The influential US Commission on International Religious Freedom has again recommended the US designate seven additional countries as being of "particular concern" with regard to religious freedom in its latest annual report.

The report, released this week, recommends that the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, redesignate 10 "countries of particular concern" - Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

The USCIRF website with Chairman Dr Robert P George.


But it also recommends seven additional countries - Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria and Vietnam - be added to the list. All seven countries - along with Tajikstan - were put on a similar list last year but only Tajikstan has since been redesignated as a "country of particular concern" (this took place on 15th April).

A "country of particular concern" is defined as one where "particularly severe violations" of religious freedom exist such as torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment, prolonged detention without charges, abduction or clandestine detention of people, and the "flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons".

The report says that "by any measure", religious freedom around the world has been under "serious and sustained assault" since the release of the USCIRF's annual report last year. It highlighted numerous abuses including the incarceration of prisoners of conscience in countries including China, the "dramatic rise" of refugees and internally displaced people, and the "continued acts of bigotry" against Jews and Muslims in Europe.

The report also urges that increased US Government attention be paid to the situation with regard to religious freedom in 10 further countries: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Russia and Turkey.

It also highlights concerns in countries and regions including Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, the Horn of Africa and Western Europe where the USCIRF says it's monitoring religious-freedom related issues such as government restrictions on certain forms of religious expression, government monitoring of what they pejoratively label cults or sects and the impact of hate speech laws on peaceful expressions of belief as well as the "alarming rise" in recent years of societal hostility toward Jews and Muslims.