Remarks
Suzan Johnson Cook
Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom
Washington, DC
September 13, 2011


Just as the International Religious Freedom Act requires the publication of International Religious Freedom Report, it also calls on the U.S. Government to designate the worst violators of religious freedom as Countries of Particular Concern or “CPCs.”

These are countries that engage in or tolerate “particularly severe violations” of religious freedom, where the abuses are “egregious, ongoing, and systematic.” Abuses include torture, degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges, abduction or clandestine detention, or other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons. The President's authority to designate CPCs has been delegated to the Secretary of State. When the Secretary of State designates a CPC, Congress is notified, and when appropriate an economic measure or sanction must be imposed. This measure or sanction can be waived when there are other national security considerations or the likelihood that the government of the country in question has shown an interest in significantly improving religious freedom. .Our goal in making these designations is not simply to comply with legislation or merely to denounce abuses, but to take a principled stand for the values that all nations agree to uphold as members of the United Nations. The CPC list exposes persecutors to international scrutiny and can encourage much-needed reforms.

CPC designations are a starting point, not an end. Our goal is to work constructively with foreign governments to help them improve religious freedom and to remove them from CPC designation.

It is our hope that these designations engender dialogue within these governments and societies—dialogue that leads to real change. Through respectful, open dialogue, different religious groups can build understanding and bridge divides. It is through dialogue that governments can come to a greater appreciation of faith communities and improve their protection of religious freedom for all.

Thank you and please be sure to follow me on Twitter at IRFAmbassador and on Facebook under Religious Freedom Ambassador.