(CNN) -- China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are among 11 countries that practice religious oppression, a federal commission says.
Iraqi Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter in Baghdad. The panel cites concerns about religious freedom in Iraq.
Nevertheless, the U.S. State Department hasn't designated or re-designated those nations as "countries of particular concern," the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedoms said Friday.
The other eight countries cited are Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
"In the past year, violent government repression of religious communities in China, Burma (known as Myanmar), and Sudan, among other countries, confirms that religious freedom is [a] vulnerable human right that must be protected by the international community," Commission Chairman Michael Cromartie said in a press release.
The 1998 International Religious Freedom Act requires the United States to identify "countries whose governments have engaged in or tolerated systematic and egregious violations of the universal right to freedom of religion or belief."
The act created the federal panel that annually surveys world religious freedom and gives recommendations to the president, secretary of state and Congress. The law allows policy responses to listed countries, such as sanctions.
The commission said it is troubled that the State Department has not made any designations or redesignations since 2006, even though it issued a report on religious freedom in September.
"While IRFA does not set a specific deadline for the [countries of particular concern] designations, the fact that those designations are based on that review indicates that they should be made in a timely way thereafter," the committee said in a report.
The group said the inaction "may send the unfortunate signal that the U.S. government is not sufficiently committed to the IRFA process, including by seeking improvements from the most severe religious freedom violators."
State Department spokesman Tom Casey responded that "the commission is an independent body, and we certainly respect their views and look closely at the recommendations that they make as we go about implementing the religious freedom legislation and go about preparing both the country reports as well as establishing those countries that should be listed as countries of particular concern."
Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan are on the latest State Department list, prepared in November 2006. The panel recommends adding Vietnam, which had been removed from the last listing, as well as Pakistan and Turkmenistan.
Vietnam was removed from the list, Casey said, "because Vietnam has addressed the central issues that we believed constituted severe violations of religious freedom, and they continue to make improvements on those.
"At this point we believe that, while there are certainly still a number of issues in terms of religious freedom in Vietnam, that the actions that the Vietnamese government has taken to address some of our concerns makes them a country that does not merit being included on the CPC, or the countries of particular concern list," he said.
The commission made these observations.
The commission also issued a watch list that names Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia and Nigeria.
The panel said it remains "seriously concerned" about religious freedom in Iraq. E-mail to a friend
All About Religion • U.S. Department of State • Human Rights Policy