This Day (Lagos)

20 March 2014

Africa: Rights Groups Want UN to Intervene in African Witchcraft Activities

International human rights groups, 21st Century Witchcraft Accusations and Persecution and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN) are putting pressure on the United Nation to stop the alleged de-humanisation of persons suspected to be witches and wizards in Nigeria and Africa.

The groups said unless the UN take urgent steps to check the abuses of those suspected to have magical powers to kill easily, the mob action on them would continue as members of the public are ready to lynch them at the slightest suspicion.

A statement issued by the groups said: "Thousands of women and children are likely to suffer horrific human rights violations each year due to the practice of accusing them of witchcraft, killing them for body parts or offering them as human sacrifices."

Executive Director of WHRIN, Mr. Gary Foxcroft, revealed that "209 horrific cases of witchcraft accusations, multi-killings for body parts and human sacrifice were recorded on online media in 2013.

"The cases make particularly gruesome reading and are undoubtedly the tip of the iceberg of this form of abuse. We don't know exactly how many people across the world have suffered through these practices. But we do know that this is an emerging issue that needs more attention and constitutes a scar on the face of humanity.

"These cases were recorded in 41 countries across all continents with India, Nigeria and South Africa recording particularly high rates of abuse. In India, high rates of human sacrifice were recorded.

"In South Africa, cases of killings of people for the use of their body parts in magic prevailed. In Nigeria numerous cases of children being accused of witchcraft were documented."

The statement stated that the growing reality of children being accused of witchcraft was raised at last week's Human Rights Council session by the UN Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Martha Santos Pais, who said:

"To be labeled a witch, is tantamount to being declared liable to be killed with impunity."

According to her, "This phenomenon is systematically associated with serious acts of violence, starvation, abandonment and death in sub-Saharan Africa, in Asia, in the Pacific and beyond. Discrimination, social exclusion, violence, abandonment and sometimes, murder of innocent children regularly take place due to such beliefs. Vulnerable children, such as those with disabilities, children with albinism, children without parental care as well as specially gifted children, are often the target of witchcraft accusations.

"In some cases, traditional healers and local religious leaders condone witchcraft accusations, as it can serve as a lucrative business venture for them."

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