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ICC Note

The following Press Release from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom confirms growing concerns that Russia is becoming more restrictive on religious freedom.

USCIRF (02/09/06) – On February 9, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner Elizabeth Prodromou gave a presentation on behalf of the Commission entitled “Human Rights and Tolerance in Today’s Russia: An International View” at a conference on Religion in Civil Society organized by the Russian Presidential Administration’s Academy of State Service in Moscow, Russia. The conference was co-organized by The Brigham Young University International Center for Law and Religion Studies, and is part of a training program for regional Russian government officials who work in the religion sphere. The conference also drew national religious, government, and academic leaders.

In her presentation, Commissioner Prodromou underscored that freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief is recognized by virtually every country in the world and is defined in various international human rights instruments signed by Russia and the United States . She noted that Russia has been a focus of consistent Commission attention and concern since the Commission was established in 1999 not because of the severity of the religious freedom violations, but because of the fragility of human rights protections, including those for freedom of religion and belief. Commissioner Prodromou expressed the Commission’s concern that after Russia ’s significant progress on the human rights front in the dozen years since the collapse of the USSR , the Russian government has been retreating from democratic reform, endangering the significant gains for human rights, including freedom of religion or belief.

Commenting on acts of intolerance and xenophobia – issues highlighted by last month’s attack on a Moscow synagogue – Commissioner Prodromou expressed concern that incidents of religiously, racially, or ethnically motivated attacks have markedly increased in recent years, amidst the claims by some observers that Russian officials are not active enough in combating hate crimes, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. She concluded that it is only when governments uphold – in practice as well as on paper – international guarantees of freedom of religion and belief – for communities as well as individuals – that societies will progress along the path towards a stable and prosperous future…[Go To Full Story]