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Government cancels work permit of Human Rights Watch researcher

(Human Rights Watch/IFEX) - New York, May 19, 2010 – Human Rights Watch today expressed disappointment at the Burundian government's decision to withdraw the work authorization of Neela Ghoshal, Human Rights Watch's researcher in Burundi. The government made its decision following Human Rights Watch's publication of a report last week on pre-election violence in the country.

"We stand behind the personal integrity and professional work of Neela Ghoshal, who for almost three years has documented human rights abuses in Burundi," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "Her work has been thorough, balanced, and objective. We hope to discuss this matter as soon as possible with the Burundian government to urge officials to reconsider the decision."

In a letter dated May 18, 2010, the Burundian Minister of Foreign Affairs informed Ghoshal that the government was canceling her status as Human Rights Watch's representative in Burundi. The letter demanded that she cease her activities immediately and leave the country "definitively" by June 5.

The government said it based its decision on its criticisms of Human Rights Watch's recent report on political violence in the pre-election period. It claimed, among other things, that the report is biased against the government and the ruling party.

"Human Rights Watch stands by the fairness and importance of this report," Roth said. "The report is based on meticulous on-the-ground research over several months, and it documents human rights abuses by all sides – not only the government or the ruling party."

The government's decision to expel Ghoshal comes less than six months after its expulsion of the former head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB), Youssef Mahmoud, in December 2009. The government accused him of being too close to the political opposition. Two former leaders of the UN mission in Burundi were also ordered to leave in 2006 on the basis of similar accusations.

Read the Human Rights Watch report, "'We'll Tie You Up and Shoot You': Lack of Accountability for Political Violence in Burundi"
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