FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2014 | USCIRF
Washington, D.C. -- The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent federal advisory body the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) created to monitor religious freedom abuses abroad, today released its 2014 Annual Report, and recommended that the State Department add eight more nations to its list of “countries of particular concern,” defined under law as countries where particularly severe violations of religious freedom are tolerated or perpetrated: Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam. USCIRF also recommended that the following eight countries be re-designated as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.
This year’s report, the 15th since the Commission’s creation in 1998, documents religious freedom violations in 33 countries and makes country-specific policy recommendations. The report also examines U.S. international religious freedom policy over the past decade and a half, reviewing what IRFA requires, assessing the record on implementing its provisions, and recommending ways to strengthen U.S. engagement on and promotion of religious freedom.
“With religious freedom abuses occurring daily around the world against people of all faiths and those without religious faith, the United States must by words and deeds stand in solidarity with the persecuted,” said USCIRF Chairman Robert P. George. “Religious freedom is a fundamental human right recognized by international law that guarantees to all human beings the freedom to believe or not believe as their conscience leads, and live out their beliefs openly, peacefully, and without fear. Religious freedom also is essential to national and global security. Thus, the defense of religious freedom is both a human rights imperative and a practical necessity and merits a seat at the table with economic, security and other key concerns of U.S. foreign policy.”
Along with recommending CPC designations, USCIRF also announced the placement of 10 countries on its 2014 “Tier 2” list, a USCIRF designation for governments that engage in or tolerate violations that are serious, but which are not CPC-level violators. USCIRF urged increased U.S. government attention to these countries, which include Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, and Turkey.
The USCIRF report also highlights religious freedom concerns in countries/regions that do not meet the Tier 1 (CPC) or Tier 2 threshold, but should also be the focus of concern, including Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka, and Western Europe.
“America’s commitment to religious freedom abroad, embodied in the IRFA law enacted more than 15 years ago, must be renewed and strengthened,” said Chairman George. “IRFA was prescient in recognizing that religious freedom needs to be a key component of U.S. foreign policy. The United States must fully utilize IRFA’s provisions including: faithfully designating CPCs each year, ensuring that the CPC list expands or contracts as conditions warrant, and consider taking Presidential actions unique to each situation.”
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