Once again Russia is the Bad Guy….. Human Rights Watch; Kenneth Roth lying on Visa!
Rights Activist Accused of Lying on Visa Form
The Moscow Times Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth and his colleagues were denied Russian visas because they had provided “intentionally false information about the purpose of their visit,” the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.
Roth initially indicated in his visa application earlier this month that he was coming to Russia as a tourist, but also indicated that he planned to meet journalists and representatives of nongovernmental organizations, ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in a statement.
Roth’s application was denied, and when he and two colleagues reapplied for a business visa, their invitations were issued by the Agriculture Ministry, and they were identified as “managers” of McKinsey Company, Kamynin said. Because of the false information, the visas were denied, he said.
Because of the visa denial, Roth was unable to attend the rights watchdog’s Wednesday presentation of a report in Moscow that criticizes recent legislation increasing government scrutiny of NGOs and broadening authorities’ power to shut down them down.
Roth told The Moscow Times on Wednesday that it was the first time a Human Rights Watch employee had ever been denied a Russian visa. Calls to Roth’s cell phone and his office in New York went unanswered Thursday afternoon.
On Thursday, the Foreign Ministry offered an explanation for the denial. Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said the business visa applications filed by Roth and two colleagues identified them as “managers” for McKinsey & Company who were invited to visit Russia by the Agriculture Ministry. The real purpose of their visit, the ministry said, was to meet activists at Russian nongovernmental organizations and journalists.
If true, this is a fair pretext for denying Roth a visa. But the actual reason that Roth was unwelcome was probably linked to Human Rights Watch’s years-long criticism of President Vladimir Putin.
Roth’s visa denial did little to stanch his group’s criticism. Its staff went ahead with the presentation on Wednesday anyway.
By refusing Roth entry, the Foreign Ministry actually shot itself in the foot. Articles about Roth’s report, which was far from sensational, would have likely been buried deep inside newspapers. The visa refusal made the story more interesting, moving it to the front page of Kommersant and The Moscow Times.
If the Kremlin wants any of the millions of dollars it gives to Western PR agencies to improve the country’s image to have any effect, it will have to abandon its heavy-handed approach to independent NGOs that criticize its conduct.
The authorities also must realize that, as the latest incident makes clear, the denial of a visa to one NGO activist — even the head of an organization — will not diminish the criticism. There are other employees, Russians included, ready to fill the void.
Roth says this is the first time someone from Human Rights Watch has been denied a visa to Russia and only the second time — after Nigeria — that he has been barred from visiting any country.
But Roth is not the first to have been locked out; dozens of human rights activists and journalists have been told they are not welcome in Russia.
The government would do best to choose one of two options. First, it should learn to tolerate foreign and domestic criticism, because pretending to be a democracy while moving toward autocracy can’t escape watchful eyes, inside or outside the country.
Alternatively, if it isn’t ready to tolerate criticism voiced inside the country, it should abandon the pretenses of democracy, shut down all independent NGOs and critical media and pull the Iron Curtain down again.
Human Rights Watch, they write such pretty pictures of Russia in their reports that I can see why no one cares if they appear at any meetings!
Moral of story: Do not lie on your Visa application!
comments always welcome.
PS: I can tell you from first hand experience that the USA has many more serious issues with Human Rights than Russia does!