Tuesday, November 23, 2021

State Department Designates "Countries of Particular Concern" For Violating Religious Freedom Rights

Last week, in a little noticed move, pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act the U.S. State Department published this year's designation of countries and non-state actors that are major violators of religious freedom. In a statement, Secretary of State Blinken said:

I am designating Burma, the People’s Republic of China, Eritrea, Iran, the DPRK, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”  I am also placing Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua on a Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom.”  Finally, I am designating al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin, and the Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern.

Many of the designations are the same as last year, except that Russia was moved from the Special Watch List to become a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) and Nigeria was placed on the Special Watch List instead of being designated a CPC. Also the State Department noted "The Taliban’s designation is based on information analyzed as of August 15, 2021." As is often the case, the State Department's designations vary to some extent from the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.