Wed, 01 Feb 2023

Washington [US], December 3 (ANI): The United States on Friday added Russia's mercenary firm Wagner Group to the list of "Entities of Particular Concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act "based on its actions in the Central African Republic."While announcing the name of countries that are designated under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a statement, said, "Finally, I am designating al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam Wal-Muslimin, the Taliban, and the Wagner Group based on its actions in the Central African Republic as Entities of Particular Concern."This announcement came a day after the owner of Russia's Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, admits to recruiting a prisoner from Zambia who died fighting in Ukraine, according to CNN.

Blinken also said that Cuba and Nicaragua were added to the list of countries of "Particular Concern", and China, Russia, Iran, Burma, Eritrea, North Korea and Pakistan remain on the list, according to the statement released by the US Department of State.

"Today, I am announcing designations against Burma, the People's Republic of China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, the DPRK (North Korea), Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom," Blinken said in a statement.

"I am also placing Algeria, the Central African Republic, Comoros, and Vietnam on the Special Watch List for engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom. Finally, I am designating al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam Wal-Muslimin, the Taliban, and the Wagner Group based on its actions in the Central African Republic as Entities of Particular Concern," the statement quoted Blinken as saying.

US announcement of these designations is in keeping with the values and interests to protect national security and to advance human rights around the globe. Countries that effectively safeguard this and other human rights are more peaceful, stable, prosperous and more reliable partners of the United States than those that do not.

Blinken also said that the US will continue to carefully monitor the status of freedom of religion or belief in every country around the world and advocate for those facing religious persecution or discrimination.

"We will also regularly engage countries about our concerns regarding limitations on freedom of religion or belief, regardless of whether those countries have been designated. We welcome the opportunity to meet with all governments to address laws and practices that do not meet international standards and commitments, and to outline concrete steps in a pathway to removal from these lists," the statement added. (ANI)

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