The United States removes Nigeria from the list of “countries of particular concern” for religious freedom and names 10 other countries.
The United States removed Nigeria from a list of “countries of particular concern” over religious freedom, a day before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived there as part of an African tour, while issuing designations for 10 other countries.
Blinken announced the designations as part of the US State Department’s annual review of religious freedom rights violations in countries around the world, which is based on assessments made by the Independent US Commission on Religious Freedom international (USCIRF).
“Each year, the Secretary of State is responsible for identifying governments and non-state actors who, because of their violations of religious freedom, deserve to be designated under international religious freedom law.” Blinken said in a statement Thursday.
“I designate Burma [Myanmar], People’s Republic of China, Eritrea, Iran, DPRK [North Korea], Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan as countries of particular concern [CPC] for having committed or tolerated “systematic, continuous and flagrant violations of the freedom of religion”.
The designations do not necessarily come with specific or binding sanctions or other US actions, although US law requires the government to “provide targeted responses to violations of religious freedom.”
In addition to CPCs, the United States has also placed Algeria, Comoros, Cuba and Nicaragua on a special watch list, while designating armed groups al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Houthis, ISIL (ISIS), ISIS -The Great Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin and the Afghan Taliban as “entities of particular concern”.
The U.S. State Department designations are based on USCIRF recommendations, but the recommendations are not binding, and this year Nigeria, India, Syria, and Vietnam escaped CPC designation despite recommendation by the commission.
Several countries recommended for the Special Watchlist, including Afghanistan, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq, were also not included in Blinken’s final designation.
The US Secretary of State is expected to arrive in Nigeria’s capital Abuja on Thursday, where he will meet with President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama and deliver a speech on US policy in Africa, a US State Department Statement noted.
In a statement, the USCIRF said it was “appalled” by Blinken’s decision not to re-designate Nigeria as a CPC, despite being designated as such in 2020.
“While the State Department has moved forward on some designations, the USCIRF is particularly unhappy with Nigeria’s removal from its CPC designation, where it was rightfully placed last year, as well as India’s omission, from Syria and Vietnam, ”USCIRF said. president Nadine Maenza.
“We urge the State Department to reconsider its designations based on the facts presented in its own report.”