The FCO’s 30 Human Rights Priority Countries and FoRB

The Foreign Office’s Human Rights Report 2015 identifies 30 Human Rights Priority Countries – here is the full list, with all references to Freedom of Religion or Belief included:

The overall human rights picture in 2015 remained poor… Daesh affiliates were reportedly responsible for sectarian attacks, including the beheading of seven Hazara in Zabul in November…. Strongly-held conservative values contributed to slow progress, as illustrated by the tragic murder of Farkhunda Malikzada, who was beaten to death by a mob in Kabul on 19 March following false accusations that she burnt a copy of the Qur’an. Four death sentences were handed down for those involved, which were later reduced to prison sentences ranging from 10-20 years.

Overall, there was progress on human rights in Bahrain throughout 2015, although challenges remain.

People’s Republic of Bangladesh
There was no improvement in the overall human rights situation in Bangladesh in 2015. A rise in the number of extremist attacks against secularist writers and religious minorities during 2015 increased pressure on free speech… Through its Human Rights and Democracy Programme, the UK provided safety training to bloggers in Bangladesh… We encourage the Bangladesh authorities to ensure that this is matched by a positive human rights trajectory during 2016 and beyond. Positive indicators would include careful consideration of recommendations by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief when his report is released in 2016.

There was progress on human rights in Burma during 2015, particularly in the areas of civil and political rights, but significant challenges remain… While the election was peaceful, credible and competitive, there were several flaws: the Rohingya community was disenfranchised and prospective Muslim candidates were disproportionately excluded… Relations between Buddhist and Muslim communities became increasingly tense and politicised with the passing of four discriminatory “Race and Religion” laws. Instances of hate speech and arrests on religion-based charges increased. … The UK continued to press for improvements to the treatment of the Rohingya community, both bilaterally and in multilateral fora.

The human rights situation deteriorated in Burundi in 2015. 

Central African Republic (CAR)
The overall human rights situation in CAR remained very poor throughout 2015.

China continues to face significant human rights challenges, but throughout 2015 improved social and economic rights, and implemented reforms to strengthen the rule of law. The UK supports these goals.

There was mixed progress on the human rights situation in Colombia in 2015, despite efforts by the government of Colombia to improve it.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)
The human rights situation in the DPRK showed no sign of improvement in 2015.

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
The human rights situation in the DRC deteriorated in 2015.

In 2015… the human rights situation remained poor and continued to deteriorate. During 2015 we worked to support implementation of the rights set out in Egypt’s new (2014) constitution. We did this by… raising the importance of freedom of religion or belief with the Egyptian authorities, and promoting religious dialogue, including by hosting a visit to the UK by the Grand Imam of Al Azhar…

In 2015, the human rights situation in Eritrea remained of serious concern, although there were some limited signs of progress. Constraints on freedom of religion or belief persist…

Iran’s human rights record continued to cause great concern. While some religious minorities are formally protected in the constitution, the reality is that many non-Muslims face discrimination and attempts by Muslims to change their faith may lead to criminal prosecution. For example, there are regular reports of the arrest of members of Christian “house churches” and in 2015 a number of Baha’i-owned businesses were reportedly closed by the authorities for observing non-sanctioned holy days.

The human rights situation in Iraq remained of grave concern during 2015. Daesh still controlled large areas in northern and western Iraq and continued to commit atrocities against all communities… Women and children, and religious and ethnic minorities do, however, remain at increased risk of persecution. [We} have funded a project to promote freedom of religion or belief, by empowering community and religious leaders to defend the religious freedoms of all communities.

The State of Israel and The Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs)
We remained seriously concerned about the human rights situation in Israel and the OPTs in 2015.

Overall, the human rights situation worsened during 2015.

Republic of Maldives
In 2015, the human rights situation in Maldives deteriorated.

Serious human rights concerns persisted in 2015. Sectarian attacks continued but, relative to 2014, their intensity decreased in the last six months of 2015. Ahmadiyya, Shia, Hazara, Christian, Hindu and Sikh minority communities continued to suffer discrimination and targeted violence. As in previous years, the blasphemy laws were misused to the detriment of Muslims and non-Muslims… FCO human rights objectives in 2015 for Pakistan focused on the death penalty, freedom of religion or belief, the promotion of the rule of law, and women’s rights… FCO Ministers repeatedly expressed concerns about violations of freedom of religion or belief and encouraged Pakistan to reform its blasphemy laws.

The human rights environment in Russia continued to deteriorate in 2015.

Russian Actions in Ukraine
Russia’s actions in Ukraine led to a severe deterioration in the human rights situation in both Donbas and Crimea in 2015.

Saudi Arabia
Throughout 2015, the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia remained of concern, though there were incremental steps to improve women’s rights.

2015 was another year of serious concern for human rights in Somalia.

South Sudan
The human rights situation in South Sudan deteriorated further during 2015.

Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
There was an improvement in the overall human rights situation in Sri Lanka in 2015, although some concerns remain.

Overall there was no significant improvement in the human rights situation in Sudan during 2015… Freedom of religion or belief, sexual violence, and the powers and immunity granted to the security services all remain concerning… The UK’s key human rights objectives for 2015 focused on conflict resolution, preventing sexual violence in conflict, humanitarian access, the widening of political space and upholding freedom of religion or belief.

In 2015, the human rights situation in Syria continued to deteriorate as conflict intensified.

The human rights situation in Turkmenistan throughout 2015 remained of significant concern… Widespread corruption and the lack of freedom of assembly or religion remained serious problems in 2015, as did an absence of government transparency or an independent media.

In 2015, we continued to have significant concerns about the overall human rights situation in Uzbekistan.

In 2015, the human rights situation in Venezuela was challenging.

The overall human rights situation in Yemen significantly deteriorated in 2015.

In 2015, the human rights situation in Zimbabwe remained fragile.