Nigerian Humanists have won the latest round in an ongoing battle with witch hunters. Today, 4 Feb. 2010, the Federal High Court in Calabar struck out the case brought against Leo Igwe, International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) Representative in West Africa, by Helen Ukpabio of the Liberty Gospel Church.
In November last year, Ukpabio went to court claiming that conferences organised by the Nigerian Humanist Movement to tackle witchcraft related abuses infringed on her right to spread the gospel. She asked the court to order the child rights campaigners to pay her two hundred billion naira (1.3 billion US dollars) as damages for “infringement of their rights.”
“The Church instituted this court action to stop their arrest and prosecution for the attack of July 29 in Calabar,” said Igwe, referring to a physical assault on him last year. About 200 members of the Liberty Gospel Church disrupted an anti-witch hunt conference that Igwe organized in July 2009. (Video of the attack is available here: http://www.iheu.org/iheu-representative-attacked.) The conference highlighted the role of Liberty Gospel Church in ‘trials’ of children suspected of being witches. Many children have been killed after having been found guilty by such ‘trials.’ IHEU has raised the issue of witch hunts in many international forums, including the United Nations Human Rights Council and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.
Ukpabio and her lawyers were not in court. So the lawyer leading the defence team, Barrister Madaki, asked the court to strike out the case due lack of diligent prosecution. And the court granted his request.
“The striking out of this case is a welcome development,” said Igwe. “It is a victory for justice, human rights and the rule of law in Nigeria. The Nigerian Humanist Movement and its partner groups will continue to work and campaign to eradicate all forms of human rights abuses in the name of witchcraft.”