Bahai News - Panel seeks labeling N. Korea, 3 others for religious intolerance
Panel seeks labeling N. Korea, 3 others for religious
WASHINGTON, July 31 (Kyodo) -- An advisory panel to the U.S. Department of
State has recommended to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that the
country designate North Korea, Laos, Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan as
"countries of particular concern" in terms of religious freedom, according
to a report issued Monday.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote to Albright
on Friday, suggesting that the four countries be added to the list of
countries where violations of the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act
occur, the report said.
The department is scheduled to issue a new list in September. The first list
released last year designated seven countries -- China, Myanmar, Afghanistan,
Iran, Iraq, Serbia and Sudan -- as countries of particular concern (CPCs).
Under the law, the U.S. president is authorized to shrink diplomatic ties
with listed countries and impose sanctions on them by such measures as
preventing financial aid from international institutions.
The commission, which has investigated violations of religious freedom based
on information supplied by victims, religious groups, private organizations
and reports issued by the department, said that in North Korea, it is
apparent that religious freedom is "non-existent."
"The government has imprisoned religious believers and suppresses all
organized religious activity except that which serves the interests of
the state," the report said on North Korea.
It also pointed out that in Laos, increasing numbers of Protestants, Baha'is
and Catholics have been subjected to detention during the past 12 months.
The commission further concluded that all of the seven governments or
entities named by the president last October as CPCs continue to engage in
particularly severe violations of religious freedom and therefore should
continue to be designated as CPCs.
Among the seven countries, the United States criticized China for banning
activities of the Falun Gong meditation group and suppressing Tibetan
Buddhism and accused Myanmar's military junta of continuing to violate
The panel also urged the department to closely monitor religious freedom
in India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam and expressed deep concern about
religious violence in Indonesia and Nigeria.
It recommended that the U.S. urge the Indonesian government to take every
possible measure to prevent further religious violence in the Maluku islands,
where 4,000 Christians and Muslims have reportedly died since January 1999.
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