Human Rights Watch (HRW) has apologised to gay activist Peter Tatchell for “libellous” and “inappropriate” remarks about him.

The apology was made by HRW’s executive director, Kenneth Roth, in New York, and concerned remarks made by the head of its LGBT programme, Scott Long.

Mr Tatchell has denied he threatened the charity with legal action, telling PinkNews.co.uk: “I presented HRW with the evidence of Scott Long’s remarks. They were horrified and immediately agreed to apologise.”

HRW’s New York office could not be reached at the time of publication but the London director of HRW, Tom Porteous, said the group had “nothing more to say” other than what was published in a statement.

The apology said that Mr Long had made a series of “inappropriate”, “disparaging” and “inaccurate” remarks about Mr Tatchell over several years.

Mr Tatchell said Mr Long had accused him of blaming a 13-year-old rape victim for the assault and “bullying” the Muslim community in Britain.

In the statement, Mr Long said: “Although we have our different viewpoints, I respect Peter Tatchell’s contribution to human rights and apologise for any condemnatory and intemperate allegations made in haste and for any inaccurate statements made in my personal capacity.”

The statement continued: “Following Mr Long’s apology and subsequent discussions, Human Rights Watch is pleased to announce that both Mr Long and Mr Tatchell agree that the movement to protect human rights, including the rights of LGBT persons, is best served when activists focus their criticism on those who abuse rights rather than those who seek to defend those rights.

“Mr Long and Mr Tatchell undertake to work to ensure that any airing of disagreements on LGBT and other human rights issues takes place with honesty, civility and respect. They also agree to encourage their friends and colleagues to do likewise.

“HRW hopes that this apology and agreement will enable us to move forward together to pursue our common goal: the defence of universal human rights.”

Mr Tatchell said: “I thank Kenneth Roth and HRW for their gracious and fulsome apology. Their readiness to acknowledge the wrong done and say sorry is commendable. My appreciation also to Scott Long for conceding his false allegations and apologising. It can’t have been easy for him. He has shown dignity and humility. I appreciate that,.

“I accept the apologies. It is time to forgive and move on. For me, this closes the matter. The attacks on me are in the past. I look forward to working with HRW and Scott Long in the future. ”

Last September, a small publishing company apologised to Mr Tatchell for alleging he was racist and Islamophobic.

Raw Nerve Books, which is based at the University of York and describes itself as an “independent, not-for-profit feminist press”, alleged Mr Tatchell had equated “Muslims as Nazis”, and said he had “collaborated with the extreme right” and “participated with several racist and fascist groups.”