Date:                             December 8, 2023


Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) commemorates the 75th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Among the many rights and freedoms protected in the landmark declaration is Article 18’s guarantee that all individuals, everywhere, have the right to freedom of religion or belief. Under Article 18, individuals have the freedom to adhere to any religion or belief, or to none, and the freedom to change their religion or belief. Individuals also have the freedom to manifest their religion or belief according to their conscience.

Seventy-five years after its adoption, Article 18 of the UDHR remains the international community’s authoritative legal standard on the right to freedom of religion or belief,” said USCIRF Chair Abraham Cooper. “While we recognize Article 18’s legacy and robust protections for religious freedom, we also stress that severe religious persecution persists in several countries around the world. We call on all member states to live up to the letter and spirit of this declaration. The U.S. government must continue to increase pressure on countries to protect the right to freedom of religion or belief.

Despite Article 18’s clear guarantees, many governments across the globe continue to egregiously violate freedom of religion or belief. In its 2023 Annual Report, USCIRF identified 28 nations whose governments perpetrated or tolerated particularly severe or severe violations of religious freedom throughout 2022. USCIRF also offered the U.S. government comprehensive recommendations on how U.S. policy can more effectively promote freedom of religion or belief in these countries.

As we move beyond the 75th anniversary of the UDHR and Article 18, USCIRF strongly reiterates its recommendations that the U.S. government increase its use of Global Magnitsky Act sanctions for severe religious freedom violations," said USCIRF Vice Chair Frederick A. Davie. "Additionally, USCIRF calls upon the U.S. government and the international community to strengthen advocacy on behalf of victims of religious persecution through the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance and the International Contact Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief.”

USCIRF maintains the Frank R. Wolf Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) Victims List, an online public database that documents individuals who have been detained, imprisoned, placed under house arrest, forcibly disappeared, tortured, or forced to renounce their faith because of their religious belief, religious activity, or religious freedom advocacy. Since its inception in 2016, USCIRF has recorded more than 2,150 victims imprisoned by nearly 30 countries and entities around the world. In December 2022, USCIRF released a factsheet that provided an overview of the FoRB Victims List, including its congressional mandate and criteria for including persons on the list. Individuals and organizations with credible information on victims can submit that information through the FoRB Victims List Intake Form.


The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a commissioner, please contact USCIRF at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..