[JURIST] The US government Commission on International Religious Freedom (CIRF) [official website] on Wednesday called for increased action to combat decreasing religious freedom in former Soviet republics Uzbekistan [JURIST news archive] and Turkmenistan and for more monitoring of Belarus and Russia [JURIST news archive]. In its annual report [PDF text], CIRF reported that rights violations like the deadly confrontation in Andijan [JURIST report] last year and other harsh treatment of Islamic religious groups have hurt freedom of religion in Uzbekistan in particular. CIRF was also critical of Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov [official profile], who it claimed had limited independent religious practice in the country.
CIRF recommended [news release] that the US place both countries on its list of "countries of particular concerns" (CPC) [CIRF backgrounder], while it also recommended cutting off state visits to the countries and limiting non-humanitarian aid to Turkmenistan. Also listed for CPC status were Burma, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Vietnam. CIRF was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 [text]. AFP has more.