Date: December 20, 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 20, 2019
USCIRF Welcomes the State Department’s Designations of the World’s Worst Violators of Religious Freedom
Hopes to See Strong Action in Response
WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today praised the State Department’s announcement that it has named nine “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPCs) for particularly severe religious freedom violations and placed seven countries on its “Special Watch List” (SWL) for severe violations, pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).
“By calling out the governments that perpetrated or tolerated the most severe religious freedom violations globally in the past year, these designations send a strong signal that the U.S. government will not stand for these abuses. USCIRF is particularly gratified that the State Department recognized the severity of the violations in Nigeria, for which USCIRF has recommended CPC designation for years, and Cuba, a longstanding USCIRF Tier 2 country, by placing them on its Special Watch List for the first time,” said Chair Tony Perkins. “At the same time, by moving Sudan to the Special Watch List, the designations also show that the United States recognizes the new Sudanese government’s positive steps, about which USCIRF also is optimistic,” added Chair Perkins.
“Now that these designations have been made, the State Department must take strong action in response, as required by IRFA. We urge the State Department to fully utilize the range of tools available to ensure strong consequences for the most egregious violators, and not rely on waivers or pre-existing sanctions. The CPC-designated countries must know that the United States will not only call them out but also impose costs for violations of this most sacred right,” said Vice Chair Gayle Manchin.
The countries the State Department designated as CPCs are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, all of which it had previously so designated. USCIRF recommended CPC designation for all nine in its 2019 Annual Report. The countries the State Department placed on the SWL are Comoros, Cuba, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Russia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. The State Department had previously designated Sudan as a CPC; Cuba, Nicaragua, and Nigeria are new additions to the SWL. In its 2019 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended CPC designation for Nigeria, Russia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan, and placed Cuba on its Tier 2.