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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Amnesty chief executive resigns after racism controversy

This news post is 7 months old

Report found instances of institutional racism at the group

Amnesty International’s chief executive has stood down two months earlier than planned amid controversy over institutional racism and bullying.

Katie Allen announced she would quit the post in September, but has told staff she will now be leaving immediately after calls for her to step down.

In April an internal review by Amnesty’s secretariat concluded there was a culture of white privilege at the organisation, with incidents of overt racism including senior staff using the N-word and micro-aggressive behaviour such as the touching of black colleagues’ hair.

It came as eight current and former employees of Amnesty International UK (AIUK) described their own experiences of racial discrimination and issued a statement calling on senior figures to stand down.

One of the whistleblowers, Katherine Odukoya, said: “We joined Amnesty hoping to campaign against human rights abuses but were instead let down through realising that the organisation actually helped perpetuate them.”

Representatives of both arms of the UK-based human rights organisation apologised and pledged to make changes, with the director of AIUK citing “the uncomfortable fact that we have not been good enough”.

Sacha Deshmukh has been announced as AIUK’s interim chief executive and will lead the charity until at least January next year while it searches for a permanent successor.

Deshmukh was previously executive director of Unicef UK, but resigned after less than six months in the role having made claims of bullying behaviour against the charity’s then-chair, Douglas Alexander.

An independent inquiry subsequently rejected the claims against Alexander.

Deshmukh said: “I want to create an inclusive and rights-respecting culture which allows the brilliant people who work and volunteer for Amnesty to thrive.”

It will also recruit for a new role, director of investments.



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6 months ago

I'm glad TFN published what actually happened rather than referring cryptically to racist 'incidents'. Amnesty is perennially being accused of antisemitism for its stance against setting Arabs on fire so it wasn't clear what side to be on from reading some other news sources. I was already drifting away from Amnesty because of its reluctance to criticize other rich countries too e.g. when it stopped working with Cage in the UK, its near silence on Guantanamo. I think it's clear now that we should be giving to other charities in the field such as Human Rights Watch as well as to Effective Altruism causes.