The U.S. government has added Nigeria to a “Special Watch List (SWL)” of countries that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom.”
Other countries added to the list besides Nigeria are Cuba, Nicaragua and Sudan.
The US secretary of state did not say why Nigeria was added to the list, but it may be connected to the clampdown on the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) by the government.
On December 18, 2019, the Department of State re-designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom.” Mr Pompeo said.
The Department also renewed the placement of Comoros, Russia, and Uzbekistan on a Special Watch List (SWL) for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom.
These designations underscore the United States’ commitment to protect those who seek to exercise their freedom of religion or belief. We believe that everyone, everywhere, at all times, should have the right to live according to the dictates of their conscience. We will continue to challenge state and non-state entities that seek to infringe upon those fundamental rights and to ensure they are held to account for their actions.
“No country, entity, or individual should be able to persecute people of faith without accountability. We have acted, and we will continue to do so.”
The Department of State also designated Boko Haram as an “entity of particular concern, alongside al-Nusra Front, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qa’ida, al-Shabab, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Khorasan, and the Taliban.