KIGALI - Human Rights Watch (HRW), tried to blackmail the Government of Rwanda by writing a letter to President Paul Kagame, demanding that he intervenes and solve the work permit issues of its Country Director, or risk Rwanda being exposed to the world.
Addressing a press conference on the current events in the country, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Government Spokesperson, Louise Mushikiwabo, said that the letter from the Executive Director of HRW, Kenneth Roth, to the Head of State did not only exhibit the highest levels of arrogance by the rights body, but also disrespected the country’s institutions.
Last Friday, the Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration asked Carina Tertsakian, who had been appointed the Country Director of HRW, to leave the country with immediate effect after her three-month visa expired.
The British national had her work permit revoked over ‘gross anomalies’ identified in the application documents, but the human rights watchdog claimed that the expulsion was politically motivated and a government plan to crackdown on its critics.
“What we are seeing here is a case of intimidation by HRW, even after showing them the administrative mistakes in the documents, they still went ahead and tried to convince us that it was a ‘small error’ which should be ignored,” Mushikiwabo said.
“They disregarded the laws and other responsible administrative levels of this country by writing directly to the President seeking his intervention to grant their employee a work permit before her visa expired. To us, this is not only a sign of arrogance, but also lack of respect all together.”
Mushikiwabo said that the expulsion of Tertsakian was entirely a result of mismatching signatures of HRW officials, of which the body acknowledges.
She added that HRW has for a long been trying to provoke the Rwandan Government into a confrontation and that the recent incident is one of them, warning that Rwanda will not give in to the demands of the rights body, especially when it comes to compromising the country’s laws.
“If a Rwandan went to the US where the HRW is based, the immigration officer you deal with has the right to deny you a visa and without any further explanations.
“What surprised though, the head of HRW who is aware of how the immigration works in their country, went ahead to write to the President asking him to intervene before April 25, or else they would embark on a smear campaign, isn’t this blackmail?” Mushikiwabo wondered.
“We can’t accept this,” Mushikiwabo said adding that skipping all administrative levels by writing to Ministers and Ambassadors was a sign that HRW disrespected the immigration authorities of the country.
She stated that Roth overstepped his boundaries and expressed high levels of arrogance which the government will not tolerate. She added even at her departure, Tertsakian broke the law by refusing to present her passport, claiming that she lost it.
The Director General of Immigration and Emigration Anaclet Kalibata, who exhibited before the press the forged documents with mismatching signatures of HRW officials, accused the organisation for deliberately trying to ‘cover up’ their mistakes using intimidation tactics.
“We showed them the anomalies in both the application letter and her contract, as you can see, the signature of the HRW Africa Division Director appearing on the applicant’s contract is different from the one signed on the visa application letter, although both are claimed to be signed by one person,” Kalibata told the press.
It also emerged that Tertsakian could have forged the signature on the original application letter herself and altered the date, an act which she confessed to and in normal circumstances amounts to a criminal offence.
The signature of Maria Pignataro, the Human Resource Manager on her employment contract, was also not the same as the signature in the employment contract of the outgoing Country Director yet the Human Resource Manager has not changed.
It was further revealed that her employment contract has an anomaly in the date of issue. It indicated that the contract was signed on the 29th of October 2010.