US designated 10 countries including Pakistan of particular concern for religious freedom violations
WASHINGTON: The United States designated 10 countries, including Pakistan, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia, as countries of particular concern on Wednesday for alleged religious freedoms violations.
The US added Russia to the list as ties dip to their lowest ebb since the Cold War.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that he was designating Russia, as well as China and eight other states, as countries of concern “for having engaged in or tolerated ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.'”
Nigeria, which was on the list last year and where Blinken is due to visit this week, was removed.
The other countries still on the US list for “religious freedom violations” are Myanmar, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Algeria, Comoros, Cuba and Nicaragua were placed on a watch list.
“The United States will not waiver in its commitment to advocate for freedom of religion or belief for all and in every country,” Blinken said in a statement.
“In far too many places around the world, we continue to see governments harass, arrest, threaten, jail, and kill individuals simply for seeking to live their lives in accordance with their beliefs.”
The latest annual report by US diplomats on religious freedom highlighted the Russian government’s “misuse of the law on extremism to restrict the peaceful activities of religious minorities.”
“Religious groups and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported authorities continued to investigate, detain, imprison, torture, and/or physically abuse persons or seize their property because of their religious faith,” it said.
Among those classified by Russia as extremist and banned are the Christian group Jehovah’s Witnesses and Hizb-ut-Tahrir.