The global human rights community was in mourning Sunday after hearing the news that Gaëtan Mootoo, a well-respected French Mauritanian researcher for Amnesty International in West Africa, has died.
The 65-year-old Mootoo died at the weekend in Paris, according to Amnesty International Benin. His cause of death was not immediately known.
International human rights activists and journalists were quick to honor him with their tributes, noting his three decades of work often in countries where human rights violations weren’t yet getting a lot of attention.
“Gaëtan Mootoo was one of the few voices in the wilderness documenting human rights abuses in Chad in the 80s,” wrote Celeste Hicks, a journalist and author of “The Trial of Hissene Habre,” a book on the country’s former dictator and his 2016 landmark conviction.
His most recent report, just two weeks ago, focused on the plight of Sudanese refugees in Niger. Others explored human rights violations in Burkina Faso, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire and beyond.
Karine Bonneau, director of the international justice desk for the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), also expressed her condolences on social media, as did Amnesty affiliates from Kenya to Belgium to Canada.
“I look back through the many photos of working with you in the field over 12 years, and there you are my treasured friend: head bowed down as you fill the pages of your notebook; so often clutching your overstuffed briefcase; not always sure where have you left your glasses,” wrote Alex Neve, the secretary general for Amnesty Canada, in a tribute that sketched out Mootoo’s personality from his “impeccable fashion sense” to a passion for Shakespeare.
“Your legacy flourishes in places large and small, and in hearts and lives too many to count.”
Image: Amnesty International Benin