as Government Relations Manager must relate only to autonomous weapons systems, and inconsistent for SKR to suggest that discussing digital dehumanization or other disarmament treaties is acceptable, but discussing matters relating to the ongoing humanitarian and legal concerns unfolding in Israel-Palestine is somehow not.

Conclusion

For the reasons set out above, none of the stated grounds for the termination of employment are sustainable. However, through a combination of the Coordinator’s email dated 18th October, and elements of the notice of termination dated 27th October, I submit that the ultimate reason for the termination of my employment is clear.

The email of 18th October begins by stating that the Coordinator had become aware that I had sent my communication on Israel-Palestine to diplomats [Exhibit 5], the notice of termination of 27th October describes such communications as politically sensitive [Exhibit 9], and the concluding paragraphs of the notice recognises that the situation that has led to termination resulted from decisions I made about a cause and situation that I care about deeply. It was stated that my communications were incompatible with continuing to represent SKR in the Government Relations Manager role [Exhibit 9].

From this, I submit that my termination was because I communicated on the humanitarian and legal situation in Israel-Palestine to diplomats, which the Coordinator and SC considered politically sensitive and incompatible with my role.

However, given that my X/Twitter post was humanitarian and legal in nature, and was consistent with the campaign’s visions and values, I submit that my communication was compatible with my role. An explanation has not been provided by the Coordinator or SC about why speaking out on the issues of apartheid, occupation and ethnic cleansing in the context of Israel-Palestine was deemed politically sensitive and incompatible with my role.

F. SKR’s Relationship to Austria

Throughout the period building up to the UNGA, and while at the UNGA throughout October, SKR maintained a very close working relationship with representatives of the Austrian government. The resolution on autonomous weapons systems at the UNGA, tabled by Austria, was a key milestone in SKR’s ambition to work towards launching negotiations for a legally binding instrument on autonomous weapons systems. SKR’s worldwide coalition was mobilized in support of this milestone, launching the #VoteAgainstTheMachine campaign in favor of this Austrian led resolution [Exhibit 23]. For this reason, a positive working relationship between SKR and Austria was a priority for the campaign.

This relationship included:

  • A range of meetings with diplomatic representatives of the Austrian UN Mission to discuss outreach and strategy relating to a UNGA resolution on autonomous weapons systems.
  • Hosting a campaign coalition wide online briefing on 29th September, in which SKR member organizations were invited to a discussion with diplomatic representatives of the UN Mission of Austria on the topic of the UNGA resolution [Exhibit 21].
  • Cooperation on a side-event on autonomous weapons systems at the UNGA on 17th October, hosted by Austria, featuring a panelist from SKR staff, and one from the SC [Exhibit 22].

Finally, it is recorded on the Coordinator’s website that the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides funding to the Coordinator [Exhibit 16].

For these reasons, SKR as a whole, the SC and the Coordinator, had an interest in protecting a positive working relationship with Austria throughout the month of October when the resolution on autonomous weapons systems was being tabled.

G. Digital Dehumanisation WhatsApp Group, UNGA Vote re: Israel/Palestine, and Link to Austria

During the telephone call with me on the morning of 18th October, the Coordinator stated that he had become aware that I had sent my X/Twitter post to diplomats as a diplomat within the WhatsApp group titled “Digital Dehumanisation” had provided such notice to him.

In the email dated 18th October, immediately following the telephone call, the Coordinator stated that he had been willing to overlook the fact that I had shared the X/Twitter post with colleagues within the campaign, but that my decision to share the post with diplomats was sufficient to warrant the termination of my employment [Exhibit 5].

As set out in the factual summary, and in my email to the Coordinator on 18th October [Exhibit 5], and my email to the SC on 23rd October [Exhibit 8], there were only 5 diplomats on the Digital Dehumanisation WhatsApp group, one of them being a representative of Austria [Exhibit 14]. I submit that the notification that the Coordinator received must have come from one of these 5 diplomats.

The nature of my X/Twitter post was on the humanitarian and legal situation in Israel-Palestine, calling in support of upholding humanitarian and legal obligations, and to end occupation, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people. As stated in the notice of termination dated 27th October, this communication was considered politically sensitive by SKR [Exhibit 9].

During the same period, a UNGA resolution took place on 27th October on the ‘protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations’ (A/ES-10/L.25) calling an immediate and sustained humanitarian truce to the conflict in Israel-Palestine. Austria was one of only 14 states worldwide to vote against this resolution, stating that ‘Austria stands in full solidarity with Israel’ in its online communications [Exhibit 20].

There were 4 other representatives of states on the Digital Dehumanisation WhatsApp group [Exhibit 14]. Each one of these representatives belonged to states that, contrary to Austria’s position, voted in favor of that resolution.

