US Commission on International Religious Freedom Issues Annual Report

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan, independent agency within the federal government, today issued its annual report on religious freedom violations around the world. The International Religious Freedom Act authorizes the Commission to study violations of religious freedom around the world and name “countries of particular concern” (CPCs) — those countries that have practiced or tolerated “particularly severe” violations of religious freedom, including systematic torture and other human rights violations. This year, the Commission named 16 CPCs: Burma, the Democratic People‘s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the People‘s Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. The problems of Christians in the Middle East are extensively discussed, but so are violations directed at dissenting Muslim and other communities. This annual “naming and shaming” process has drawn criticism as another example of American overreaching, but the designation of CPCs does not always have an impact on American foreign policy. Although IFRA generally requires the President to take action in response to the designation of a country as a CPC, the statute also allows the President to waive this requirement if circumstances warrant, and Presidents often do so — an pattern the Commission criticizes in its report.