Posts by whrin_admin

WHRIN Releases Latest UN Report

Witchcraft Accusations and Persecution; Muti Murders and Human Sacrifice:Harmful Beliefs and Practices Behind a Global Crisis in Human Rights

This report was specifically compiled for the United Nations Expert Workshop on Witchcraft and Human Rights, in Geneva on 21st and 22nd September 2017.

The report outlines a study of all recorded online cases of human rights abuses linked to beliefs in witchcraft, muti and human sacrifice in 2016.  It aims to provide some background understanding into the work carried out by the United Nations on these issues to date; outline the current scale of the abuses of human rights that are taking place across the world due such harmful beliefs and practices; identify emerging trends and, finally, act as a call to action for all UN, Government and civil society agencies working on these issues to redouble their efforts to develop solutions to prevent further abuses from taking place.

The full report can be downloaded HERE

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 l.bartholomew@sussex.ac.uk 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

 

On September 21st and 22nd 2017, WHRIN, together with the UN Independent Expert on Albinism and Lancaster University, organised the first ever UN Expert Workshop on Witchcraft and Human Rights at the UN Human Rights Council. Co-organizers for the event were the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children, and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities.

The workshop was ground-breaking and the first of its kind at the UN or international level. It brought 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. The event highlighted the various manifestations of witchcraft beliefs and practice, including accusations, stigma, and ritual killings, before identifying good practice in combating such practices. The event marked 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.

Whilst the workshop marked an important step in the fight to prevent more human rights abuses taking places due to beliefs in witchcraft, it is important that we use it as a springboard to TAKE MORE ACTION and keep the momentum up behind the movement that our network is creating. Please click HERE to see how WHRIN intends to support this happening.

More details about the UN Workshop on Witchcraft and Human Rights can be found below:

TV Coverage – You can view the entire workshop online via UN Web TV via the following links:

Preliminary Findings – A presentation of the preliminary findings from the workshop can be found here. A full report on the findings from the workshop will be compiled and submitted to the UN Human Rights Council by early 2018. WHRIN will look to update the network on progress here.

Final Report – The final report, which will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in February 2018, is available to download here

Photos – A slideshow of the photos of the event can be found here. With sincere thanks to Don Sawatsky from Under the Same Sun.

Press Coverage – The workshop was widely covered in the International Media. Please see links below:

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Publicity Video of the Workshop 

Remarks by Kate Gilmore, Deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

UN Special Representative to the Secretary General on Violence Against Children welcomes commitment to tackle impunity for witchcraft related human rights violations and to children’s protection from violence

Experts Propose Steps to End Practices Related to Witchcraft

UN moves against witchcraft, abuse of human rights, others

The Trade in Body Parts of People with Albinism is Driven by Myth and International Inaction

 

“Sorcerer” Killings in Banyuwangi: A Re-Examination of State Responsibility for Violence

This article interrogates the operation of an assumption of state responsibility frequently found in current scholarship on violence in Indonesia. There has recently been “an up surge of interest in violence in Indonesia by the media, by NGOs, and by the academic world”. Important contributions have been made by anumber of conference panels; a special issue of the Asian Journal of Social Scienc(2006); and five recent volumes edited by Anderson (2001a), Wessel and Wimho ¨fer (2001), Colombijn and Lindblad (2002a), Hu¨sken and de Jonge (2002a), and Coppel (2005). Some of the new studies – for example, de Jonge (2002) – clearly elucidate local causes of violence and the role the state has played in attenuating this violence. Nevertheless, at times the recent literature is characterised by an assumption of the state’s responsibility for violence, and a corresponding sense that members of society are its innocent victims. This assumption operates in the discussion of other historical eras,but is most commonly presented in relation to the “New Order” regime (c.1966–98) of President Soeharto. One can find reference to “[t]he massive scale of state violence”(Wessel, 2001b, pp. 70–71) during this era, with the New Order being characterised as “among the most repressive and violent states of the twentieth century” (Barker, 2006,p. 203) or simply as a “state of violence” (Henk Schulte Nordholt, cited in Hu¨sken and de Jonge, 2002b, p. 4). The new literature appears to be driven by a well-meaning and vigilant concern not to let states off the hook. But from my perspective, two problems characterise the notion of state responsibility for violence as it is proposed in the new literature. These are addressed, respectively, in this article’s two parts.
Read full article here

The killings of alleged sorcerers in south Malang: Conspiracy, ninjas, or ‘community justice’?

Around the 1999-2000 Ramadan fasting month, a series of brutal attacks and killings occurred in the villages in the southern part of the Malang regency. These attacks were a continuation of the killing of alleged sorcerers in East Java – a phenomenon that has claimed hundreds of lives since 1998. This chapter argues that the attacks in South Malang were instances of ‘community justice’, in which local communities banded together to kill supposed sorcerers.

