Created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA), the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan U.S. government advisory body, separate from the U.S. State Department, that monitors religious freedom abroad and makes policy recommendations to the president, secretary of state, and Congress. USCIRF bases these recommendations on its statutory mandate and the standards in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international documents.
The 2018 Annual Report documents religious freedom violations and progress during calendar year 2017 in 28 countries and makes independent recommendations for U.S. policy. The report is divided into three sections. The first section focuses on the U.S. government’s implementation of IRFA and provides recommendations to bolster U.S. efforts to advance freedom of religion or belief abroad.
The second section highlights 16 countries USCIRF concludes meet IRFA’s standard for “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs, for the period covered by this report, which USCIRF refers to as Tier 1 countries. IRFA requires the U.S. government to designate as a CPC any country whose government engages in or tolerates particularly severe religious freedom violations, meaning those that are systematic, ongoing, and egregious. The State Department most recently made CPC designations in December 2017, naming 10 countries, based on violations in 2016. At the same time, the State Department named Pakistan as the first—and only—country on its Special Watch List, a new category created in 2016 by the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act (Frank Wolf Act) for governments that engaged in or tolerated severe violations but are deemed to not meet all the criteria of the CPC test.
In 2018, USCIRF recommends that the State Department redesignate the following 10 countries as CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. USCIRF also finds that six other countries meet the CPC standard and should be so designated: Central African Republic, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.
Read full report HERE.