(NEW YORK)—PEN America expressed dismay today over the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s decision to deny a planned fellowship for Ken Roth, reportedly due to Roth’s criticisms of Israel’s human rights record.  Over his decades-long career as a leading global human rights advocate Ken Roth has excoriated many dozens of governments for their abuses; this goes with the territory of building and leading a human rights organization credited with having advanced respect for rights and freedoms the world over. It is the role of a human rights defender to call out governments harshly, to take positions that are unpopular in certain quarters and to antagonize those who hold power and authority.  There is no suggestion that Roth’s criticisms of Israel are in any way based on racial or religious animus. Withholding Roth’s participation in a human rights program due to his own staunch critiques of human rights abuses by governments worldwide raises serious questions about the credibility of the Harvard program itself.

Roth, who joined Human Rights Watch in 1987, stepped down as executive director last August. He conducted numerous human rights investigations and missions around the world.

NOTE: Suzanne Nossel, PEN America CEO, was chief operating officer at Human Rights Watch from 2007-2009.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057