For the following reasons I submit that the decision to terminate my employment was because my X/Twitter post was considered politically sensitive due to SKR’s strong interest in protecting its working relationship with Austria:

  • SKR had a strong interest in protecting its positive working relationship with Austria throughout the month of October, as set out above in Section E – SKR’s Relationship to Austria.
  • The Coordinator has received funding from the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs [Exhibit 16].
  • SKR representative had multiple meetings with diplomatic representatives of Austria throughout the time in New York as part of the #VoteAgainstTheMachine campaign.
  • The notification that the Coordinator received of my sharing of the X/Twitter post came from a diplomat on the Digital Dehumanisation WhatsApp group, which had only 5 diplomats, one of them from Austria [Exhibit 14].
  • There were no other WhatsApp groups containing diplomats that my X/Twitter post was shared with [Exhibits 5 & 8].
  • The nature of my X/Twitter post was in support of upholding humanitarian and legal obligations, and to end occupation, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people.
  • The Coordinator described this communication as politically sensitive [Exhibit 9].
  • During the same period, Austria voted against the ‘protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations’ in Israel-Palestine, stating that ‘Austria stands in full solidarity with Israel’ [Exhibit 20].
  • The other 4 diplomats on the Digital Dehumanisation WhatsApp group represent states that voted in favor of that resolution.
  • The Coordinator stated that he had been willing to overlook the sharing of my X/Twitter post with colleagues, but that sharing the post with diplomats was sufficient to warrant my termination [Exhibit 5].
  • That none of the other reasons cited for my termination are sustainable, as set out in Section E, Challenges to Substance, above.
  • The speed and severity of SKR’s decision, and absence of procedural fairness, all point towards a determination to quickly silence and isolate me from the campaign, as set out in Section D – Challenges to Process, above.

I do not assert that this is definitive proof, but based on all of the reasons set out above there is a reasonable basis to believe that it is true. Furthermore, neither the SC or Coordinator have provided any other explanation for why my X/Twitter post was considered politically sensitive.

As outlined in Section G - Remedy Sought, these grounds of appeal seek a transparent investigation by the SC into this issue, and for the question of SKR’s relationship to Austria as a potential factor in SKR’s decision to terminate my employment to be resolved.

H. Retaliation – Speaking Out to Uphold Humanitarian and Legal Obligations in Israel-Palestine

In Section D - Challenges to Process, I suggest that the speed and severity of SKR’s decision, absence of procedural fairness, breach of data protection and confidentiality requirements, all point towards an urgent determination to silence and isolate me from the campaign, amounting to an abuse of power.

In Section E – Challenges to Substance, I suggest that none of the reasons cited for my termination are sustainable, but that the ultimate reason for my termination was due to my personal X/Twitter post of 14th October concerning the humanitarian and legal situation in Israel-Palestine being shared with diplomats, which the Coordinator described as politically sensitive and incompatible with my role. However, neither the Coordinator nor SC have specified why this was deemed so, especially given that my communication was compatible with SKR’s stated vision and values, and consistent with statements made by other organizations in the field of humanitarian disarmament, including within the SC itself.

In Section F – Relationship to Austria, and Section G – Digital Dehumanisation WhatsApp Group, UNGA Vote re: Israel/Palestine, and Link to Austria, I suggest that the reason why my X/Twitter post was considered politically sensitive and incompatible with my role was due to SKR’s interest in protecting its working relationship with Austria, which voted against the UNGA resolution on ‘protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations’ stating that ‘Austria stands in full solidarity with Israel in fighting against terror’ in its online communications.

To date, SKR has not published its own statement concerning the humanitarian and legal situation in Israel-Palestine, despite my efforts to urge the SC to do so.

Instead, for the reasons set out herein, I submit that SKR’s decision to terminate my employment, remove access to my work account, delete my profile, cancel my UN grounds pass, falsely and publicly claim that I had left the campaign, and further publicly state that my termination was for reasons unconnected to support for Palestine, were a retaliation against my personal X/Twitter post in support of civilian protection, humanitarian assistance and ending of ongoing breaches of international law including occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing in Israel-Palestine, and were motivated by an interest to protect SKR’s working relationship with Austria.

I. Constitutional Right to Freedom of Expression & Whistleblowing Policy

My employment with Stop Killer Robots is governed by Swiss law.

The Swiss Federal Constitution states:

Art. 16 Freedom of expression and of information

1. Freedom of expression and of information is guaranteed.

2. Every person has the right freely to form, express, and impart their opinions.

As set out in Switzerland's responses to the Special Rapporteur's questionnaire on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression of July 2023, the protection of this fundamental right is a priority for Switzerland and extends to both online and offline platforms.

