USCIRF Chair Cooper and Vice Chair Davie

USCIRF Calls for Congressional Hearing after State Department Fails to Designate Nigeria and India as Countries of Particular

Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) calls for a congressional hearing after reiterating its extreme disappointment that the U.S. Department of State yet again failed to designate Nigeria and India as Countries of Particular Concern (CPC), despite both countries repeatedly meeting the legal standard. Despite this disappointment, USCIRF welcomed the State Department’s decision to include Azerbaijan on its Special Watch List (SWL) for committing or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).

There is no justification as to why the State Department did not designate Nigeria or India as a Country of Particular Concern, despite its own reporting and statements. USCIRF calls on Congress to convene a public hearing on the failure of the State Department to follow our recommendations,” said USCIRF Chair Abraham Cooper and Vice Chair Frederick A. Davie.

Days before Christmas, hundreds of Christians were killed in Nigeria, along with their Pastor. This is just the latest example of deadly violence against religious communities in Nigeria that even the State Department has condemned. The majority of Commissioners have travelled to Nigeria and noted the threats to freedom of religion or belief and the deadly implications to religious communities,” stated USCIRF Chair Cooper and Vice Chair Davie. “In India, in addition to perpetrating egregious religious freedom violations within its borders, the government has increased its transnational repression activities targeting religious minorities abroad and those advocating on their behalf.”

USCIRF rejects the State Department’s decision to omit Nigeria and India as CPCs. We met with the State Department on many occasions to sound the alarm about these countries, but not all of our recommendations have been followed. We will not be deterred and will continue our role as a congressionally mandated watchdog to ensure the U.S. government prioritizes religious freedom as a key component of U.S. foreign policy,” they added.

The State Department re-designated 12 countries as CPCs—Burma, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. Furthermore, the State Department again issued waivers on sanctions for Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. In its 2023 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended the re-designation of those 12 countries without any waivers and also recommended CPC designation for Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, Syria, and Vietnam.

The State Department placed Algeria, Azerbaijan, the Central African Republic (CAR), Comoros, and Vietnam on its SWL. USCIRF recommended in its 2023 Annual Report that Algeria, Azerbaijan, and CAR be placed on the SWL, in addition to Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.

USCIRF acknowledges the State Department accepted our recommendation to include Azerbaijan on its SWL. At the same time, USCIRF is disappointed that the State Department did not include our other recommendations for CPC or SWL. Though Vietnam is included on its Special Watch List, USCIRF strongly believes Vietnam should be designated a CPC based on the State Department’s own reporting on the government’s religious freedom violations,” said USCIRF Chair Cooper and Vice Chair Davie. “USCIRF formally requests a detailed justification by the State Department as to why our policy recommendations were not fully implemented, including the waivers.”

The State Department also designated eight EPCs, which are non-state actors that engage in particularly severe violations of religious freedom pursuant to IRFA. USCIRF recommended the redesignation of seven of these actors in its 2023 Annual Report: al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Houthis, ISIS-Sahel (formerly known as Islamic State in the Greater Sahara or ISGS), Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP, also referred to as ISIS-West Africa), and Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM).

Since the issuance of its 2023 Annual Report, USCIRF has consistently shared its recommendations with the U.S. Department of State and Congress. In early December 2023, USCIRF met with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken to reiterate those recommendations. USCIRF released publications on India’s State-Level Anti-Conversion LawsEthnonationalism and Religious Freedom in Nigeria, and State Control of Religion in Azerbaijan, and many others. In 2023, USCIRF held hearings on IranBurmaRussiaCubaTajikistanVietnamIndia, and Iraq

Reprinted from

View the State Department press statement here.