WASHINGTON – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today announced its 2006 recommendations to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs. The 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) requires that the United States designate as CPCs those countries whose governments have engaged in or tolerated systematic and egregious violations of the universal right to freedom of religion or belief.
USCIRF lists eleven countries as "world's worst violators of religious freedom" which includes Burma, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan, People’s Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.
Though not on the Watch List, the Commission is closely monitoring the situations in India, Russia and Sri Lanka, and it continues to be especially concerned about the situation in Iraq.
Today the Commission is also releasing its 2006 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 following is an extract from the text of the Commission’s letter to Secretary Rice with 2006 CPC recommendations about India :
Significant developments affecting freedom of religion or belief that took place in India since the May 2004 elections resulted in that country’s removal from the Commission’s CPC list last year. Those elections, which resulted in a coalition government led by the Congress Party, followed more than a decade of growing violence against religious minorities in the country and the killing of as many as 2,000 Muslims in the state of Gujarat in 2002. Since then, the country’s Supreme Court has taken significant steps to bring to justice those responsible for the violence in Gujarat, including by setting up an inquiry committee in February 2006 that resulted in the reopening of nearly 1,600 cases against those who took part in the attacks. School textbooks that had been revised and published under the previous government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were replaced in 2005. In addition, the government has continued to act decisively in several volatile situations in the past year to prevent communal violence in circumstances where it has erupted in the past, most notably following the bombings in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi in early 2006, reportedly carried out by Islamist extremist groups. Despite these improvements, concerns about religious freedom in India remain, particularly indications that attacks on Christian churches and individuals persist—in some areas at alarmingly high levels—without adequate prosecution. The BJP-led state of Rajasthan in particular has been the recent scene of serious attacks on Christian individuals and institutions carried out by members of extremist groups espousing Hindu nationalism.
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. Afghanistan has been added to the Commission’s Watch List this year, joining Bangladesh, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, and Nigeria.
The 2006 Annual Report may be found on the Commission’s web site at www.uscirf.gov and may also be obtained by contacting the Commission’s Communications Department at [email protected] or (202) 523-3240, ext. 14.