A report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, released today, condemned what it termed violations of religious freedom in China, Sudan, Afghanistan, North Korea, Iraq, Nigeria and Indonesia, among other nations.
Those portrayed as the most serious offenders were listed as "countries of particular concern," or CPCs, according to a CNN report.
The report was the second for the commission, created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. That law is meant to promote religious freedom in U.S. international policy and combat religious persecution in other countries.
China, listed as a CPC, has widened its crackdown on unregistered religious groups in the last year, the report said, and has tightened its control on unofficial religious organizations.
"The government has intensified its campaign against the Falun Gong movement and its followers," the report said. "Government control over the official Protestant and Catholic churches has increased."
One of the most sharply criticized countries was Sudan. "The government of Sudan continues to commit egregious human rights abuses -- including widespread bombing of civilian and humanitarian targets, abduction and enslavement by government-sponsored militias, manipulation of humanitarian assistance as a weapon of war, and severe restrictions on religious freedom," the report said.
The report exhorted the Bush administration to launch a "comprehensive, sustained campaign" against Sudan´s abuses, and suggested U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell be appointed to bring about an end to the war and the "atrocities" committed there.
Commissioners wrote they were disappointed that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had not acted on their recommendation to name four new countries -- Laos, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan -- to the list of CPCs. They said the governments in each of those countries have engaged in "particularly severe" violations of religious freedom.
The report had little praise for efforts to promote religious freedom in the countries mentioned. But the least stinging comments were directed toward Russia, which "has yet to articulate a policy" on registration for religious groups, leaving some 1,500 such groups subject to "liquidation" by the state.
The report also expressed concerns about sectarian violence in Nigeria and Indonesia.