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As announced by The Guardian, a former senior civil servant at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is prepared to bring a test case against the UK Government following dismissal for giving, in January 2022, an anonymous interview to the BBC detailing the "chaotic response" to the humanitarian crisis in Kabul and the Afghan withdrawal.

In this case, the dismissal followed the revelation of the reporting person's identity due to a mistake. In March 2022, the civil servant also submitted evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee about the management of the Afghanistan crisis response. The relevant documents and information about the matter, including the written evidence, were published online by Foreign Affairs Committee and are available online.

The case against unfair dismissal citing whistleblower protections will provide a precedent for the disclosing of information in "exceptionally serious circumstances" at the heart of government in the public interest. The case raises critical questions regarding the role and expectations of officials at the heart of government, and their ability to safely disclose information about serious failings that do not jeopardize national security or fall foul of official secrecy provisions.

While whistleblower protections exist under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, these are often described as being out of date, lacking certainty, and in need of significant reform. By bringing the test case, there exists the possibility for the responsibilities and protections of disclosing persons to be clarified, with the potential for a significant impact on the democratic fiber of the country.

Centrally, if a civil servant who has a duty to political neutrality is aware of a minster misleading the country in order to protect their own interests and improve their own reputation or to avoid accountability otherwise, and such disclosures do not harm the national security or breach secrecy provisions, then should persons making such disclosures not be protected from retaliation in the public interest? Or will this case set a precedent that further dissuades and discourages disclosures of politicians misleading the public, thereby obstructing democratic accountability?

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Foreign Affairs Committee, Senior FCDO whistleblower submits evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee, 21 March 2022

Written evidence to UK Parliament by Josie Stewart (March 2022)
Download PDF • 86KB

Pippa Crerar, Fall of Kabul whistleblower sues UK government after sacking (The Guardian), 3 February 2023


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