USCIRF to Release 2005 Annual Report on Religious Freedom

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) will release its 2005 Annual Report this Wednesday

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) will release its 2005 Annual Report with policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress for “countries of particular concern” this Wednesday.

The Washington, D.C.-based agency will also release to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice its 2005 recommendations for “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs, which will include both additions to and removals from the list of recommended CPC countries, as well as the Commission’s Watch List.

The Commission, which was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, is statutorily charged with making recommendations to the Secretary of State on countries whose governments have engaged in or tolerated systematic and egregious violations of the universal right to freedom of religion or belief. Under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, those countries may be designated by the Secretary of State as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs.

Last September, in addition to redesignating five countries – Burma, China, Iran, North Korea, and Sudan – the State Department acted on the Commission’s recommendations and designated for the first time Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and Eritrea. The Commission sent Secretary Rice a letter with recommendations for policy actions on those first-time designees. The State Department is required by law to take action on designated countries within 180 days.

“In announcing its 2005 CPC recommendations to Secretary Rice, the Commission notes that the State Department has yet to announce Congressionally-mandated policy actions for its 2004 CPC designations of Saudi Arabia and Eritrea,” said USCIRF Chair Preeta D. Bansal in a statement released on Friday. “Yesterday, the State Department announced it had entered into an agreement with Vietnam. The agreement, however, makes clear there is ‘outstanding work’ to be done.”

According to Bansal, the 2005 Annual Report that the USCIRF will be releasing includes the Commission’s recommendations for Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Eritrea, as well as China, Egypt, India, Iraq, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan , among others.