General Studies II

USCIRF Countries of Particular Concern


The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent bi-partisan commission, has released its 2021 annual report.

Key highlights:

  • The Report’s primary focus is on two groups of countries:
    • “Country of Particular Concern (CPC)” is a designation by the US Secretary of State of a nation engaged in severe violations of religious freedom under IRFA (International Religious Freedom Act of 1998).
      • Recommendations for the CPC list are Russia, Syria and Vietnam and India.
      • Countries already on the CPCs list and recommended by USCIRF for re-designation are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
  • A “Special Watch List” country is one that is deemed not to meet all of the CPC criteria but engages in or tolerates severe violations of religious freedom.
    • Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Turkey and Uzbekistan are recommended for a ‘Special Watch List’, along with Cuba and Nicaragua, both of which were already on the list for 2019.
  • The Report also includes USCIRF’s recommendations of violent nonstate actors for designation by the US State Department as “entities of particular concern,” or EPCs, under IRFA.
  • Recommends seven non-state actors for redesignation as “entities of particular concern” (EPCs)—al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), and the Taliban.

Why India added to the Country of Particular Concern list:

  • Passage of the Religiously Discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA)
  • Delhi Riots: The report mentions the attack that took place on religious minorities during Delhi riots by the religious majority population in February 2020.
  • National Register of Citizens (NRC)
  • Anti-Conversion Laws: Despite India’s constitutional protections for religious freedom, approximately one-third of India’s 28 states limit or prohibit religious conversion to protect the dominant religion from perceived threats from religious minorities.
  • Government officials and nonstate actors continued to use social media and other forms of communication to harass and spread hatred and disinformation against minority communities, including Muslims, Christians, and Dalits.
  • The fervor around cow slaughter continues to take root in policy, in December, the state of Karnataka revised an earlier bill to impose fines and imprisonment for the transport, sale, and purchase of cattle for slaughter.
  • Religious Freedom in Jammu and Kashmir & The shutdown of the internet for nearly 18 months
  • Government officials used the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and other statutes to detain advocates, media, and academics, including religious minorities
  • the FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) was amended to place further restrictions on NGOs, including reducing the amount of foreign funds that could be used for administrative expenses and requiring that accounts be held in a government-designated bank.

Recommendations of USCIRF:

  • It has recommended the US administration to impose targeted sanctions on Indian individuals and entities for ‘severe violations of religious freedom’.
  • Condemn ongoing religious freedom violations and support religious organizations and human rights groups being targeted for their advocacy of religious freedom.
  • The US administration should promote inter-faith dialogue and the rights of all communities at bilateral and multilateral forums “such as the ministerial of the Quadrilateral (the Quad).
  • The US Congress should raise issues in the US-India bilateral space, such as by hosting hearings, writing letters and constituting Congressional delegations.

About the USCIRF:

  • USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) that monitors the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad.  
  • It is an advisory body to the US Congress.
  • USCIRF’s 2021 Annual Report assesses religious freedom violations and progress during calendar year 2020 in 26 countries and makes independent recommendations for US policy.
  • It is Headquartered at Washington DC.

Source: The Hindu

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