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Amnesty to launch probe into researcher suicide in Paris office

Published on June 07, 2018

Amnesty International said on Thursday it will conduct "an impartial inquiry" into the suicide last month of a veteran researcher inside its Paris offices, following pressure from staff calling for an investigation.

The internal inquiry into the May 26 death of Gaetan Mootoo, a well-known researcher for West Africa, comes after “friends and colleagues” sent a petition to current and former employees at the NGO calling for oversight from its international board.

In a letter seen by AFP they called on the board in London to look into the circumstances of Mootoo’s suicide “in order to prevent other tragedies and ensure transparency and accountability”.

“We are calling for an independent inquiry into Gaetan’s tragic death,” it said.

“The inquiry must be carried out by a transparent, fully independent and impartial external body.

“Working conditions at Amnesty International have been thoroughly transformed by recent restructuring, and Gaetan was deeply affected by it.”

The letter added that the demand was prompted by a suicide note Mootoo had left allegedly “outlining his previous request for help because of the heavy and additional workload; help which was never forthcoming”.

“We believe that this serious and unprecedented event in the history of the organisation requires the greatest transparency and accountability from Amnesty International,” it said.

An Amnesty spokeswoman told AFP: “It is absolutely our intention to hold an impartial inquiry and (we) are currently seeking advice to ensure that this will in no way interfere with the ongoing official investigations.”

“We understand that there was a note from Gaetan, but we cannot comment as we have not seen it as it is in the hands of the French authorities.”

Mootoo was found dead in the Paris offices of Amnesty International France in the early hours of Saturday May 26, the organisation confirmed.

He worked for its international secretariat, which is responsible for the majority of research and leading campaign work.

“Amnesty International is working with the authorities as they investigate this tragic incident,” the spokeswoman said.

She added the NGO is providing “support and counselling to colleagues directly affected by this tragic loss”.

Mootoo was a well-respected researcher who had been with Amnesty for more than 30 years and was known across Africa for his tireless dedication to his work.

“So many of us have known or worked closely with Gaetan over his extraordinary 32 years at Amnesty, and have been enriched by the work and spirit of a true human rights champion,” said Salil Shetty, the organisation’s secretary general, in a statement on May 27.