Research Project with University of Sussex Launched

As part of WHRIN’s commitment to support practitioners to gain a better understanding of how beliefs in witchcraft and spirit possession impact on the lives of those accused, and their siblings, in the UK, we are partnering with the University of Sussex to research these issues in more depth. This is ground-breaking research and we need your help if we are to ensure that survivors of abuse, their families and the practitioners working to support them get the support they need. So, if you have experience of working on such cases, have a family member who was accused of witchcraft or thought to have been possessed by evil spirits, or have direct experience of these issues yourself, please read below for more information and contact us on the details below. Thanks in advance for any support that you may be able to offer here!

Study title – Accusations of spirit possession and witchcraft against children: how this is experienced by those who are accused and their siblings who are not accused.

Researcher Details 

Leethen Bartholomew is carrying out his doctoral studies at the University of Sussex. He has been a social worker for the past 19 years and for 11 of these years he has worked with families where a child has been accused of being possessed by evil spirits or witchcraft. Leethen is also WHRIN’s lead trainer on these issues and has provided training to thousands of practitioners across the UK.  He is deeply committed to increasing awareness of the issue amongst professionals and communities in the hope that children and young people are better protected and supported.

What is the purpose of the research?

Over the past two decades in the UK, there has been a number of high profile cases involving children who have been accused by their parent or carer of being possessed or being a witch. Some of these children have been harmed and consequently taken into social services care. In a number of these cases their brothers or sisters witnessed them being harmed; sometimes children who were not accused were taken into care too. In most cases, not only the accused child but also their sibling(s) are likely to have been affected by what happened.For example, in a number of high profile cases in the UK, the siblings of those accused have witnessed abuse, been accused themselves and/or undergone serious psychological, emotional and physical distress. We need to understand what this is like for each of them, so that we can  better protect them and respond to their needs. The study aims to do that.

How you can help

As you may appreciate, this is a highly sensitive, and therefore, important, subject area and we really need your help if we are to develop the understanding needed to ensure that vulnerable members of society are better protected and supported. All information will be treated with confidentiality and advice and guidance can be provided by Leethen where needed.

Please email Leethen on or call him 07947 366795 if you would like to know more information about how you can take part in this research project.

Thanks in advance for any support that you may be able to offer here and we look forward to hearing from you.

UN Human Rights Council Event – Witchcraft and Human Rights Expert Workshop


The workshop is ground-breaking and the first of its kind at the UN or international level. It will bring together UN Experts, academics and members of civil society to discuss the violence associated with such beliefs and practices and groups that are particularly vulnerable. It will highlight the various manifestations of witchcraft beliefs and practice, including accusations, stigma, and ritual killings, before looking to identify good practice in combatting such practices. The meeting will also be an opportunity to discuss whether current legislative frameworks are sufficient to meet State legal duty to prevent, punish, investigate and provide remedies for harm caused by beliefs in witchcraft.  It will mark an important step towards mainstreaming the issue into the UN Human Rights system, whilst providing impetus and practical guidance to the numerous international and regional mechanisms, academics and civil society actors that have been working to raise awareness and understanding of these challenging issues

Location: Palais Wilson, Headquarters of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva, Switzerland

Date:  September 21 & 22, 2017 (Thursday & Friday)

On the margins of the 36th session of the Human Council to take advantage of the presence of a wide range of stakeholders and UN experts.

Organizers:  This event is organized by the following : Ms. Ikponwosa Ero, the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, Ms. Ikponwosa Ero, Gary Foxcroft, Director of the Witchcraft and Human Rights Network (WHRIN); Dr Charlotte Baker, Lancaster University. Co-organized by the following (confirmed) the SRSG on Violence Against Children, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.

Partners and Sponsors:  Confirmed  sponsors: The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Under the Same Sun, Lancaster University, Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network, Permanent Missions of the United Kingdom to the UN in Geneva and the Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the UN in Geneva.

The event is open to the public. If you wish to register your interest, please email

The full concept note and programme for the event can be downloaded here

Toil and Trouble: The Economist

The Economist investigates the challenge police and social workers are facing to prevent the spread of abuse linked to belief in witchcraft and spirit possession in the UK. Read the full story here 

BBC Radio 5 Live Investigation into Witchcraft Accusations in the UK

Listen to the full story, including comment from WHRIN Executive Director – Gary Foxcroft – here 

UN Commission on the Status of Women Session 59 : Witchcraft Accusations Panel

UN Commission on the Status of Women Session 59


 March 11, 2015

4:30 pm – 6:00 pm

Salvation Army Center – Auditorium

221 E. 52nd St. – Between 2nd & 3rd Avenues – NYC

See full event details here

Read WHRIN’s statement for the panel here


Controversial ‘witch hunter’ Helen Ukpabio comes to London

Channel 4 coverage of Ukpabio’s visit to London and WHRIN’s call for her to be deported. See here 

Hunting Witches – World Policy Journal Article by WHRIN

Article by Gary Foxcroft, Executive Director, WHRIN. Read full article here 

WHRIN 2014 Country Report: Witchcraft Accusations and Persecution in Nepal

Joint report with Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales and Forum for Protection of People’s Rights (PPR Nepal). Launched at National Women’s Commission in Kathmandu, Nepal, April 2014. See full report here

Mike Ormsby: Child Witch Kinshasa

It’s spring 2002 and Frank Kean is training journalists in troubled Congo. When he learns that religious zealots are persecuting so-called child witches, his reporter’s instincts kick in. Why so little news coverage of these ‘exorcisms’? He is determined to break the silence.
In a remote village, Pastor Precious arrives to battle Satan. Twelve-year-old Dudu faces a torrent of accusations and is forced to flee, far from home. The quick-witted boy swears he is not a witch, but evidence suggests otherwise. When Frank meets Dudu in Kinshasa, he sees an opportunity to help a vulnerable and wary street kid, even if it means crossing the line and making promises he may be unable to keep. But can they trust each other in a crisis? Child With Kinshasa is the first part of a two-volume novel, where fear and friendship collide in the shadow of a relentless civil war. The story continues in Child Witch London.
“I read this book during a recent trip to Nigeria, where I have worked to help children accused of witchcraft for over 10 years. I found the book thoroughly gripping, well informed and, in general, a fantastic read. It isn’t easy to capture the true issues behind why people accuse children of being witches but Mike Ormsby does this incredibly well. He also captures the shear horror of this issue in a humane, down-to-earth and, surprisingly funny way. It would make a great read for anyone and everyone but most especially those working in the fields of international development, street children and child protection in the UK and Africa would benefit from reading it. I’m really looking forward to the second part of the book, which will focus on the UK side of the issue”. Review by Gary Foxcroft, Executive Director, WHRIN

You can buy the book here

Violence Against Children Accused of Witchcraft – Statement by the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children

Violence Against Children Accused of Witchcraft, Statement by the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children – Marta Santos Pais –   Geneva, 10 March 2014. See full statement here