United States Should Consider Economic Sanctions Against Religious Freedom Violaters

ICC Note: In a hearing last week, Elliot Abrams of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended that the United States consider using targeted economic sanctions against nations who violate basic standards of international religious freedom. While the U.S. does report on violations of religious freedom around the world and does list certain nations as “Countries of Particular Concern”, actual sanctions are almost never placed against nations for persecuting religious minorities. Every year millions of Christians living around the world face government restrictions and social hostility, often including extrajudicial killings, rape, and torture, simply because of their religious identity. 

2/11/2014 United States (Washington Times) –  The U.S. should consider economic sanctions on countries where Christians endure persecution, torture and death to help ensure security here and abroad, a religious rights advocate told Congress Tuesday.

Elliott Abrams of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said a “case-by-case analysis” could be used in weighing sanctions.

“You look at the list of countries and see so many that are underdeveloped, or middle income or poor,” Mr. Abrams told the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on global human rights. “In those cases economic sanctions … could have an affect. I think what we need to convey is … we care, and this will affect our relations.”

“As it often is the first right taken away, religious freedom serves as the proverbial canary in the coal mine, warning us that denial of other liberties almost surely will follow,” he said. “Supporting religious freedom abroad is not just a legal or moral duty, but a practical necessity that affects the security of the United States because it builds a foundation for progress and stability.”

Mr. Abrams, a former deputy national security adviser, also urged the Obama administration to appoint an ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom within the State Department.

In 1998, Congress enacted the International Religious Freedom Act, which authorized the commission on which Mr. Abrams serves and provided for the ambassador-at-large post in the State Department. Noting that the position has been empty for some time, Mr. Abrams said the vacancy “sends a message to other countries that we don’t care.”

Tuesday’s hearing featured testimony from analysts and religious freedom advocates who highlighted the perils and persecutions faced by Christians across the globe.

“The fact is, Christians are being slaughtered today,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican. “We are in an era where this slaughter is being ignored. Today, we call on all good people of the world to join us and speak loudly, aggressively, against this evil … that can be defeated.”

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