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Afghanistan accused again of religious intolerance

U.S. group says nation’s new constitution fails to protect freedoms

Charlotte Observer

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said the new Afghan constitution “does not contain clear protections for the right to freedom of religion or belief for individual Afghan citizens.”

The commission, an independent, bipartisan watchdog group created by Congress in 1998, said other cases of religious persecution have occurred time and again, due in large part to Chief Justice Fazl Hadi Shinwari’s intolerance toward freedom of religion, speech and gender equality.

“The attitude in Afghanistan affects Muslims and non-Muslims alike,” said Preeta Bansal, a lawyer who serves on the commission. “These developments indicate that religious extremism is a threat.”

The Afghan government this spring abandoned plans to execute Abdul Rahman for converting to Christianity, after an international uproar. But Rahman, fearing for his safety, left Afghanistan for Italy .

The commission placed Afghanistan on its new “watch list,” along with repeat appearances by Bangladesh , Belarus , Cuba , Egypt , Indonesia and Nigeria . The commission suggests the U.S. government closely monitor conditions in those countries.

The commission’s more serious list of “countries of particular concern” is unchanged. The report said China , Iran , Sudan , North Korea , Saudi Arabia , Pakistan , Burma , Eritrea , Turkmenistan , Uzbekistan and Vietnam continue policies such as torture and unfair detainment.

The commission left off Iraq , India , Russia and Sri Lanka , but said it is concerned enough to continue to closely monitor their human rights policies.