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USCIRF releases 2019 Annual Report on religious freedom

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its 20th Annual Report documenting country conditions in, and analyzing and recommending U. S. policy initiatives toward, the world’s worst violators of religious freedom.

USCIRF, as an independent, bi-partisan commission, advises the President, Congress and the Secretary of State on international religious freedom issues.

In its Annual Report, USCIRF unflinchingly describes threats to religious freedom around the world and recommends to the State Department countries for designation as “countries of particular concern” (CPCs) for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations.”

USCIRF also recommends to the State Department that non-state actors cited for similarly severe violations be designated as “entities of particular concern” (EPCs).

This year, USCIRF has recommended 16 countries for CPC designation and five entities for EPC designation. Also, USCIRF placed 12 countries on its Tier 2 list, meaning the violations meet one or two, but not all three, of the elements of the systematic, ongoing, egregious test for CPC status.

The 16 countries of ‘particular concern’ named by the USCIRF are Central African Republic, China, Eritrea,  Iran,  Nigeria,  Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan,  Syria,  Tajikistan,  Turkmenistan,  Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

The five entities recommended for EPC designation include the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Taliban in Afghanistan, al-Shabab in Somalia, and new to the list this year, the Houthis in Yemen and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Syria.

Chair, Tenzin Dorjee said: “The freedom to believe as one’s conscience dictates is a fundamental human right and vital to the security, stability and economic vitality of any state or region.”

USCIRF also announced the imminent launch of its Victims Database, which will enable users to learn more about religious prisoners of conscience in countries USCIRF recommends as CPCs. USCIRF is establishing a mechanism for collecting data on victims to begin populating the database later this year.


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