SKR has a Global Code of Conduct. This states:

2.1 REPORTING & WHISTLEBLOWER POLICY

Objective

SKR is committed to high standards of ethical, moral and legal business conduct. The culture we strive to create at SKR requires recognition that every voice matters. In line with this commitment, and SKR’s commitment to open communication, this policy is intended to encourage employees to report, in good faith, suspected or known occurrences of misconduct, including illegal or unethical events or activities without the fear of retribution.

Type of concerns

This policy covers the reporting of misconduct and protection of those who report, including whistleblowers.

Examples of illegal or unethical activities include [inter alia]:

  • Abuse of power or the use of SKR’s power or authority for any unauthorized purpose or for personal gain.
  • Any manner of harassment or abuse against colleagues, partners or any other person connected to the organization.

2.2 ANTI-RETALIATION AND SAFEGUARDS FOR THOSE WHO REPORT

SKR strictly prohibits retaliation against those who report concerns, including whistleblowers. No employee who reports a concern under this policy, provides information to a law enforcement official or agency, or assists in the investigation of a concern will suffer harassment, retaliation, reprisal, discrimination, or adverse employment action of any kind, even if a subsequent investigation determines that no violation occurred, provided the report is made in good faith and with reasonable belief in its accuracy.

As set out in Section A - Preliminary Issue: The public nature of SKR’s decision is the primary reason why these grounds are being made public. The Coordinator decided to publicly, and incorrectly, announce that I have left the campaign, and the SC decided to further publicly announce that it was not because of my support for Palestine, but for “other reasons” – each time without my permission or seeking of my consent, and in breach of confidentiality and data protection obligations. These actions have generated public scrutiny over my conduct and character [Exhibit 25]. To alleviate such speculations, it has become necessary to make these grounds available to the public, to set matters straight.

However, I also rely on the SKR Global Code of Conduct with regard to its whistleblowing, anti-retaliation, and safeguards policy. For reasons I have set out within these grounds of appeal, SKR’s actions amount to an abuse of power, and a retaliation following the exercising of my constitutional right to the freedom of expression.

I therefore request that SKR refrain from any harassment, retaliation, reprisal, discrimination, or adverse action of any kind, in accordance with its own Code of Conduct.

J. Conclusion

On 14th October, when my X/Twitter post was shared, Israel had cut off food, water, gas and electricity to the residents of Gaza and the Prime Minister of Israel had vowed to turn Gaza into a “deserted island”, which UN and legal commentators had already described as an incitement to commit genocide.

Since then, over 10,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed, over 5,000 of them children. Amongst those killed are UN staff, IFRC representatives, medical personnel, and journalists. Hospitals, schools, places of worship, bakeries, and water stations have been bombed. The death toll has surpassed the Srebrenica genocide, in which 8,372 people were killed. The amount of explosives dropped on Gaza is reportedly over 25,000 tons, greater than that of the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima. An increasing number of UN and legal experts are now stating that this is a textbook case of genocide.

It is well known and documented by SKR and members of the SC that Israel is among the world’s leading investors in weapons systems with autonomous functionality, and that Palestinians have been subjected to their use. A report by Human Rights Watch, an SC member, titled “Palestinian Forum Highlights Threats of Autonomous Weapons” on 6th June 2023, states:

Autonomous weapons systems could help automate Israel’s uses of force. These uses of force are frequently unlawful and help entrench Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians. Without new international law to subvert the dangers this technology poses, the autonomous weapon systems Israel is developing today could contribute to their proliferation worldwide and harm the most vulnerable.

The link between automated warfare technologies, and the ongoing breaches of international law including apartheid and genocide in Israel-Palestine was also reflected in statement made in October 2023 by the Distributed AI Research Institute titled “Ceasefire Now”, which states:

“Gaza and the West Bank have been the testing ground for some of the most advanced automated surveillance and warfare technologies before they are exported around the world. As journalist Antony Loewenstein noted in The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World: “Palestine is Israel’s workshop, where an occupied nation on its doorstep provides millions of subjugated people as a laboratory for the most precise and successful methods of domination.” Israel’s NSO Group, developer of the Pegasus software found on the phones of human rights activists worldwide, is the “world’s most successful cyber-surveillance company” and is the “tip of the iceberg of this surging industry, which largely operates in the shadows with no public scrutiny.”

Israeli warfare and surveillance technology is a multi-billion-dollar industry, led by companies like weapons and drone-manufacturer Elbit Systems and NSO Group. Moreover, facial recognition technology restricts freedom of movement across checkpoints, and tools like Smart Shooter automate killing by adding AI to automatic weapons at those checkpoints.

