Header image for news printout

Ground-breaking step to tackle impunity for witchcraft related human rights violations

GENEVA (19 September 2017) – Experts on witchcraft and human rights are gathering in Geneva on 21 and 22 September in search of solutions to the issue, estimated to kill, maim and affect thousands of people every year and believed to be worsening.

“In numerous countries around the world, harmful practices related to witchcraft result in serious human rights violations, such as various forms of torture and murder, discrimination and exclusion, including banishment from communities,” said the United Nations Independent Expert on the human rights of persons with albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, one of the main convenors of the event.

“These attacks and violations, which frequently target people in vulnerable situations including persons with albinism, are astonishing in their brutality,” she stressed.

“In addition, there are gaps in applicable legal frameworks and challenges with implementation and enforcement, and far too often perpetrators are not brought to justice, “Ms. Ero added. “This impunity simply cannot be tolerated.”

The workshop will enable UN experts, States, academics and members of civil society to develop a greater understanding of witchcraft and related harmful practices.  The event, which will hear from victims of witchcraft and activists working on the issue from various regions of the world, is being held in the margins of the current session of the Human Rights Council.

“This ground-breaking event means that, for the first time, witchcraft and human rights will be discussed in a holistic, systematic and in-depth manner, building on and consolidating critical work done on the issue to date by various experts including co-organizers of the event,” Ms. Ero noted. 

“Other goals of the event are to contribute to discourse on harmful practice and identify workable solutions,” she added.

The event takes place on 21 and 22 September in Conference Room 1 at Palais Wilson - the headquarters of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights- from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm, and is open to UNOG accredited journalists (52 rue des Pâquis, CH-1201 Geneva).

During her visit to Geneva, on Wednesday 20 September 2017, Ms. Ero will hold a press conference at Palais des Nations (Press Conference Room 3) at 10:30am to discuss issues relating to the event.

The workshop is being organized in partnership with: Witchcraft and Human Rights Network and Lancaster University. Co-organizers and experts: the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Violence Against Children, the UN Independent Expert on the human rights of people with albinism; and the UN Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; on the rights of persons with disabilities; and on violence against women.

Ms. Ikponwosa Ero (Nigeria) was designated in June 2015 as the first UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism by the Human Rights Council. Inspired by her experiences as a person with albinism, Ms. Ero has spent the last two years fulfilling her mandate following many years as an advocate for the rights of persons with albinism. As international advocacy and legal officer of Under the Same Sun, an NGO with a focus on albinism, she has participated in multiple activities and panels at the UN in Geneva and New York. She has extensive experience in research, policy development and advocacy in the field of albinism. She is the author of numerous papers and articles on the issue, including with regards to the categorisation of persons with albinism in the international human rights system.

Read the Independent Expert’s first report to the UN Human Rights Council.

The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Check out our special website: People with albinism: not ghosts, but human beings.

For inquiries and media requests, please contact Arnaud Chaltin (+41 22 917 91 88 / achaltin@ohchr.org) or Alice Ochsenbein (+41 22 917 98 30 / aochsenbein@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org

Concerned about the world we live in? Then STAND UP for someone’s rights today. #Standup4humanrights and visit the web page at http://www.standup4humanrights.org.