From, Andy Esiet , Calabar
After six years of intensive advocacy by a coalition of survivors, NGOs, academics, lawyers and Journalists, the UN Human Rights Council has passed a ground-breaking resolution, condemning “harmful practices related to accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks that result in human rights violations” in Nigeria and other parts of the world.
The Guardian has observed that over the years such harmful practices abound in Cross River, Akwa Ibom states and other parts of the country and many children have been labelled and stigmatized as witches and wizards resulting in serious psychological and body harm.
A press statement made available to The Guardian by the Gary Foxcroft, Director of the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN), Mr. Gary Foxcroft said this resolution was confirmed by Ms. Ikponwosa Ero, UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism.
The statement said survivors of these harmful practices have expressed their great happiness at this news and optimism that it may be the start of the end of some of the most horrific human rights abuses imaginable.
It further stated that “across the world, women, children, older persons, persons with disabilities, particularly persons with albinism, and other conditions such as epilepsy, autism and dementia suffer wide-ranging human rights abuses due to Harmful Practices Related to Accusations of Witchcraft and Ritual Attacks (HPAWR).
“These include, but are not limited to, killings, mutilation, exploitation and sale of persons, organs and body parts, burnings, grave robberies, torture and significant stigmatization of victims and their family members”.
Both issues also strongly share several root causes including entrenched ignorance about causes of sickness and death, religious profiteering, as well as lack of access to adequate health care and information, poverty, and weak systems of justice and security.
Lancaster University’s Dr Charlotte Baker and Gary Foxcroft, Director of the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN) said: “reported data shows that in the last decade there have been at least 20,000 victims of these harmful practices across 50 countries and six continents that have faced extreme human rights violations including loss of life, limbs and property due to harmful practices. Today marks an important step towards delivering justice for them and preventing more abuses”.
Foxcroft said, “one such person is Mariamu Staford who has albinism and hails from a small village in the Lake District in Tanzania. In 2008, while sleeping with her two-year-old son, Mariamu was attacked by two men who cut off her arms, hoping to profit from the gruesome trade in body parts of people with albinism. Her son was unhurt, and she survived the loss of her arms after spending weeks in a hospital.
“Mariamu bravely identified her attackers, who were arrested but never convicted of the crimes they committed. In a bitter twist, her village turned against her for “bringing shame to them” by seeking justice.
She said: “The UN resolution gives me personal hope, as a victim of these harmful practices, that one day justice will be served and they will end. Even better, the resolution ensures that people with albinism, who haven’t been victims are protected from such harmful practices. I pass my sincere gratitude to the UN for this landmark resolution that will ensure equity, equality and dignity for all people with albinism.”
Foxtrot further said “whilst UN resolutions are certainly not the only remedy to prevent such deeply engrained and complex harmful practices, this important step by the UN Human Rights Council could be a key turning point to prevent the horrendous violence which characterizes these types of harmful practices and which, for too long, have destroyed and taken too many lives.
Commenting on the resolution, the Principal Counsel, Basic Rights Counsel Initiative, Mr James Ibor said, “the UN resolution is a worthy wedge and platform for all human rights activist and veterans who have for decades suffered severe frustration contending witch-hunters across the globe”.
In view of the UN resolution, Ibor said such actions of violence on innocent persons in the name of witch will end alleging that in May 2020 one “General Iron” an aide to Governor Benedict Ayade, led a mob that set ablaze 15 persons on the suspicion of witchcraft.
The said witch-hunter according to Ibor, has within the last 20 Months supervised the killing and maiming of over 75 persons in Oku, Boki LGA of Cross River State in alleged cases of witchcraft.