2020 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom

WASHINGTON, DC – Its 2020 Annual Report on international freedom of religion has been made available to the public by the USCIRF. Various media reports have created confusion concerning the publication, with some referring to it as “the 2019 report” and others as “the 2020 report.” For clarification, the title of the 104-page document is the “Annual Report 2020.” The content covers information gathered during 2019.Members of the USCIRF carefully review a select number of nations during the year to gather information about the status of religious freedom within those countries. The commission then releases its findings to the U.S. State Department, along with recommendations for listing nations as Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) or placing them on a Special Watch List (SWL).

The USCIRF carefully reviews a select number of nations during the year to gather information about the status of religious freedom within those countries.

The USCIRF Annual Report is significantly different than the annual World Watch List published by Open Doors. The latter lists and ranks the countries in which Christians are most likely to suffer persecution. The USCIRF provides the State Department with recommendations for foreign policy actions based on the commission’s assessment of religious freedom violations or progress during the prior year.

The USCIRF report included assessments of 29 nations. The World Watch List covers the 50 countries considered the most dangerous. Nonetheless,

“The fact that a country is not covered in this report does not mean that religious freedom issues do not exist there, or that concerns discussed in previous annual reports have improved.”

Countries of Particular Concern

CPCs are nations “where the government engages in or tolerates particularly severe violations of religious freedom … [that are] systemic, ongoing, and egregious.” The violations include

  1. Torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,
  2. Prolonged detention without charges,
  3. The disappearance of persons by abduction and clandestine detention,
  4. Other flagrant denials of the right to life, liberty, or personal security.

Special Watch List Countries

Nations recommended for the SWL are those reviewed that meet two of the three standards of violations, i.e., systemic, ongoing, and egregious.

Entities of Particular Concern

Entities of Particular Concern (EPC) are a relatively new addition to the USCIRF annual report. These are non-state entities that exercise political power and territorial control outside the control of a sovereign government, and often employ violence in pursuit of their objectives.

2020 Report Recommendations

  • CPC

Re-designate Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.

Add India, Nigeria, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.

  • SWL

Maintain Cuba, Nicaragua, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.

Add Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Central African Republic (CAR), Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, and Turkey.

  • EPC

Maintain as-Shabaab, in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Houthis in Yemen, ISKP in Afghanistan, and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Add HTS in Syria.

The entire USCIRF 2020 Annual Report is available here.

Read previous Missions Box News reports about the USCIRF here.

The current Open Doors World Watch List is available here.


Read more news on Religious Freedom on Missions Box.