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USCIRF 2020 annual report

Topics Covered: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

USCIRF 2020 annual report

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Findings, concerns for India and relevance.

Context: The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has released its 2020 report.

About USCIRF:

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad.

It makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief.

Highlights of the report:

India- specific:

  • India is at the lowest ranking, “countries of particular concern” (CPC).
  • This is the first time since 2004 that India has been placed in this category.
  • India is placed alongside countries, including China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
  • India was categorised as a “Tier 2 country” in last year’s listing.

 Reasons for this downgrade:

  • Concerns about the Citizenship Amendment Act, the proposed National Register for Citizens, anti-conversion laws and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The national government used its strengthened parliamentary majority to institute national-level policies violating religious freedom across India, especially for Muslims.
  • Besides, national and various State governments also allowed nationwide campaigns of harassment and violence against religious minorities to continue with impunity, and engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence against them.

Recommendations made by USCIRF to US government:

Take stringent action against India under the “International Religious Freedom Act” (IRFA).

Impose targeted sanctions on Indian government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ assets and/or barring their entry into the United States under human rights-related financial and visa authorities, citing specific religious freedom violations.

How effective can these recommendations be?

In 2005, Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was at the time the Chief Minister of Gujarat was censured by the USCIRF. The commission had recommended sanctions against Mr. Modi for the 2002 riots and the U.S. government had subsequently cancelled his visa.

How are other countries placed in the report?

  • In the 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommends 14 countries to the State Department for designation as “countries of particular concern” (CPCs) because their governments engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations.”
  • These include nine that the State Department designated as CPCs in December 2019—Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan—as well as five others—India, Nigeria, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.
  • Instead of using its own “Tier 2” category, as in past reports, the 2020 Annual Report also recommends 15 countries for placement on the State Department’s Special Watch List (SWL) for severe violations.
  • These include four that the State Department placed on that list in December 2019—Cuba, Nicaragua, Sudan, and Uzbekistan—as well as 11 others—Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Central African Republic (CAR), Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, and Turkey.
  • The Report recommends six non-state actors for designation as “entities of particular concern” (EPCs) for systematic, ongoing, egregious violations. These consist of five groups that the State Department designated in December 2019—al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Houthis in Yemen, Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) in Afghanistan, and the Taliban in Afghanistan—plus one other—Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Syria.

Important Terms and definitions:

Tier 2 countries are those in which violations engaged in or tolerated by government are serious and characterized by at least one of the elements of systematic, ongoing, and egregious (horrible)’.

CPC is designated to a nation guilty of particularly severe violations of religious freedom under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. The term ‘particularly severe violations of religious freedom’ means systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.

Insta Links:

Prelims Link:

  1. What kind of organisation is USCIRF?
  2. What are Countries of Particular Concern?
  3. What are Tier 2 countries?
  4. Countries places alongside India in the latest report.

Sources: the Hindu.