U.S. Adds Nigeria to List of Worst Violators of Religious Freedom

An altar boy swings the thurible of incense during a morning service at the Saint Charles Catholic Church, the site of a 2014 bomb attack blamed on Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, in the predominantly-Christian neighborhood of Sabon Gari in Kano, northern Nigeria Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019. With the leading …
AP Photo/Ben Curtis

The U.S. State Department designated Nigeria for the first time as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) on Monday, the short list of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom.

Under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, countries are designated as CPCs for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing egregious violations of religious freedom,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted in Monday’s press release.

This designation makes offending countries liable to U.S. sanctions at the discretion of the executive branch of government, including the suspension of foreign aid, trade restrictions, or loan prohibitions.

Nigeria joins Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, which were re-designated as CPCs, Pompeo said.

The State Department also designated several international terrorist organizations as “entities of Particular Concern,” namely al-Shabaab, al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, and the Taliban.

Two terrorist groups — al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS-Khorasan — were removed from the list “due to the total loss of territory formerly controlled by these terrorist organizations.”

“While these two groups no longer meet the statutory criteria for designation, we will not rest until we have fully eliminated the threat of religious freedom abuses by any violent extremist and terrorist groups,” the press release said.

“The U.S. is unwavering in its commitment to religious freedom,” Secretary Pompeo stated on Twitter when announcing the new designations. “No country or entity should be allowed to persecute people with impunity because of their beliefs. These annual designations show that when religious freedom is attacked, we will act.”

Pompeo also announced sanctions for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for its suppression of freedoms in Hong Kong.

“The U.S. is sanctioning the senior leadership of China’s National People’s Congress in connection with developing, adopting, and implementing the National Security Law,” Pompeo wrote. “We will hold Beijing accountable for destroying Hong Kong’s autonomy.”

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