(Moscow) – After meeting with Edward Snowden on July 12, 2013, Human Rights Watch reiterated its call for his asylum claims to receive fair treatment.
Tanya Lokshina, Russia program director at Human Rights Watch, met with the former United States National Security Agency consultant along with other rights organisations at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow earlier on July 12. At that meeting, Snowden said he would be seeking temporary asylum in Russia.
“Edward Snowden has a serious asylum claim that should be considered fairly by Russia or any other country where he may apply,” said Dinah PoKempner, general counsel at Human Rights Watch. “He should be allowed at least to make that claim and have it heard.”
Snowden has disclosed serious rights violations by the US. But US law does not provide sufficient protection for whistleblowers when classified information is involved. The US has charged Snowden, among other things, with violating the Espionage Act, a vague law that provides no exceptions or defenses to whistleblowers who disclose matters of serious public importance.
The US may seek Snowden’s extradition to face charges in the US. While seeking extradition is within a state's discretion, the asylum claim should be heard first, before a decision on extradition is made.
Washington’s actions appear to be aimed at preventing Snowden from gaining an opportunity to claim refuge, in violation of his right to seek asylum under international law.
“There's a long history of countries forcing asylum seekers to live for extended periods in embassies rather than reach a place of refuge,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director at Human Rights Watch. “The US shouldn't place itself in that category.”