Deshmukh takes top role at Amnesty on a permanent basis

Amnesty International UK (AIUK) has appointed its interim chief executive Sacha Deshmukh to the role permanently.

Former Unicef UK executive director Deshmukh has been in the top role at AIUK on a temporary basis since May 2021. During this time, he has been steering the charity’s response to a damning report into racism within its organisation.

This found the charity is blighted by “exclusion and racism” and last week Deshmukh said that the report’s findings make “abundantly clear the scale of the transformation we must make to change lots about Amnesty UK as a place to work”.

His previous roles include six years chairing the board of War Child UK and he has also been deputy chair of Citizens Advice England and Wales. From 2013 to 2020 he was chief executive of Smart Energy GB.

Deshmukh was appointed as executive director at Unicef UK in 2020 but quit after just six months. His resignation came amid allegations he and other staff had been bullied by the charity’s then chair Douglas Alexander.

An independent review later cleared Alexander but detailed how the former Labour cabinet minister was “seen to be assertive and curt”.

“Being part of the Amnesty team over the last year has been an amazing privilege. To be able to help Amnesty’s journey for the years ahead makes me feel incredibly lucky,” said Deshmukh.

“I first supported Amnesty as a teenager, many years ago. So I respect and love our history, but also understand the opportunity and need for us to evolve and transform for the future. We have started the next stage in Amnesty UK’s journey and the importance of our work on human rights has arguably never been greater.”

Deshmukh has been appointed following a selection process that involved 50 applicants, including nine who were longlisted.

“This was then reduced to four very strong candidates, all of whom provided a detailed written application, completed two psychometric tests, engaged with two key stakeholder groups (the Senior Management Team and staff/union), and participated in a final formal interview with a panel comprised of Section and Trust Board members and a union observer,” said the charity.

Sen Raj, chair of Amnesty UK’s Section Board, added: “Sacha joined Amnesty UK during a period of organisational transition and his leadership as an interim chief executive over the past year has helped improve trust, stability, communication, and collaboration across different parts of the organisation.

“I look forward to him moving into the permanent role and leading us through the next exciting and challenging phase of our work.”

Prior to Deshmukh’s temporary appointment AIUK had been led by director Kate Allen, who brought forward the date of her planned retirement amid allegations from staff of institutional racism within the organisation.

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