Coalition Mark International Day Against Witch Hunts With Call For Greater Implementation Of UN Resolution
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Coalition Mark International Day Against Witch Hunts With Call For Greater Implementation Of UN Resolution

By Our Reporter

A coalition of the United Kingdom and Nigeria-based NGOs have used the International Day Against Witch Hunts (marked August 10th) to call on Government and key partners to join hands to implement the United Nation’s resolution on the elimination of witchcraft accusations and ritual attacks.

Harmful practices related to accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks have contributed to one of the most challenging human rights issues in the twenty-first century. It is observed that every year thousands of individuals around the world are accused of witchcraft or subject to ritual attacks, particularly in Africa. This ranges from harassment, bullying, beating, banishment, mutilation, ill-treated, torture as well as death.

The coalition while marking the day noted that the harmful practices impact women, children, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and persons with albinism in particular.

The UN resolution urged States to condemn the widespread discrimination, stigma, social exclusion, and forced displacement experienced by those accused of witchcraft, and to ensure accountability and the effective protection of all victims of witchcraft accusations.

Key drivers in the resolution believe more action is needed if it is to be implemented and such horrific human rights abuses are to be eradicated.

The Principal Counsel of Basic Rights Counsel Initiative (BRCI) Barrister James Ibor, said while efforts have been madam in the fight, there are still cases of witchcraft accusations, especially the elderly and children.

“Today marks another important step in the fight against witch hunts and witch hunters. Whilst some progress has been recorded in recent years, many women, children, elderly and disabled people in Nigeria face severe violations of their rights on a daily basis due to harmful beliefs and practices. We call upon the Federal and State governments, to use the Pan African Parliament guidelines on the issue to help guide them with the implementation of the UN resolution.”

On his part, the Chair of Trustees of Safe Child Africa in the UK, Gary Foxcroft echoed the assertion of Ibor saying there is a need to do more in the fight against witchcraft branding and torture.

“We have seen some good progress in recent years with regard to the child rights landscape in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States, with the enactment of implementation, criminalizing witchcraft accusations by the State Governments. The Ministry of Justice in Akwa Ibom is also taking positive steps in training the judiciary and magistrates.

“However, often horrific cases are still regularly recorded and much more work needs to be done to help put in place appropriate awareness and capacity-building programs to ensure that judges, lawyers, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers have the necessary skills to respond to cases of harmful practices related to witchcraft accusations and ritual attacks.”

Dr Leo Igwe, Director of Advocacy for Alleged Witches (AFAW) is one of those at the forefront of protecting victims of witchcraft branding in the country has been working tirelessly for over 20 years and has personally rescued and supported numerous cases.

He said: “The response of national judicial systems differs between states and oftentimes human rights violations related to accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks are not prevented, investigated or prosecuted. Human rights mechanisms have until recently also been silent on the issue. This has emboldened perpetrators and perpetuated impunity.”

The coalition however, called for much closer collaboration, support, and guidance with the ongoing fight to put a stop to some of the most heinous crimes and atrocities, which are often carried out due to erroneous and mythical beliefs.

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