Advocacy against witch-hunts
The 30 days of advocacy against witch-hunts campaign was launched in March 2008 under the banner of Touchstone
Advocacy, in response to ongoing accusations of witchcraft and brutal witch-hunts in South Africa.
In March 2011 the South African ‘Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities’
publicly announced its support for this advocacy.
A Pendle Witch Documentary – Simon Armitage presents the story of the most disturbing witch trial in British history and the key role played in it by one nine-year-old girl, Jennet Device, a beggar from Pendle in Lancashire, the star witness in the trial in 1612 that resulted in the hanging of her own mother, brother, sister and many of her neighbours.
Witch Hunt – Period documents and discussion by historians reveal the factors, superstition, hardship, stress, mass hysteria and personal revenge that may have been responsible fo the execution of twenty people found guilty of witchcraft in Puritan New England.
History of Thought: Witchcraft and Witch-hunts - A witch-hunt is a search for witches or evidence of witchcraft, often involving moral panic, mass hysteria and lynching, but in historical instances also legally sanctioned and involving official witchcraft trials.
The Terror of History: The Witch Hunt in Early Modern Europe
Jason Pitzl-Waters | 07 February 2013 | The Wild Hunt
I fear that some of us living in the developed “first” world have developed a tendency to romanticize the European witch persecutions of the early modern period, a time where between 35 to 65 thousand men and women were killed for crimes of sorcery and witchcraft.
It was so long ago that we have taken to fictionalizing the witch-hunts in films like “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters,” “Black Death,” and “Season of the Witch.” Blurring the line beyond mere romanticization into utter fantasy, a fantasy fed by the very lies used to initially convict those men and women.
This fantasy is problematic not only for the way it warps history in the minds of the uncurious, but because witch-hunting has never stopped. The witch-hunts in Europe may have ended generations ago, but in other parts of the world they are still burning innocents. READ MORE…
Jo Chandler | 15 February 2013 | The Global Mail
Belief in black magic persists in Papua New Guinea, where communities are warping under the pressure of the mining boom’s unfulfilled expectations. Women are blamed, accused of sorcery and branded as witches — with horrific consequences.
Despite a lack of data and the suspicion that only a fraction of incidents are ever reported, the 2012 Law Reform Commission examination of sorcery-related attacks concluded that they have been rising since the 1980s. It estimated about 150 cases of violence and killings are occurring each year in just one volatile province, Simbu — wild, prime coffee country deep in the nation’s rugged spine.
Figures vary enormously but volumes of published reports by UN agencies, Amnesty International, Oxfam and anthropologists provide unequivocal evidence that attacks on accused sorcerers and witches — sometimes men, but most commonly women — are frequent, ferocious and often fatal. READ MORE…
Damon Leff | 23 March 2012 | Mail & Guardian
Witch-hunts are common in Africa. Historically, they have been viewed as gender specific because a large number of the victims have been elderly, solitary women, although recent reports show that victims include both women and men of all ages.
The frequent result of witchcraft accusations is tragic human rights abuses, because the victims are presumed guilty without undergoing a legal inquiry. In South Africa it is illegal to accuse anyone of witchcraft.
During the 30-day campaign, which runs from March 29 to April 27, the alliance will be appealing to everyone to condemn witch-hunts. Human rights are for all, including the victims of witch-hunts. READ MORE…
Damon Leff | 03 February 2013 | SAPRA
Stakeholder Submission prepared by the South African Pagan Rights Alliance for the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities.
The vast majority of victims of accusation of witchcraft, both deceased and still living, in South Africa are essentially being denied their legal right to all constitutional rights. READ MORE…
Ugogo wami, ugogo wakho nawe
My grandmother is your grandmother
Witch-hunts have become epidemic throughout Africa. Although witch-hunts have historically been viewed as gender specific, with a large percentage of victims still identified as elderly and solitary women, recent reports show that victims of witch-hunts include both women and men of all ages. 
 Witch Hunts In Modern South Africa: An Under-Represented Facet Of Gender-Based Violence (June 2009) by Yaseen Ally
Published media reports highlight tragic human rights abuses arising as a result of witchcraft accusations. The true extent of witch-hunts in Africa (and elsewhere in the world) however has yet to be determined. Many incidences of witch-hunts go unreported and very few governments actually keep detailed statistics of such incidents..
