Friday, April 27, 2018

USCIRF Issues 2018 Annual Report

On Tuesday, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued its 228-page 2018 Annual Report (full text). A press release from USCIRF summarizes its key points:
A key component of the report is USCIRF’s recommendations of countries for designation as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). CPCs are governments that engage in or tolerate systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.       
In its 2018 report, USCIRF recommends 16 countries for CPC designation: 10 that the State Department so designated in December 2017—Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—and six others—Central African Republic, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.
The report also includes a second category, USCIRF’s Tier 2, for countries where the violations meet one or two, but not all three, of the elements of the systematic, ongoing, egregious test. In its 2018 report, USCIRF places 12 countries on its Tier 2: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, and Turkey.
In addition, the report contains USCIRF’s recommendations of “entities of particular concern,” or EPCs, a designation created by the 2016 Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act for non-state actors committing systematic, ongoing, egregious violations. The act defines a non-state actor as “a non-sovereign entity that exercises significant political power and territorial control; is outside the control of a sovereign government; and often employs violence in pursuit of its objectives.” Based on their conduct and control of territory in 2017, USCIRF recommends three groups for designation as EPCs in 2018: the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria; the Taliban in Afghanistan; and al-Shabaab in Somalia.
The Report also contains a series of recommendations to the Administration and to Congress.