The Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe: U.S. Helsinki Commission briefing Religious Freedom Violations in the OSCE Region
Ambassador Michael Kozak, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State;
Dr. Daniel Mark, Chairman, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom;
Dr. Kathleen Collins, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Minnesota;
Philip Brumley, General Counsel, Jehovah’s Witnesses
Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2017
All 57 participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have committed to recognize and respect religious freedom as a fundamental freedom. However, some OSCE countries are among the worst perpetrators of religious freedom violations in the world.
Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are currently designated by the U.S. State Department as “Countries of Particular Concern,” a designation required by U.S. law for governments that have “engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.” The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has recommended that Russia also be designated as a CPC and includes Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkey in its list of “Tier 2” countries that “require close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by governments.”
This briefing happened just two days after CPC designations were due on November 13 (U.S. law requires the State Department to issue new CPC designations no later than 90 days after releasing its annual International Religious Freedom report). Panelists – including a representative from a frequently targeted religious group – discussed religious freedom victims, violators, and violations in the OSCE region. The conversation included recommendations for what governments and the OSCE institutionally should do to prevent and respond to violations. The intersection between security, a chronic justification for violations, and religious freedom was featured.