Witch-hunts are increasing in occurrence and brutality !
Witch-hunts are largely perpetrated by individuals and groups who believe that misfortune is enabled through the agency of ‘a witch’, and such accusations are most often motivated through localized forms of religious extremism by practitioners of traditional African religions who believe that witchcraft is always the cause of misfortune, traditional healers (including diviners, herbalists, ‘witch-doctors’) who use various forms of divination to point out suspected witches, and charismatic revivalist Christian religious leaders (pastors and prophets) who use their prejudicial notions of witchcraft as a manifest form of satanic evil to encourage their followers to find (accuse) and convert suspected witches.
The victims do not identify themselves as Witches !
The words ‘witch’ and ‘witchcraft’ are used predominantly as an accusation throughout Africa, either to describe a number of clearly defined traditional religious practices that do not self-define as witchcraft, as well as a number of variable urban legends perpetuated by religious leaders and traditional healers to identify women, children and men who are not actual Witches.
Belief is NOT evidence ! Accusation is NOT proof !
In rare instances where alleged confessions of being a witch or practicing witchcraft are made by the accused, reported testimony is either irrational or coerced through torture or threat.
The ‘witchcraft’ most often referred to through accusation, allegation and harmful superstition, exists only in the minds of those who believe that witchcraft is the embodiment of evil and that witches are responsible for misfortune, disease, accident, natural disaster and death.
Victims have the right to be presumed innocent !
The ’30 days of advocacy against witch-hunts’ campaign was launched in March 2008 by SAPRA, under the banner of ‘Touchstone Advocacy’, in response to ongoing accusations of witchcraft and brutal witch-hunts in South Africa and elsewhere on the African continent.
Since 2008 the South African Pagan Rights Alliance has repeatedly appealed to all Commissions for Human Rights internationally to encourage all governments to:
a. halt the persecution of suspected or accused witches,
b. uphold and strengthen a culture of human rights for all equally,
c. respond appropriately and humanely to incidences of accusations of witchcraft,
d. make the eradication of violence against suspected witches an international priority,
e. train local police to manage witchcraft accusations and violent witch-hunts in a way that affirms the dignity and humanity of those accused of practising witchcraft,
f. create victim support units to facilitate reintegration and conciliation of those accused,
g. adopt comprehensive public education and awareness programmes aimed at eradicating the real causes of witchcraft accusations, and
h. reform legislation that currently seeks to suppress witchcraft or criminalize accused witches.
There can be no human culture without human rights for all !
In January 2009 the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released a working report on human rights abuses committed as a result of witchcraft accusations.
“An extensive literature review of journal articles, UNHCR internal documents and newspapers has shown that witchcraft accusations lead to violence and persecution in locations throughout the world. Protection concerns from witchcraft allegations can occur at home and also impact individuals throughout the cycle of displacement. Witchcraft-related violence may manifest as domestic violence, child abuse, or mob justice. [...] UNHCR and governments need to be prepared to apply refugee law to claims that are based on witchcraft. By being aware that the phenomenon of witch persecution is still very much alive, those in the refugee field may be better prepared to pre-empt or respond to the associated violence and provide protection as needed.” 
 New Issues In Refugee Research Research Paper No. 169
Witchcraft allegations, refugee protection and human rights: a review of the evidence. (January 2009)
Jill Schnoebelen. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
“At the international level, Stepping Stones Nigeria, along with numerous other civil society organisations around the world, is witnessing a dramatic rise in witchcraft accusations and subsequent gross violations of human rights that take place due to them. However, to date, this phenomenon has received little in the way of concerted attention from the wider humanitarian community. Stepping Stones Nigeria believes that, left unchallenged and inadequately understood, witchcraft accusations will increasingly become an issue of pressing concern for the UNHCR and other humanitarian organisations working with refugees, asylum seekers and traf?cking victims in the years to come.” 