[…]

As tech workers, we understand that apartheid, occupation, and genocide are committed with the explicit support of tech companies, researchers and practitioners. From IBM’s alliance with Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, to Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Oracle’s partnerships with the US and Israeli militaries, tech workers’ complicity in apartheid and genocide is well documented. But so is our role in bringing an end to it–like the Polaroid workers who forced their company to end its relationship with apartheid South Africa. Google and Amazon workers have joined together to protest their companies’ complicity in Israeli apartheid, launching the #NoTechForApartheid campaign. To our fellow researchers and practitioners in AI, will you join us in demanding a #CeaseFireNow and #NoTechForApartheid”

In this context, it is shocking that the SKR Coordinator and the SC determined that my personal statement made on X/Twitter in support of civilian protection, humanitarian assistance and compliance with international law in Israel-Palestine, was incompatible with my role as Government Relations Manager for SKR. This is especially so, given that SKR’s concern over the use of automated warfare technologies, combined with its vision and values that call upon campaigners to acknowledge and take action to overcome inequalities and systems of oppression, to promote the rule of law, to assist the vulnerable, to protect human dignity in all circumstances, and not merely when convenient.

To date, the SC has not published a campaign statement relating to the ongoing humanitarian and legal situation in Israel-Palestine. Instead, the SC and Coordinator took retaliatory measures to silence and isolate me, terminate my employment, and generate public scrutiny over my conduct and behavior. In addition, serious questions are raised within these grounds about whether the Coordinator and SC’s actions were motivated over a concern to protect SKR’s working relationship with Austria.

As set out in my email to the SC on 23rd October [Exhibit 8], this period has been the most painful time of my career. Since then, the SC have taken further measures to further isolate me from the campaign and have now even engaged the public in doing so, forcing me to publicly respond to limit negative harm to my reputation. After 3 years of work for SKR as Government Relations Manager, for which the Coordinator expressed appreciation for my work undertaken with “skill, commitment and dedication”, the actions taken by the SKR leadership against me have been profoundly dehumanizing.

K. Remedy Sought

The remedies that I seek are as follows:

  • 1. A public admission of wrongdoing by the Coordinator and SC, relating to the termination of my employment contract, recognizing that:

    a. The reason for my termination was because of my X/Twitter post of 14th October relating to the humanitarian and legal situation in Israel-Palestine

    b. That this X/Twitter post was in accordance with SKR’s visions and values, and not therefore incompatible with my role as Government Relations Manager for SKR.

    c. The SC and Coordinator’s actions to terminate my employment, restrict access to my work account, delete my profile, revoke my UN Grounds Pass and publicly comment on my termination, were an abuse of power and retaliatory in nature.

    d. The SC and Coordinator’s public statements, mentioning my name, and commenting on the fact of, and reasons for, my termination were in breach of confidentiality and data protection obligations.

  • 2. With regard to the data contained on my SKR work account, including emails and documents, which contain sensitive personal data including location, date of birth, addresses, financial details and passport information, to clarify:

    a. Which entity/person is the legal owner of this data, and to provide evidence in support of this.

    b. Which entities/people have already had access to this data and to provide details of when and for what purpose such access took place.

    c. Specify in what ways SKR has taken steps to ensure that such data has been kept secure and confidential and in compliance with all relevant data protection laws.

    d. To provide me with a copy of all data relevant to me, throughout the course of my work for SKR.

    e. Following confirmation of receipt of such data by me, to delete all data relevant to me contained on the SKR work accounts.

  • 3. With regard to the process followed for the termination of my employment, to specify:

    a. What written procedure SKR had in place to determine the termination of my employment?

    b. What was the process followed by the SC and the Coordinator in deciding to terminate my employment?

    c. What documentation was provided to the payroll company that facilitates my employment, for them to then decide to notify me of the termination of my employment?

    d. Please provide minutes of any meetings held by the HRC or SC members in which my termination was discussed, as I was not invited to such meetings.

  • 4. I also request a transparent investigation to determine whether an interest in protecting SKR’s working relationship to Austria was a factor in the termination decision. This investigation should address:

    a. What was the purpose of the funding received by the SKR Coordinator from the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

    b. Whether any other SC member received funding from the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and if so, for what purpose?

    c. Whether any representative of the Austrian government communicated with the Coordinator, SC or other representative of the campaign regarding my X/Twitter post on 14th October, and if so, what the nature of such communications were.

    d. Whether any other government representative of any other state made communications to the SC or Coordinator relating to my X/Twitter post dated 14th October, and if so to explain the content of such communications.

As set out in the introduction to this appeal, I request a response within 2 weeks i.e. by 22nd November. I recognize that the investigation requested at (4) may take longer than this, but I request that responses for (1)-(3) above are provided within this timeframe.

Yours Sincerely,

Ousman Noor, 08.11.2023

ousmannoor@protonmail.com