Racism row expands at Amnesty International. Three top people are forced out.

10 June 2021 By Paul Martin

Three senior leaders at Amnesty International UK have stepped down with immediate effect because they no longer felt able to continue in their roles.

The charity’s leadership has been under fire since the publication of an internal review in April that found incidents of overt racism at its international secretariat, a separate body that is also based in the UK.

There had been ongoing concerns that its leadership was not doing enough to tackle institutional racism, the charities website Third Sector reported.

Following earlier calls by Unite the union and two former trustees, who both called for AIUK’s leadership to step down, members submitted two emergency motions at the end of last month.

One motion called for the removal of Eilidh Douglas, chair of the board; Susan Jex, co-opted leader of the board’s human resources subcommittee; and Sharon Lovell, a board member and former vice-chair.

The charity said that all three stepped down from their positions yesterday.

The decision was made during a meeting of AIUK’s section board last weekend, Amnesty said.

The charity said that Douglas and Lovell had already indicated their intention to resign from the board to create the space for fresh leadership, but the board had decided that they should stay until September, when a new board would be in place following upcoming elections.

But the charity said that in recent weeks the three senior leaders had reached the conclusion that, while they wished to support the organisation during this difficult time, and had the full confidence of their board colleagues in doing so, they no longer felt able to continue in their roles.

A statement from AIUK’s board said: “Elections to the AIUK section board are under way, with results to be announced at the annual general meeting on 19 June. The board looks forward to welcoming its new members following their election.

“The board will also seek to use its powers to make appointments of additional directors with anti-racism, change management, organisational design and workplace culture experience and expertise as part of its renewal.

Amnesty said its new board would appoint a permanent chair and vice-chair at its next meeting. Sen Raj, its vice-chair, will lead relevant board activities in the interim.

Amnesty thanked the three “for their outstanding commitment and service to human rights”.

The announcement means four senior leaders have stepped down from their roles since the publication of the internal review in April.

Kate Allen, chief executive of AIUK, stepped down in the middle of May, earlier than planned.

She was originally due to leave in September after more than 20 years in post.