FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 5, 2004
Anne Johnson, Director of Communications, (202) 523-3240, ext. 27
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) calls on the Secretary of State to issue without further delay his designation of "countries of particular concern" (CPCs). The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA) specifically directs the Secretary of State, delegated by the President, to designate as CPCs countries in which the government has engaged in or tolerated "particularly severe violations of religious freedom." CPC designation can happen at any time throughout the year; however, designations have not been made since March 2003. The State Department's Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, required by statute to be issued in September of each year, was delayed by several months during 2003.
In addition to the designation of countries of particular concern, IRFA requires the U.S. government to take active steps with regard to CPC countries to oppose religious freedom violations and to promote freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief. However, since the passage of IRFA, for every country named a CPC in previous years, the U.S. administration has only invoked already existing sanctions rather than taking any additional action pursuant to IRFA. What is more, the State Department has not once submitted to the Congress the required evaluation of the effectiveness of prior actions against CPCs. "This disregard of IRFA requirements represents a serious failure in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy according to law," said Commissioner Chair Preeta D. Bansal.
"The CPC designations and subsequent actions are vital to advance U.S. protection against severe violations of religious freedom," Bansal said. A new annual cycle of the IRFA process is set to begin next month. "Ensuring global respect for freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief and related human rights through the statutorily designated CPC process will further the U.S. Administration's campaign against terrorism and its goal of promoting democratic reform," Bansal said.
In February of this year, as a result of the IRFA-mandated review process, the Commission recommended to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell that he name as CPCs the following countries that have not yet been designated: Eritrea, India*, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam. The State Department's 2003 CPC designations were Burma, Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), Iran, Iraq, the People's Republic of China, and Sudan.
* Commissioners Bansal, Chaput, Gaer, and Young dissent from the Commission's recommendation that India be designated a country of particular concern (CPC).
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to monitor the status of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief abroad, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related international instruments, and to give independent policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and the Congress.
Preeta D. Bansal, Chair • Felice D. Gaer, Vice Chair • Nina Shea, Vice Chair • Patti Chang • Archbishop Charles J. Chaput • Khaled Abou El Fadl • Richard Land • Bishop Ricardo Ramirez • Michael K. Young • Ambassador John V. Hanford III, Ex-Officio • Joseph R. Crapa, Executive Director