Last year there were two suicides of people working at Amnesty International. The tragic death of these two much-loved colleagues was and remains very difficult for all who work at Amnesty.
- Gaëtan Mootoo was a researcher for West Africa, who had been with the organisation for more than 30 years. Gaëtan was found in the offices of Amnesty International France in Paris in the early hours of the morning on Saturday 26 May 2018, having taken his own life
- Roz McGregor was an Intern with the IS based in Geneva. She was legally employed by Amnesty International Switzerland but worked under the International Secretariat
Amnesty is treating these tragedies with the utmost gravity and priority. Our thoughts are very much with their families and their friends
As a direct response, Amnesty International set up an external review conducted by independent experts and assisted by an Oversight Group of Section Directors. The Section directors were: Kate Allen (UK), Seydi Gassama (Senegal) and Manon Schick (Switzerland), all of whom have long experience in Amnesty International and have known Gaëtan from different vantage points.
The scope of the review was:
- Did Amnesty International (International Secretariat) discharge its duty of care to Gaëtan Mootoo?
- What are the major lessons that Amnesty International can learn from this tragic incident?
- What additional measures, if any, would you recommend to ensure adequate support to our staff and their wellbeing, including those experiencing exceptional levels of stress?
On Wednesday 6 February 2019, The Times newspaper and Third Sector published a story on the findings of the review, which were published in full on the Amnesty International website on Thursday 30 January. On 7 February 2019 The Mail and The Guardian also published stories.
The focus of all four articles is on the work culture of the International Secretariat of Amnesty International, where both Gaëtan Mootoo and Roz McGregor worked.
The International Secretariat coordinates the Amnesty movement globally. Whilst the Secretariat’s main office is based in London, it is a separate entity to Amnesty International UK.
Amnesty International UK is a Section (i.e. a national office) of Amnesty International. We have our own office, board of trustees, charity number and senior management team.
There are more than 70 other sections across the world like us, and each section is responsible for carrying out that work decided on by the International Secretariat at a national level but is an independent charity in their own right.
The report is not referring to members of staff or managers employed by Amnesty International UK. However, there will of course be lessons that AIUK can learn from the report, and AIUK is already prioritising work on staff wellbeing and welfare – and will have a new position of Head of Safeguarding in place shortly.
Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said:
“I was shocked by much of what I have heard during this process. and it is right that the new Secretary General of Amnesty International, Kumi Naidoo, is dealing with this as a matter of priority.
“I completely share Kumi’s commitment to put wellbeing at the heart of our work across the Amnesty movement and his view that: ‘We need to look after each other and develop compassion and mutual care to help Amnesty International become the uplifting community it needs to be.’
“Amnesty, across the movement is taking this report very seriously and is committed to improving the way we work together to make the changes we need to in order to create an environment which allows us to flourish and effectively deliver the important work we do.”
Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International issued a comprehensive response on the International Secretariat’s website at the same time the report was published. In addition he said:
“The tragic deaths of our beloved colleagues Gaëtan Mootoo and Rosalind McGregor have triggered important questions here at Amnesty International about staff-wellbeing.
“We accept and welcome the findings and criticisms of all three independent reviews that have been commissioned into these tragic events.
“As I have reiterated to staff, I have made it one of my priorities to address instances where individuals have been found wanting, in our senior leadership team or elsewhere. Unacceptable management practices, attitudes and behaviours cannot and will not be tolerated at any level in the organization.
“However, the issues highlighted go beyond the question of individual accountability. It is clear we need to radically rethink our approach to staff wellbeing and culture, and we are in the process of establishing and rolling out credible and effective wellbeing measures. The recommendations of this review complement current approaches and identify concrete steps towards delivering a comprehensive commitment to staff wellbeing and health. I will be making this one of my core priorities from here on in.”
The full response by the International Secretariats to the report can be found on www.amnesty.org