In a speech today (14 March 2012) at the plenary of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, IHEU representative Leo Igwe criticised governments for aiding and abetting belief in witchcraft, leading to the torture and killing of innocent women and children in Africa and around the world.

UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: 19th Session
Speaker: IHEU Representative Leo Igwe, Wednesday 14 March 2012
Agenda Item 4: Matters requiring the attention of the Council
Belief in Witchcraft Fuelling Human Rights Abuse

Thank you, sir.

Belief in witchcraft, often sustained with the collusion of state agencies and religious institutions, is fueling worldwide human rights abuse.

[In 2010, we submitted a statement1 to this Council urging African states to take action to combat witchcraft-related abuse in the region. But today these human rights violations continue in many countries.]

In India, at least 2,500 mainly single or widowed women in poor rural communities have been killed in the past ten years2.  Similar killings have been reported in Nepal and Papua New Guinea3. In December, a woman was beheaded in Saudi Arabia for practicing witchcraft and sorcery, a few months earlier a Sudanese national was beheaded in the same country for the same imaginary offence4.

In Ghana and Burkina Faso, make-shift camps exist where mainly women internally displaced due to witchcraft accusation take refuge and are languishing without proper care and support from their governments. Witchcraft-related attacks and killings have been reported from Guinea-Conakary5 and Mozambique6. Torture and murder of those suspected of witchcraft continue in Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

Witchcraft is deemed a crime in many states across Africa. In Central African Republic, half the prison population comprises those convicted of this imaginary crime7,8.

And in many countries where accusations of witchcraft are criminalized, there is a lack of political and judicial will to enforce the law.

Belief in witchcraft and spirit possession are also prevalent in Europe particularly within African communities [as demonstrated in the cases of a 15 year old African boy Kristy Bamu9, tortured and drowned by family members in the UK, and Victoria Climbie who was tortured to death also by family members who believed she was possessed by witches10.]

Promoting belief in witchcraft has become big business, with pastors, witchdoctors and clerics exploiting fear and ignorance for political and financial gain.

Mr President, witchcraft exists only in the minds of those who believe in it. No human being is endowed with supernatural powers. We urge all member and observer states of this Council to end torture, killings and abuse in the name of witchcraft, and to educate their people against this pernicious belief.

Thank you, Sir.

[Words in brackets could not be read in the time available]

References:

1) http://www.iheu.org/witchcraft-united-nations

2) Gogineni BabuShalt Thou not Suffer a Witch to Live, in Post Noon Saturday, February 2010 p 9

3) http://articles.cnn.com/2011-12-13/middleeast/world_meast_saudi-arabia-beheading_1_executions-saudi-arabia-religious-police?_s=PM:MIDDLEEAST

3) http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/witches-killed-in-india-each-year-report/story-e6frf7jx-1225897181523

4  http://www.csicop.org/si/show/modern_witch_craze_in_papua_new_guinea

5) http://www.france24.com/en/20110505-village-witch-hunt-triggers-deadly-violence-guinea-conakry

6) http://www.womensviewsonnews.org/2011/12/elderly-women-murdered-for-witchcraft-in-mozambique/

7) http://www.channel4.com/programmes/unreported-world/episode-guide/series-2010/episode-17

8) http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/jul/29/religion-witchcraft-sorcery-africa-unicef

9) http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/jan/17/witchcraft-trial-tortured-boy-drowned

10) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/2062590.stm

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