Belarus dismisses US report on religious freedom

Minsk, May 23 (IANS/RIA Novosti) The Belarusian foreign ministry has dismissed part of the Religious Freedom Report published by the US State Department about the country as “outdated” and failing to take into account the current situation in the country.

“As for the State Department’s report, it is permeated with trite phrases and usual abstract rubber stamps which the authors of the report rewrite every year, without even taking the trouble of doing reality checks,” Maria Vanshina, deputy head of the ministry’s information department, said in a statement.

“For the Belarusian side, the report is of little interest, being an internal State Department document submitted to Congress,” she said.

In its latest report on religious freedoms worldwide, published Monday, the US State Department described Belarus as a country where “laws and policies restrict religious freedom”, despite the fact that this is enshrined in the constitution.

“The law restricts the ability of religious organizations to provide religious education and to freely import and distribute religious literature,” the report said.

Vanshina said: “The Republic of Belarus, regardless of such reports, strictly adheres both to its international obligations on the protection of religious freedoms and to its domestic law.”

“A clear demonstration of that is Belarus’s report on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination which reflects the real situation with the protection of religious rights and liberties and contains concrete measures taken by the Government of Belarus in this area,” she added.

The annual Religious Freedom Report details the status of religious freedom in 195 countries throughout the world. It is presented to the US Congress under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

–IANS/RIA Novosti

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