The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom today issued its 2009 Annual Report. The 274-page document issued under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act recommends that the President designate 13 countries as "countries of particular concern"-- those where violations of religious freedom are the greatest. Eight of those countries are already designated CPC's by the State Department: Burma, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. (See prior related posting.) USCIRF recommends adding: Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.
The Report also places eleven countries on its "Watch List": Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Venezuela. (Today's Wall Street Journal carries an op-ed on the growing anti-Semitism in Venezuela.) The Commission calls for close monitoring of Bangladesh, Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka, and says it will issue a report on India later this year after a visit there by USCIRF members.
The USCIRF Report also discusses the role of the OSCE and the United Nations in religious freedom issues and discusses a move by the Organization of the Islamic Conference in the U.N. to limit free speech through banning "defamation of religions." Finally the Report discusses continuing problems in the U.S. policy of expedited removal for asylum seekers. [Thanks to Tom Carter for the lead.]