Belarus is hitting back at criticism of its human-rights record with a report detailing what it describes as rampant rights abuses in Western countries.
The report, "Human Rights Violations in Certain Countries in 2012,"
is the first of its kind to be issued by the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.
It covers 23 European countries, the United States, and Canada, and is based on what the ministry says is information gleaned from Belarusian diplomatic missions, media reports, and other "reliable sources."
The document appears to be retaliation for the West's persistent criticism of rights violations in Belarus under President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, once famously dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by Washington.
Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimer Makei said the report intends to draw attention to rights violations in "countries that traditionally represent themselves as 'developed democracies'" and to illustrate "their failure to comply with international legal obligations."
In a foreword to the report, Makei said its aim is to highlight "the deterioration of the human-rights record" in the West and challenge the notion that developing countries are the chief human-rights offenders.
Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimer Makei
A significant section of the study is devoted to the United States, one of Lukashenka's most vocal critics. The U.S. State Department, in its latest report on global human-rights practices, described Belarus as "an authoritarian state" that routinely rigs elections and jails dissidents.
Minsk's own report accuses U.S. police of forcefully dispersing a number of peaceful protests, including a rally by the Occupy Wall Street movement in Oakland in January 2012. It claims about 400 people were detained and several injured, including a pregnant woman.
It then blasts the United States for its record in fighting human trafficking, alleging that some 100,000 underage victims are trafficked each year in the country for sexual exploitation.
Somewhat oddly, the report also states that Washington has failed to consider public petitions demanding the secession of several states from the United States -- a shortcoming that, according to the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, "can be regarded as a violation of the right to self-determination."
European countries come in for harsh criticism, too.
France, for instance, is singled out for evicting hundreds of Roma last summer and deporting them to Romania or Bulgaria "in exchange for money."
Belgium, home to a host of EU institutions, is accused of numerous rights violations, including the detention of almost 500 anti-NATO protesters in Brussels in April.
The Belarusian report also slams the Baltic States, often accused by Moscow -- Minsk's main ally -- of discriminating against ethnic Russians.
It charges Estonia, in particular, with practicing racial discrimination and says an officially sanctioned conference in July drew thousands of veterans who the report claims fought alongside Nazi Germany in Word War II.
The Belarusian report comes on the heels of a document issued last month
by Russian election monitors who observed the 2012 U.S. presidential election and concluded that it "did not conform to most international election standards."
-- Claire Bigg