(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the release of the 2016 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom on Tuesday and outlined some of the countries whose policies are most restrictive of religious freedom among its people.
The first example he gave was ISIS, which he accused of genocide. The secretary explained what constitutes genocide, saying it requires three elements: ‘specific act, specific intent, specific people.”
“To remove any ambiguity from previous statements or reports by the State Department, the crime of genocide requires three elements: specific acts with specific intent to destroy in whole or in part specific people - members of national, ethnic, racial, or religious groups. Specific act, specific intent, specific people,” he said.
“Application of the law to the facts at hand leads to the conclusion ISIS is clearly responsible for genocide against Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims in areas it controls or has controlled. ISIS is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups, and in some cases, against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities,” Tillerson said.
The terrorist group targets religious minorities and ethnic groups through “rape, kidnapping, enslavement, and even death.”
“More recently, ISIS has claimed responsibility for attacks on Christian pilgrims and churches in Egypt. The protection of these groups and others subject to violent extremism is a human rights priority for the Trump administration. We will continue working with our regional partners to protect religious minority communities from terrorist attacks and to preserve their cultural heritage,” he said.
As CNSNews.com previously reported, in May, ISIS opened fire on a convoy of Coptic Christians in Egypt, killing 26, including children. Prior to that, Eqypt was under a three-month nationwide state of emergency following terrorist attacks on two Christian churches, killing at least 44 people on Palm Sunday.
Tillerson also cited Iran where “Baha’is Christians and other minorities are persecuted for their faith.” Iran sentences people to death “under vague apostasy laws,” he said, adding that “twenty individuals were executed last year for ‘waging war against God.’”
In Saudi Arabia, the government “does not recognize the right of non-Muslims to practice their religion in public and applied criminal penalties, including prison sentences, lashings, and fines for apostasy, atheism, blasphemy, and insulting the state’s interpretation of Islam,” Tillerson said. “Of particular concern are attacks targeting Shia Muslims and the continued pattern of social prejudice and discrimination against them.”
Tillerson also cited Turkey, Bahrain, China, Pakistan, and Sudan as violators of religious freedom.
“In Turkey, authorities continue to limit the human rights of members of some religious minority groups, and some communities continue to experience protracted property disputes. Non-Sunni Muslims, such as Aleva Muslims, do not receive the same governmental protections as those enjoyed by recognized non-Muslim minorities and have faced discrimination and violence,” he said.
The U.S. is also advocating for the “release of Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been wrongfully imprisoned in Turkey.”
The government of Bahrain was cited for discrimination against the Shia community in areas like “government, employment, education, and the justice system.” The government also continues to “question, detain, and arrest Shia clerics, community members and opposition politicians,” Tillerson said.
“In China, the government tortures, detains, and imprisons thousands for practicing their religious beliefs. Dozens of Falun Gong members have died in detention. Police policies that restrict Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhist religious expression and practice have increased,” he said.
In Pakistan, more than two dozen people are on death row or are serving life sentences for blasphemy.
“The government marginalizes Ahmadiyya Muslims and refuses to recognize them as Muslims. It is my hope that the new prime minister and his government will promote interfaith harmony and protect the rights of religious minorities,” Tillerson said.
“Finally, in Sudan, the government arrests, detains, and intimidates clergy and church members. It denies permits for the construction of new churches and is closing or demolishing the existing ones. We encourage the government of Sudan to engage concretely on the religious freedom action plan provided by the department last year. Unfortunately, the list goes on,” he said.