Amnesty boss leaves early amid racism row

Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen has brought forward the date of her planned retirement, as the charity deals with reports of racism within its organisation.

Allen announced in March that she would be retiring later this year after 20 years at the charity. She had planned to depart in September but is leaving four months early.

Her departure this month comes as the charity tackles allegations of institutional racism by staff.

Amnesty International UK has appointed former Unicef UK executive director Sacha Deshmukh as interim chief executive officer until at least January 2022, as the charity searches for a permanent replacement.

Deshmukh quit Unicef UK last year after just six months in post. His resignation came amid claims he and other staff had been bullied by the charity’s chair of trustees Douglas Alexander.

Earlier this year an independent review cleared Alexander although it detailed how former Labour cabinet minister Alexander “was seen to be assertive and curt”.

Deshmukh is a former chair of War Child UK and has also been deputy chair of Citizens Advice England and Wales.

“My first priority will be to put the building blocks in place to deliver Amnesty’s new eight-year strategy, which will tackle the root causes of human rights abuses,” said Deshmukh.

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

Allen, who had originally planned to retire in 2020 before deciding to stay on until September, said: “I am happy to now hand over to Sacha. I believe the organisation we both love is in very safe hands.

“I had planned to retire last year but stayed on to help maintain stability during the pandemic. Now is the time to move on.”

Last month Allen apologised after allegations of racism among staff emerged. This included accounts from ex-staffers in the media as well as the findings from a report into racism globally within Amnesty International.

This report included accounts of “overt racism” and examples where senior staff uses the “N word”.

Allen said last month that she was “deeply sorry to hear the accounts of racism from our former colleagues”.

“I want to apologise to anyone who has experienced harm and pain and felt that we have not effectively and properly addressed allegations of racism within the organisation,” she said.

“These are serious and challenging concerns and, although I cannot discuss individual cases, we take allegations of discrimination seriously and investigate them thoroughly in line with our policies and procedures.”

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