Amnesty International & Debian Day suicides comparison
When Gaëtan Mootoo, an extraordinarily gifted Amnesty International employee, decided to take his own life, he did it in his workplace, the Amnesty office in Paris.
Debian doesn't have a workplace. Nonetheless, when Frans Pop chose to take his own life, he sent a formal email announcing his resignation from Debian at 9:41pm on the evening before the Debian anniversary, Debian Day, 16 August 2010. For a virtual organization, for all intents and purposes, this was the closest you get to taking your life in the office.
Amnesty and Debian have both had a number of tragic deaths that could have been avoided. Out of respect for these victims and all the workers, paid and unpaid, we feel it is imperative to compare these deaths.
In Amnesty, seven senior executives resigned. No Debian Project Leader ever resigned. Amnesty called independent, external experts to examine each death. Debian established a "community team", in other words, a bunch of yes men and the leader's girlfriend.
Amnesty published the expert reports on their web site for the whole world to see. Debian has hidden the Frans Pop suicide in the debian-private (leaked) gossip network. Now they are trying to shut down the Debian Community News web site to hide the evidence about Lucy Wayland and other inconvenient disclosures. This is the complete opposite of Amnesty's transparency in these matters.
The Debian Social Contract, point no. 3 tells us We will not hide problems. Can you imagine any problem more serious than a volunteer planning a suicide for Debian Day?
Gaëtan Mootoo (Amnesty) and Frans Pop (Debian)
The Amnesty report on Gaëtan Mootoo gives us a few words from his suicide note:
I would have wanted to write you a longer letter, but I no longer have the energy, I’m very tired...
For a number of years but mostly since the end of 2014, I haven’t been feeling very good, though have spoken about it to nobody. In addition, there has been so much work and though I made a request for help, that wasn’t possible. I love what I do and I want to do it properly. I feel that I could no longer go on in this way, hence this decision...
James Laddie QC, author of the report, writes It is clear from the above that Gaëtan’s work played a major part in his ultimate decision.
Here are some comments from Frans Pop in 2007:
So, what has made me decide to leave the project. It's a combination of just plain emotional stress over the whole Sven Luther issue, frustration with the inability of the project to deal with that and with some other issues, and frustration with the fact that a fair number of members of the project seem to feel that as long as you don't upload packages with trojans, pretty much anything is OK.
and these are the last words he sent on debian-private before taking his own life:
It's time to say goodbye. I don't want to say too much about it, except that I've been planning this for a long time.
A few days later, his parents told us, in comments echoing the words of James Laddie QC,
Yesterday morning our son Frans Pop has died. He took his own life, in a well-considered, courageous, and considerate manner. During the last years his main concern was his work for Debian.
The sick bastards on debian-private trivialized the significance of those comments. In dozens of emails about the suicide, not one person mentioned that Frans resigned the night before Debian Day. His parents would not have been aware of the significance.
Rosalind (Roz) McGregor (Amnesty) and Lucy Wayland (Debian)
These cases are far more complicated.
One in four suicide victims leave a note. We can thank Gaëtan Mootoo and Frans Pop for telling us what was on their mind. Neither McGregor nor Wayland left any written communications with evidence about what was on their mind.
Notes from the inquest suggest that McGregor may have experienced psychosis. Nonetheless, the British health professionals had not attempted to formally diagnose her condition. Funding for mental health is notoriously neglected in the UK. The expert report published by Amnesty notes that she had been in a stressful period due to meetings of the UN's Human Rights Council.
In the case of Wayland, the coroner ruled the death was an accident, not suicide. We wish to emphasize this point, Wayland called for help. On the other hand, Wayland's alcohol dependence is a form of self harm, a distant cousin of the kitchen knife that Rosalind McGregor used to end her life.
McGregor had experienced stress in the workplace and Wayland, being part of the Debian "Community", had been exposed to stress because of Molly de Blanc and the Debian Christmas lynchings in December 2018.
Meetings of the Human Rights Council are scheduled three times per year. The workers can anticipate those meetings and plan their time around them. The Christmas period is a time of rest and Molly de Blanc deliberately intruded on it. This created an extra burden for Debian volunteers who started 2019 feeling stressed so the Mollies can "feel safe" in their bubble.