FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 21, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomed the October 14 release by the U.S. State Department of its International Religious Freedom Report (IRF Report) for 2014. The IRF Report is required by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA), the same law that established USCIRF.
“The IRF Report is a comprehensive resource documenting religious freedom violations in almost 200 countries and territories and highlighting some of the thousands of prisoners of conscience who languish unjustly in prisons around the world solely because of their religion or belief,” said USCIRF Chairman Robert P. George. “We commend the State Department, particularly the Office of International Religious Freedom, led by Ambassador-at-Large David Saperstein, for the significant effort that went into compiling this report,” said Chairman George.
IRFA also requires the United States annually to designate as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs, those governments that “engage in or tolerate” systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, and to take action to encourage improvements in each CPC country. IRFA provides a range of options for such action, from bilateral agreements to sanctions. “Now that the IRF Report has been released, the next step is for the State Department to promptly designate the worst violators as CPCs and to leverage those designations to press for much-needed reforms in those countries,” said Chairman George.
In July 2014, the State Department designated nine nations as CPCs under IRFA: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. USCIRF’s 2015 annual report, released in April, recommended that these countries be re-designated as CPCs, and also called for eight additional designations: Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, and Vietnam.
“USCIRF urges the State Department to continue the current nine CPC designations,” said Chairman George. “We also urge the State Department to further expand its CPC list to reflect the severe violations occurring in other countries, such as Pakistan, which USCIRF has called the worst situation in the world for religious freedom for countries not currently designated by the U.S. government as CPCs,” said Chairman George. “The just-released IRF Report leaves no doubt that the egregious nature of the violations in Pakistan warrant a CPC designation,” continued Chairman George.
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