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U.S. ignores religious oppression, federal panel says

ICC Note: ICC welcomes the new recommendations from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, and especially urges the State Department to follow USCIRF’s recommendation to re-designate Vietnam as a country of particular concern.

5/2/08 USA (CNN) — China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are among 11 countries that practice religious oppression, a federal commission says.

Nevertheless, the U.S. State Department hasn’t designated or re-designated those nations as “countries of particular concern,” the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedoms said Friday.

The other eight countries cited are Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

“In the past year, violent government repression of religious communities in China, Burma (known as Myanmar), and Sudan, among other countries, confirms that religious freedom is [a] vulnerable human right that must be protected by the international community,” Commission Chairman Michael Cromartie said in a press release.

The 1998 International Religious Freedom Act requires the United States to identify “countries whose governments have engaged in or tolerated systematic and egregious violations of the universal right to freedom of religion or belief.”

The act created the federal panel that annually surveys world religious freedom and gives recommendations to the president, secretary of state and Congress. The law allows policy responses to listed countries, such as sanctions.

The commission said it is troubled that the State Department has not made any designations or redesignations since 2006, even though it issued a report on religious freedom in September.

“While IRFA does not set a specific deadline for the [countries of particular concern] designations, the fact that those designations are based on that review indicates that they should be made in a timely way thereafter,” the committee said in a report.

The group said the inaction “may send the unfortunate signal that the U.S. government is not sufficiently committed to the IRFA process, including by seeking improvements from the most severe religious freedom violators.”… [Go To Full Story]