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Ombudsman’s 2010 Report Highlights Violations of the Right to Freedom of Conscience

Source: (info), 19/04/11

· Freedom of Conscience  · Ombudsmen

On 18 April 2011 it became known that Vladimir Lukin, Russia’s Human Rights Ombudsman, has compiled his annual report on violations of rights and freedoms in Russia. The report will be presented to the State Duma in May.

The ombudsman notes numerous infringements of the right to freedom of conscience and worship in 2010. In one year he received roughly 1000 complaints from 60 Russian regions.

In particular, ‘State and local authorities under various pretexts frequently refuse to allot plots of land to believers for the construction of religious buildings. When they do actually assign land for these purposes, they then flagrantly delay approval of the various formalities needed to begin construction.’

There have been an increased number of complaints regarding the actions of law enforcement agencies, whose representatives have burst into prayer rooms, ‘brought worship to an end and at times stringently set about checking worshippers’ identification papers and compiling lists of their names’. Moreover, many worshippers have been detained, and religious literature confiscated.

Interfax-Religion cites the text of the report: ‘The paradox is that such dubious, from a legal standpoint, and clearly excessive zeal in the fight against “extremists” does not, as a rule, reveal any evidence of infringements of current legislation by religious organizations’.

According to the information gathered by Vladimir Lukin, it was most often ‘non-traditional’ religious organizations which were most often subject to such discrimination. The ombudsman stresses that ‘The Constitution of the Russian Federation clearly and unequivocally stipulates equality of all religions before the law’.

The Sova Centre reports that approximately 5,000 believers have reported a desire, based upon their religious beliefs, not to use electronic data carriers or the Russian passports in the established format, and that they have rejected the use of modern technologies for recording personal information.