The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an advisory council to Congress and the US President, has added Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria and Vietnam to its list of countries where religious freedom is of particular concern.
The Commissions new Annual Report says that “religious freedom abroad has been under serious and sustained assault” during the past year, and adds that restrictions in Western Europe also should be monitored following worrisome developments.
‘Countries of Particular Concern’ are defined in US law as those whose violations of religious freedom are “particularly severe”, listing: “Systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom, including violations such as
(A) Torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment
(B) Prolonged detention without charges
(C) Causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction or clandestine detention of those persons
(D) Other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.”
The president is required by law to maintain a list of “countries of particular concern” based on the commission’s annual report. The White House is then required to “take action designed to encourage improvements in those countries,” the commission says. Those actions can range from nothing, to mutually negotiated treatments, to unilateral sanctions. The State Department is also required to report on religious freedom in each country, as part of its annual assessment of human rights around the globe.
Already designated as “countries of particular concern” are Myanmar; China; Eritrea; Iran; North Korea; Saudi Arabia; Sudan; Turkmenistan; and Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
See the USCIRF report here