Human rights defenders meet with Edward Snowden

posted 17 Jul 2013, 13:59 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 17 Jul 2013, 14:00 ]
15 July 2013 

Source: (info)
Former CIA employee Edward Snowden, who became famous after leaking details about U.S. classified intelligence and who is now hiding in the transit area of Sheremetevo Airport, unexpectedly invited several representatives of human rights organizations and in their presence announced he was asking for political asylum in Russia. Sergei Nikitin, head of the Moscow office of Amnesty International, and Tatyana Lokshina, deputy head of Human Rights Watch, talked about the meeting with Ezhednevnyi zhurnal.

How was the meeting organized? Were you met at the airport and taken to the transit area?

Sergei Nikitin: I received an email with the invitation for the meeting. I assume that the others received a similar email. We met at Sheremetevo airport, where we were struck by the number of people with cameras and microphones and were amazed by their enthusiasm. I noted that even those who did not manage to fly out that day were also surprised by the number of people and seemed to be searching for movie actors, who might be surrounded by that number of cameras. Then, pushing our way through an even larger crowd, we headed to a small room, where we passed through security. Then the security service took us to a waiting area, from which we got onto a bus and went to a different part of the building. From there we were taken to a secure waiting area, where the meeting took place.

Did Snowden explain why he is appealing to human rights defenders, rather than directly to the Russian authorities?

Tatyana Lokshina: He said that he is seeking the help of human rights organizations so that they would turn to Mr. Putin and ask him to support Snowden’s request for political asylum. He thinks that in order to be safe in Russia, he must receive an official status and, as a consequence, is now seeking that status. He hopes that the Russian authorities will support his request and is counting on the help of those organizations present at the meeting.

What is his plan? Does he want to obtain a passport and then fly to Latin America?

Tatyana Lokshina: He does not use the word “passport”. He wants to receive asylum, and would then go to Latin America.

Does the human rights community understand what it should do from here? Will they make any kind of approaches to the authorities?

Tatyana Lokshina: I do not see anything problematic in Snowden’s asylum plea. Human Rights Watch has already published a statement, saying that Snowden’s fear of being subjected to ill treatment, should he return to the U.S., is well founded. We have called on all governments to which Snowden might appeal and ask that they consider his asylum request objectively because, from our point of view, he has good reason to make this request. He also asked the people gathered at the meeting to demand that U.S. and European authorities do not prevent him from travelling. This request also struck me as unproblematic. Of course, I have to discuss this with my colleagues – I do not have the prepared Human Rights Watch documents in front of me – but it seems to me that his request is understandable and justified.

Should we take it that Snowden has agreed to comply with Putin’s condition that he would promise not to act against US interests?

Tatyana Lokshina: No, he said something different. He said that he does not see any problem with Putin’s comment because, from his point of view, his actions have not harmed the U.S. in any way.

Were you able to figure out how Snowden has survived this whole time in the transit area of the airport?

Tatyana Lokshina: He cannot leave the transit area until his status is resolved or until the authorities stop preventing his movements. He does not complain about the conditions.