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United States govt Places Nigeria On ‘Religious Persecution’Special Watch List (SWL

The United States has put Nigeria on its Special Watch List (SWL) as the country joins Russia, Cuba, Sudan, and Uzbekistan on the list for governments that have engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.

This is coming at a time many Nigerians and the international community have criticised the Nigerian government for its serial violations of court orders and the shrinking civic and media space in the country.

“No country, entity, or individual will be able to persecute people of faith with impunity,” United States’s secretary of state Mike Pompeo said. “These religious freedom designations show that when faith is attacked, we will act.”

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.”

“The Department 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,” and added Cuba, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and Sudan to this list,” Mr Pompeo said.

The 2018 report partly reads;

“Religious freedom conditions in Nigeria trended negatively in 2018. The Nigerian government at the national and state levels continued to tolerate violence and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief, and suppressed the freedom to manifest religion or belief.

“Religious sectarian violence increased during the year, with Muslims and Christians attacked based on their religious and ethnic identity.

“The Nigerian military and government continued to violate the religious freedom and human rights of the Shi’a members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN). IMN leader Sheikh Ibrahim Al Zak Zaky remained in detention.

“However, in 12 Muslim-majority northern Nigerian states, federalism has allowed the adoption of Islamic Shari’ah law in the criminal codes. The Nigerian constitution also establishes the roles of customary law and Shari’ah courts for Islamic personal law, family”.

Making announcement of Nigeria being added to the SWL, U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also disclosed that al-Nusra Front, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qa’ida, al-Shabab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Khorasan, and the Taliban have been designated as Entities of Particular Concern.

He said;

“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.

“The Department 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,” and added Cuba, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and Sudan to this list.”

The leader of the IMN, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenah, have been detained since then for their alleged roles in the death of a soldier during the massacre. Nobody has been prosecuted for the mass murder of the Shiites by Nigerian soldiers.

Dozens of Shiites demanding the release of Mr El-Zakzaky and his wife have been killed since the 2015 incident.

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