 Witchcraft Accusations: A Protection Concern for UNHCR and the Wider Humanitarian Community? (April 2009)
Paper Presented by Gary Foxcroft, Programme Director, Stepping Stones Nigeria to UNHCR
In April 2010 the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) published evidence of an increase in accusations of witchcraft against children  “…including orphans, street-children, albinos, those with physical disabilities or abnormalities such as autism, those with aggressive or solitary temperaments, children who are unusually gifted; those who were born prematurely or in unusual positions, and twins”  in sub-Saharan Africa, including specifically Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Nigeria. According to this report a majority of the victims are males between the ages of 8 and 14.
 Children Accused of Witchcraft: An anthropological study of contemporary practices in Africa (April 2010) Aleksandra Cimpric – UNICEF WCARO, Dakar
 Children in Benin who were branded as witches for their “abnormal” births (16 July 2010)
Among UNICEF ‘s recommendations, the report details 1) the regulation of both traditional healers, who traditionally act as Witch-finders and Pentecostal revivalist churches who advocate Witch-sniffing as a means to spiritual salvation, 2) strengthening of evidence and understanding of Witchcraft accusations against children, 3) promoting social change through dialogue on Witchcraft accusations, 4) access to child and family welfare services for child victims, 5) promoting the role of health professionals in protecting children accused of Witchcraft and 6) access to the legal system for children accused of Witchcraft, including legal reform to decriminalize Witchcraft.
In March 2011 the South African ‘Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities’ (CRLRC) publicly announced its support for this annual campaign. 
 Murders of people accused of witchcraft – Issued by Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (29 Mar 2011)
In January 2012 the CRLRC publicly condemned “the ongoing violent victimization and the killing of elderly persons labelled as witches” and called on Traditional leaders, community councils and government departments to “assist in deepening peace, friendship, tolerance and respect for human dignity and communal cohesion among all the people of South Africa in pursuit of social justice and equality, irrespective of suspicions that would not be proven in the court of law.” 
 The CRL Rights Commission condemns the killings of alleged witches in Ntuzuma, KwaZulu-Natal (13 Jan 2012)
The CRLRC launched 2012′s advocacy campaign in Maupye (Limpopo), one of three identified refugee villages occupied by South African citizens who have been falsely accused of either being witches or of engaging in witchcraft.
Refugees of witchcraft accusation
South Africa faces a growing refugee crisis as victims of witchcraft accusation who either survive assault or are expelled from their communities by community leaders, traditional leaders and traditional healers, after being tried in traditional courts and found guilty through divination, of alleged but still unproven accusations of witchcraft activity.
Under existing traditional customary law, Traditional Courts currently adjudicate on matters relating to accusations of witchcraft. Existing customary laws and beliefs concerning Witchcraft, however, remain prejudicial to citizens who may actually identify as Witches and who practice Witchcraft as a religion.
Traditional Courts within sub-Saharan Africa share a commonly held belief that Witchcraft is not a faith that people openly profess, and do not recognize Witchcraft as a constitutionally protected religion.
Customary beliefs about Witchcraft remain wholly prejudicial to actual Witches, where Witches are viewed as being responsible for misfortune, illness or untimely death. Traditional beliefs do not assume that a Witch may be innocent of such accusation because it is believed that such criminal acts are in keeping with the nature of the practice of Witchcraft.
Within traditional courts, Witchcraft is viewed as a malevolent magical act, one punishable under customary African laws. Accusations of Witchcraft, though illegal under the 1957 Witchcraft Suppression Act, are frequently heard by traditional courts. Accusations are always based on suspicion, rumor, or gossip.
Citizens accused of Witchcraft and tried within traditional courts are not provided with legal counsel and evidence presented in such courts, including formal consultations with diviners in determining or alleging guilt, does not qualify as proper evidence in any other court of law. Accusations of Witchcraft discriminate against those accused, and marginalize an already existing religious minority that identifies Witchcraft as its religion.
The South African government will not acknowledge the existence of these refugee villages or refugees, and seeks to increase the authority and influence of traditional leaders and traditional courts.
Refugees of witchcraft accusation cannot remain an unspoken secret or unchallenged opportunity. Victims of accusation deserve true restorative justice. They deserve to live with dignity, without shame, guilt or fear.
Do the right thing… Condemn witch-hunts