Kyrgyzstan bans US human rights researcher

Officials in Kyrgyzstan ban American rights researcher from entering country

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev

Kyrgyzstan has banned an American rights researcher from entering the country, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday.

Mihra Rittmann -- who regularly reported for HRW on the rights of sexual minorities and alleged abuses by security services in Kyrgyzstan -- was refused entry into the Central Asian country on Wednesday, the New York-based rights watcahdog said.

The Kyrgyz foreign ministry said the refusal was connected to a violation of immigration law but did not elaborate.

"Banning a Human Rights Watch researcher from Kyrgyzstan is unprecedented, unexpected, and a deeply disturbing sign," the group's executive director Kenneth Roth said in a statement.

"Authorities in Kyrgyzstan should immediately lift the ban and allow Rittmann to return to Bishkek and continue working without harassment," Roth said.

HRW has deplored "discriminatory legislative proposals" aimed at sexual minority groups and non-governmental organisations, as well as "impunity for ill-treatment and torture" in the country.

The ban on Rittmann comes amid signs of a creeping authoritarianism in Kyrgyzstan, the region's only parliamentary democracy.

US ties with Kyrgyzstan soured in July when Bishkek annulled a strategic partnership with Washington after the US State Department awarded a prize to a jailed human rights defender.

Human Rights Watch had urged US Secretary of State John Kerry to raise human rights with Kyrgyz and other Central Asian leaders during his tour of the region earlier this year.