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August 15, 2018

'Amnesty fails to support workers in distress,' says ex-researcher after 2 employee suicides

'A former Amnesty International worker has said that the human rights organization has a “failure in the system” when it comes to providing staff with mental health support. It follows two Amnesty employees taking their lives since May.

Amnesty researcher for Israel and Palestine based in Jerusalem, Ashira Ramadan, told RT she left the organization in 2018 “due to security and safety issues, as well as lack of support from management when it came to dealing with distress”.

READ ALSO : Amnesty International vows full independent external investigation into the suicide death of 2 staff in recent months.

“The problem with Amnesty is there was a failure in the system, in understanding the importance of mental health and resilience programme within the institution itself,” she said. Ramadan wondered how one of the biggest human rights organizations is sending people into the field to document human rights violations and doesn’t support them.

She said Amnesty had “endangered” both her life and that of her family as it failed to take “necessary precautions to protect staff” before the office in Jerusalem opened.

Ramadan also questioned the efficacy of Amnesty’s support programme at the time, which entailed receiving three phone calls from an “external sociologist” who would “listen to you.”

“I tried to explain to them that for me this doesn’t work and sadly I didn’t even get support when it came to health insurance and medical assistance I needed there due to the stress I was under.”

It comes after Amnesty said on Monday it would open a “full and independent inquiries” into the suicides of two of its workers.

Roz McGregor, 28, from London, took her own life in June. She was an intern of Amnesty and worked in Geneva. According to her father, she developed health problems due to stress and committed suicide just a few days after returning home.

That was five weeks after Gaetan Mootoo, a veteran researcher for West Africa, took his life on May 26. He was 65 years when he was found dead in Amnesty's Paris office. He left a suicide note in which he described pressure at work and a lack of management support.

“We are treating these tragedies with the gravity and priority they deserve, and will be holding full and independent external inquiries,” Colm O Cuanachain, Amnesty's acting-secretary general, said in a statement.

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