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Religious Freedom 2012 Annual Report

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By: Stephen Koerting*

On March 20, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) published their annual report documenting religious freedom abuses and violations in 25 countries around the world. The report covered the period of April 2011 through February 2012 and designated violating countries as Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) or placed them on the USCIRF Watch List.

Countries of Particular Concern are governments that have engaged in or tolerated “particularly severe” violations of religious freedom. “Particularly severe” violations are “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” acts, including acts such as torture, prolonged detention without charges, disappearances or “other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.” The eight countries that were recommended to be designated as CPC’s were Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam. The eight countries that were recommended to be re-designated as CPC’s were Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.

The USCIRF Watch List includes countries where the serious violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the governments do not meet the CPC threshold but require close monitoring. The nine countries that were placed on the USCIRF Watch List were Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, and Venezuela. The list provides advance warning of negative trends that could develop into severe violations of religious freedom, thereby providing policy makers with the opportunity to engage early and increasing the likelihood of preventing or diminishing the violations.

Within the report are individual chapters on the 25 countries, detailing the USCIRF’s findings, recommendations, religious freedom conditions, and United States policy.

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*Stephen Koerting is a summer intern at Beach-Oswald Immigration Law Associates, P.C.

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