WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today publicly released its 2016 Annual Report. This year’s report, the 17th since the Commission’s creation in 1998, documents religious freedom violations in more than 30 countries, makes country-specific recommendations, and assesses the U.S. government’s implementation of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).
From the report:
“By any measure, religious freedom abroad has been under serious and sustained assault since the release of our commission’s last Annual Report in 2015. From the plight of new and longstanding prisoners of conscience, to the dramatic rise in the numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons, to the continued acts of bigotry against Jews and Muslims in Europe, and to the other abuses detailed in this report, there was no shortage of attendant suffering worldwide.
[These] are crises in their own right which cry out for continued action on the part of the international community, including the United States. To be effective, such action must recognize the unmistakable fact that religious freedom is a common thread in each of these challenges, and deserves a seat at the table when nations discuss humanitarian, security, and other pressing issues. The United States and other countries must fully accord this right the respect it deserves and redouble their efforts to defend this pivotal liberty worldwide.”
In its role as an independent U.S. federal government advisory body, USCIRF recommends that the State Department add eight more nations to its list of “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs, where particularly severe violations of religious freedom are perpetrated or tolerated. These countries are:
- Central African Republic
- Tajikistan – On April 15, after the report went to press, Tajikistan was designated a CPC
USCIRF also recommends that the State Department redesignate as CPCs the following nine countries and take additional actions to promote religious freedom:
Along with recommending CPC designations, USCIRF also places 10 countries on its “Tier 2” list, a Commission category for governments that engage in or tolerate violations that are serious but not CPC-level. USCIRF urges increased U.S. government attention to the following countries:
The USCIRF Report also highlights religious freedom concerns in countries/regions that do not meet Tier 1 (CPC) or Tier 2 thresholds, but should also be the focus of concern. These countries/regions are:
Given improvements in the status of religious freedom or belief in 2015, USCIRF did not include Cyprus and Sri Lanka in this category this year.