Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Mbaiki Witch Trials

His principal advice to clients, he said, was to act normally and refrain from casting any spells in the courtroom.
That's from this article about witch trials in the Central African Republic.
By some estimates, about 40 percent of the cases in the Central African court system are witchcraft prosecutions. (Drug offenses in the U.S., by contrast, account for just 12 percent of arrests.) In Mbaiki—where Pygmies, who are known for bewitching each other, make up about a tenth of the population—witchcraft prosecutions exceed 50 percent of the case load, meaning that most alleged criminals there are suspected of doing things that Westerners generally regard as impossible.
But how does the court determine if someone's a witch? Surely it can't be as sloppy as just arbitrarily declaring yes or no just by looking at them.
I asked how one determined guilt in cases where the alleged witches denied the charges. “The judge will look at them and see if they act like witches,"
Wow. Well surely this witchcraft law is actively trying to be repealed by local groups and international NGOs alike. I can't imagine any reason to keep this law on the books.
[an Italian group called COOPI that exists to promote human rights and the rule of law] supported keeping the laws on the books, for pragmatic reasons: if people thought witches could hex with impunity, mobs would simply seize the alleged offenders, bring them to a pit, and bury them alive.

HT: Alex Tabarrok

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow. It's hard to believe that there are places where real life is like a Monty Python sketch.