The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) announced today its 2005 recommendations to the U.S. Secretary of State on countries of particular concern. In addition to reaffirming its 2004 recommendations, the Commission included Uzbekistan to its recommendations for the first time and removed India.
Promoting religious freedom and related human rights abroad is vital to U.S. foreign policy and to our strategic, as well as humanitarian, interests, said USCIRF Chair Preeta D. Bansal in a statement released today by the Commission. It is only in protecting the universal human rights of each individual that all individuals and all communities around the world will be secure.
In calling attention to these egregious religious freedom violators, the Commission seeks to focus U.S. policy on advancing a universal freedom treasured globally and enshrined in international documents, Bansal added.
Under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), the U.S. is required to designate as countries of particular concern, or CPCs, those countries whose governments have engaged in or tolerated systematic and egregious violations of the universal right to freedom of religion or belief.
Last years recommendations to the Secretary of State on CPCs included Burma, Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (North Korea), Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan, Peoples Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.
Today, the Commission reaffirmed its 2004 recommendations while adding Uzbekistan to its recommended list for the first time and removing India.
In addition to its list of CPCs, the Commission has also established a Watch List of countries where conditions do not rise to the statutory level requiring CPC designation but which require close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the governments. Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, and Nigeria remain on the Commissions Watch List, and Bangladesh has been added this year. Laos and Georgia were removed from the Watch List, although concerns about religious freedom in both these countries persist and the Commission continues to monitor them closely. In addition, the Commission is closely monitoring the situations in Afghanistan, India, Iraq, and Russia.
The USCIRF also released today its 2005 Annual Report with recommendations on U.S. policy for the President, Secretary of State, and Congress with regard to CPC countries, as well as other countries where the United States can help to promote freedom of religion or belief.
The 2005 Annual Report may be found on the Commissions web site at www.uscirf.gov.