Read full article here

The War of Lions: Witch-Hunts, Occult Idioms and Post-Socialism in Northern Mozambique

The year is 2002, the place Muidumbe, northerly cradle of the Mozambican Liberation Struggle. Lions devouring people, and people lynching sorcerers suspected of magically fabricating lions, unleash a crisis that soon assumes a political dimension. Widespread rumours accuse the local post-socialist elite of manipulating a group of lion-men and engaging in organ trafficking with an international alliance of vampires. Disempowered  youth lynchers stage a paradoxical uprising. This article details the unfolding of this crisisover a year, and discusses its broader implications. Are contemporary sorcery crises adeflected effect of ‘millennial capitalism’? To what extent can occult rumours be interpreted as idioms that express political agency in metaphors? What is the role of the media and of cultural brokers in propagating rumours and crystallising collective anxieties inrecognisable forms? How is one to understand the rationality, if any, of witch-hunts? Focusing on the forms and the effects of violence, a symptomatic reading of witch-hunts reveals their linkages with Frelimo’s project of ‘total politicisation’. Finally, the article discusses a contradiction inherent in sorcery scholarship, hovering between repeating the Enlightenment’s baptismal naming of witchcraft as superstition and producing populist representations of subaltern consciousness dismissive of dramatic experiences of violence

 

Read the full article here

Sorcerers and Folkhealers: Africans and the Inquisition in Portugal (1680-1800)

This study is based on a survey of twenty-seven Portuguese Inquisition processes (trials) concluded against Luso-Africans in continental Portugal between 1690 and1784. All were mágicos— persons accused of magical crimes. Some were superstitious folk healers (curandei-ros or saludadores) while others were alleged to have committed different magical infractions. Together, these twenty-seven individuals account for just 6.13 percent of the total number of persons (four-hundred forty) tried for magical crimes by the Portuguese Holy Office be-tween 1679 and 1802. These cases represent the only Luso-Africans found to have been tried for magical crimes in Portugal during this period.

Read full article here

Sorcery and Contemporary Warfare in Papua New Guinea’s Eastern Highlands

In the eastern districts of the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea, sorcery-related violence is mainly an inter-community affair. Sorcery beliefs in various parts of the Eastern Highlands hold that sorcery is an exclusively male domain. Furthermore, violent retribution for deaths attributed to sorcery in the Eastern Highlands is primarily directed against other communities, and not against individuals suspected of conducting sorcery. Sorcery-related violence thus has the propensity to quickly spiral out of control, escalating to large-scale inter-community warfare often causing further casualties. This state of affairs contrasts starkly with recent media portrayals of witchcraft-related killings in Papua New Guinea in which angry mobs single out usually defenceless (and often female) individual victims and torture them to death. 

Request full article here

Sorcery and the Moral Economy of Agency: an ethnographic account

An ethnographic account of sorcery accusation, violence, and subsequent community discussion pro-vides a basis to explore the ‘moral economy of agency’that shapes expressions and interpretations of  personhood in Vanuatu. Mediated historically by transforming social, political, and economic circum-stances, agency is demonstrated to be patterned according to culturally specific ontological and moralschemes. Key local categories of embodied personhood – including
 man ples (man place), man wan (man one), and jelus (jealousy) – are examined to elucidate two relationally entwined analytic categories, referred to as ‘distributive’ and ‘possessive’ agency. Such categories, it is argued, fundamentally shape expressions and interpretations of moral being and doing, including by providing a basis for identifying morally abject expressions of personhood. Taking seriously the important role of spiritual agency within such moral economies, this paper provides new ethnographically grounded insights into the ways in which communities and individuals negotiate moral being within transforming contexts of economic and sacred power.
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(2015), “Children accused of witchcraft in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): between structural and symbolic violence”

In this paper Quaretta considers the phenomenon of “child-witches” (enfants-sorciers) in Lubumbashi (Katanga, DRC), which seems to be the result of the combination of two socio-cultural factors: the structural violence present in everyday family life where accusations of witchcraft against children can occur, and the symbolic violence exerted on street children, on whom the label “child witch” is often directed. On the one hand, witchcraft accusations are the consequence of increasing structural violence to which children are subjected in the sphere of family living conditions; on the other hand, the transgression of social norms by the sheges provokes the inhabitants of Lubumbashi to identify the street children with witchcraft. The data presented in this document comes mostly from socio-anthropological fieldwork carried out in Katanga between 2010 and 2012. The most significant sources of information in the research survey were the Salesian centres for street children, Bakanja Ville and Bakanja Centre, one revivalist church, and the Congolese families he visited on a regular basis.

Read full article here