Amnesty International UK appoints former Unicef chief to top role

Sacha Deshmukh has been in the role on an interim basis since May last year

Sacha Deshmukh
Sacha Deshmukh

Amnesty International UK has appointed Sacha Deshmukh as its permanent chief executive.

Deshmukh, who has led the human rights organisation on an interim basis for the past year, was previously executive director at Unicef UK.

He is the permanent successor at AIUK to Kate Allen, who stepped down in May 2021 after 20 years in the role amid concerns the organisation was not doing enough to tackle institutional racism.

Deshmukh has been leading the response to the claims since joining as interim chief last year.

An independent review published last week concluded that there had been “wholesale and organisational” failures on institutional racism at AIUK.

The report described the charity as having “a culture that bullies” and pointed out that it had repeatedly failed to take action following a number of similar reviews in the past.

Third Sector revealed in September 2020 that Deshmukh had resigned from Unicef UK after five months in the top role, alleging that he had been subjected to bullying behaviour by Douglas Alexander, the charity’s chair at the time.

An independent inquiry subsequently rejected claims of bullying and improper conduct against Alexander, who had stepped down in the wake of Deshmukh’s departure to allow the inquiry to take place.

Before joining Unicef, Deshmukh was chief executive of Smart Energy GB, which helps people in Britain understand smart meters, and previously was executive director (strategy) at the UK Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman.

He also spent more than 10 years in marketing and communications and before that was director of campaigns at the equality charity Stonewall.

Deshmukh has also been chair of the international aid and development charity War Child UK and is a board member of the Fundraising Regulator.

Sen Raj, chair of Amnesty UK, said: “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.”

Deshmukh said: “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.

“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.”

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