Tue, Oct 23, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Amnesty faces scrutiny after worker’s suicide

The Guardian

An Amnesty International researcher who killed himself in his Paris office repeatedly asked for help, but his requests “fell on deaf ears,” according to documents from a French investigation seen by reporters.

The conclusions of an Amnesty France inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of west Africa researcher Gaetan Mootoo raise questions over the duty of care toward staff at the human rights organization.

A separate investigation by the French state linked Mootoo’s death to his work.

Mootoo, 65, took his life at Amnesty’s Paris office on May 26. He left a note in which he complained of work pressure and a lack of support from management.

Five weeks after Mootoo’s death, in a separate incident, Roz McGregor, 28, a paid intern at Amnesty, from Leatherhead in Surrey, was found dead.

Her family has expressed concern that the group failed to offer sufficient support after she developed “acute anxiety” during five months working at Amnesty’s Geneva office.

Amnesty International, which has launched independent inquiries into the suicides of Mootoo and McGregor, said it had cooperated fully with the investigation by the French authorities and accepted its decision.

Confidential documents from the Amnesty France inquiry, seen by reporters, say that the international secretariat, Mootoo’s employers, did “not carry out sufficient support work.”

The investigators said: “Gaetan Mootoo did not find solutions to adapt to the different changes to the international secretariat, which did not carry out sufficient support work, which would have enabled him to find his place in the new organization. However, he repeatedly asked for help without suitable actions being taken to meet his needs.”

The inquiry examined only the “professional factors that could be related to” his suicide, according to the documents.

A colleague, quoted in the report, said: “He was looking for a way to get some assistance in Paris. He felt that he had been left to his own devices and marginalized. He said many times that he was suffering from this. It was very hard for him to be all alone.”

“He never complained about his work, never, but always about the lack of support,” the colleague said.

The Amnesty France investigation found “changes to his way of working, workload, changes to his place of work,” including the level of complexity, “worried him more and more.”

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