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United States Adds Russia to List of Countries “Of Special Concern” for Religious Freedom

The United States revised, Wednesday, November 17, its blacklist of countries “Particularly worrying” in matters of religious freedom, including in particular Russia. Nigeria, which was included on this list last year, has on the other hand been removed, according to a statement from the head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, who is due to visit this African country this week.

Other designated countries “For having perpetrated or tolerated flagrant, systematic and persistent violations of religious freedom” are the same as in 2020: Saudi Arabia, Burma, China, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Algeria, Comoros, Cuba and Nicaragua are placed on the intermediate list of states ” under surveillance “.

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“The United States will not turn away from its commitment to advocate for freedom of religion or belief for all and in every country”, said Mr. Blinken.

“In too many places around the world, we continue to see governments harass, arrest, threaten, incarcerate and kill people simply for their willingness to live their lives according to their belief. “

“Persecutions” against Jehovah’s Witnesses

The minister does not specify in his press release what is accused of blacklisted countries. But its designations are based on the annual report on religious freedom drawn up by its services. The last, published in May, notes, with regard to Russia, “Government hijacking of extremism law to restrict peaceful activities of religious minorities”. It mentions in particular “Persecutions” targeting Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“Religious and non-governmental organizations have reported that authorities continue to investigate, arrest, incarcerate, torture or physically abuse people, or seize their property, because of their religious faith,” including members of groups that the government classifies as extremists and banned ”, including Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir movement, according to this report.

Russia was on the US watch list the year before. Its inclusion on the blacklist comes at a time when the subjects of tension between Washington and Moscow are increasing, despite the desire for appeasement displayed by Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Poutin during their June summit in Geneva.

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In recent days, the United States has warned Russia about military movements on the Ukrainian border or for its ” affecting “ with Belarus in the migrant crisis at the gates of the European Union, and strongly denounced a Russian anti-satellite missile that was judged “Dangerous and irresponsible”. The American president also sharply criticized the absence of his Russian counterpart at the 26e Conference of the United Nations Climate Parties (COP). These two great rival powers, whose relations have been at their lowest since the end of the Cold War, continue to argue over the size of their embassies, after several waves of expulsions of diplomats.

The World with AFP

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