Nigeria has been added to a “Special Watch List (SWL)” of countries that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom” by the United States government.
The West African Country was added to the SWL following the 2018 report of the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) which recommended designation of Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC).
Some of the cases cited in the USCIRF 2018 report include violation of rights of Shi’a members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) and violent clashes in Middle-Belt states.
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.
“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.”