US designates China, Pakistan, Iran and Russia as ‘countries of particular concern’ for violating religious freedom

US designates China, Pakistan, Iran and Russia as ‘countries of particular concern’ for violating religious freedom

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. AP File

New Delhi: The United States on Friday designated China, Pakistan, Iran and Russia, among others, as “countries of particular concern” under the Religious Freedom Act over severe violations, but took no action against India.

“Around the world, governments and non-state actors harass, threaten, jail, and even kill individuals on account of their beliefs,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday in a statement. “The United States will not stand by in the face of these abuses.”

Pakistan, however, was retained on the blacklist, since it already figured in last year’s list of all Countries of Particular Concern. Blinken also kept on the blacklist from last year other countries such as Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

Washington would welcome a meeting with all governments to outline concrete steps for removal from the lists, the top US official added.

This year, Algeria, the Central African Republic, Comoros and Vietnam were placed on the watch list.

Several groups, including the Kremlin-aligned Wagner Group, a private paramilitary organisation active in Syria, Africa and Ukraine, were also designated as entities of particular concern by the US.

Violations of religious freedom “sow division, undermine economic security and threaten political stability and peace,” Blinken said.

The United States added Cuba, Nicaragua and Russia’s Wagner mercenary group to a blacklist on international religious freedom, paving the way for potential sanctions.

Cuba and Nicaragua were both newly designated as “Countries of Particular Concern” under the annual determinations, meaning that the two leftist Latin American states — already under US sanctions —could face further measures soon.

With inputs from agencies.

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