Tuesday, April 26, 2016

State Department Names This Year's "Countries of Particular Concern"

In a little-noticed action, on April 14 the State Department notified Congress of this year's designation of "countries of particular concern"-- those countries which display the most flagrant violations of religious freedom.  In an April 15 press conference (full text), a State Department spokesman said:
Yesterday, the Department of State notified Congress of the decision to re-designate the following countries as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act, also known as IRF. These countries are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and for the first time Tajikistan as a Country of Particular Concern. In accordance with the IRF Act, presidential actions for Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, and Sudan have been implemented. We have waived application of presidential actions with respect to Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan following determinations that the important national interest of the United States required exercising this waiver authority.
These designations help us shine a spotlight on countries and conditions that require the international community’s attention. Today and every day, as you know, we are committed to working with governments, civil society organizations, and individuals to achieve our shared interest in promoting peace and stability through, in part, the promotion and protection of all human rights including religious freedoms.
In a press release welcoming the action, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said that it would like to see seven additional countries placed on the CPC list: Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, and Vietnam. Christian Post highlighted concerns over the omission of Pakistan.