The challenges belief in witchcraft and sorcery pose for national and international justice systems

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    In July 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a historic resolution (the UN resolution) recognising harmful practices related to accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks as a form of human rights abuse for the first time. This wording was the culmination of years of debate as activists, lawyers, and scholars struggled with finding ways to condemn violence and stigmatisation, whilst impacting non-harmful traditional and new belief systems involving the supernatural. This chapter uses the resolution as a springboard to explore the tensions in legislating around the concept of magic in contexts of worldview pluralism. Such contexts involve radically different views about the role the supernatural plays in issues of causation in everyday life. Sorcery is commonly attributed as a cause of misfortune across the globe; exorcism of evil spirits is part of the Catholic canon; and yet, for the most part, legislators are wary of regulating in this space. This reticence presents significant challenges to legal systems seeking to effectively minimise ongoing and devastating harm arising from beliefs in the supernatural.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationCrime, Criminal Justice and Religion: A Critical Appraisal
    Editors Philip Birch, Conor Murray, Andrew McInnes
    Place of PublicationLondon
    ISBN (Print)9781003276593
    Publication statusPublished - 2022

    Cite this