US points spiritual freedom ‘concern’ listing, removes Nigeria

US removes Nigeria from listing of ‘countries of particular concern’ relating to spiritual freedom, designates 10 different international locations.

The United States has eliminated Nigeria from a listing of “countries of particular concern” relating to spiritual freedom, a day earlier than US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives there as a part of an African tour, whereas issuing designations for 10 different international locations.

Blinken introduced the designations as a part of the US State Department’s annual overview of spiritual freedom rights violations in international locations worldwide, which relies on assessments made by the unbiased US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

“Each year the Secretary of State has the responsibility to identify governments and non-state actors, who, because of their religious freedom violations, merit designation under the International Religious Freedom Act,” Blinken stated in a press release on Wednesday.

“I am designating Burma [Myanmar], the People’s Republic of China, Eritrea, Iran, the DPRK [North Korea], Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern [CPC] for having engaged in or tolerated ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom’.”

The designations don’t essentially include particular or binding sanctions or different US actions, though US legislation states that the federal government should “take targeted responses to violations of religious freedom”.

In addition to the CPCs, the US additionally positioned Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua on a particular watch listing, whereas designating armed teams al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIL (ISIS), ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin, and the Afghan Taliban as “entities of particular concern”.

The US State division designations are based mostly on suggestions by the USCIRF, however the suggestions usually are not binding, and this 12 months noticed Nigeria, India, Syria and Vietnam escape CPC designation regardless of suggestion by the fee.

Several international locations that have been really useful for the particular watch listing, together with Afghanistan, Turkey, Egypt, and Iraq have been additionally not included in Blinken’s remaining designation.

The US Secretary of State is predicted to arrive in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, on Thursday, the place he’ll meet President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama and ship a speech on US coverage in Africa, a US State Department assertion stated.

In a press release, the USCIRF stated it was “appalled” at Blinken’s resolution to not redesignate Nigeria a CPC, regardless of it having been designated as such in 2020.

“While the State Department took steps forward on some designations, USCIRF is especially displeased with the removal of Nigeria from its CPC designation, where it was rightfully placed last year, as well as the omission of India, Syria, and Vietnam,” stated USCIRF chairperson Nadine Maenza.

“We urge the State Department to reconsider its designations based on facts presented in its own reporting.”