Snaking around the outer wall of the courthouse in Mbaiki, Central African Republic, is a long line of citizens. … Most are witches, and they are facing criminal punishment for hexing their enemies or assuming the shape of animals. By some estimates, about 40 percent of the cases in the Central African court system are witchcraft prosecutions. … The penal code. … dictates a decade or more in jail and a nominal fine for engaging in witchcraft. …
Your comments are well worth noting...and have more impact than most realize in deciding to prosecute in the first place
Pedantic quibble on the original article: lex talionis was not “preached” in the bible. The preaching, purportedly, was quite to the contrary
Erm... Leviticus 24:20 is in my copy of the Bible. God might have changed his mind by the time the New Testament was written, but the original article is still correct.
Whilst the original article seemed to have a rough point about the weakness of any claim to objectivity in a legal system, the subsequent comments have seriously undermined this.
One type of law is much better than the other in that it doesn't criminalise an imaginary action: casting a spell.
Withcraft is not real.
This entire argument is also seriously undermined by the lack of figures available for CAR on the success of the justice system outside of statistics based solely on demographics. Both could be flawed in similar ways yet one can still be much more effective because dangerous crimes are still more likely to meet with detection, arrest and conviction. Many people in jail deserve to be in jail - something that it's easy to overlook when you play the numbers game.
There's no such thing as witchcraft.
For a 9 I would require that the legal system regularly review the efficacy of the elements of court proceedings as well via testing in staged trials.
I think our system is much better than theirs but I am shocked that our police sometimes still use lie detectors!
Why do you call witchcraft a non-existent crime?
Casting spells is an activity that bothers people. The activity exists. If there is a law against an activity then how is that an non-existent crime?
What is the problem with having a law against witchcraft?
If lack of evidence was the problem, then they could tighen up the evidence rules to ensure that the accused was actually engaging in witchcraft activities. But there was no mention of that anyone was considering that option in the article.
The article mentions selective prosecution of the vulnerable as a problem. That is a problem, but that problem seems to be at least as widespread in the US legal system.
Perhaps the real problem that is leading them to consider repealing the law is that witchcraft has a component of superstition, a component of unscientific belief about something in the domain of science.
And it could be viewed as discrimination against a particular religion, that would be a problem under our constitiution.
It could be they can't just tighten up the evidence rules because the people are so paranoid about secret hexes.
The tort system the US uses seems enough reason not to extradite our suspects to them. We probably still do because we don't want to harm relations with them.
Whether forensic evidence is admissable is based more on jurisprudence then experiments and publications. Science may be verifyable by other scientists but judges and juries just have to take someone's word for it. When disputed it often comes down to two experts disagreeing with each other in court. At that point, all a judge can do is look deeply in their eyes and see which is the most confident expert.
Criminal law does very little to prevent crime other then having people who might commit crimes in jail temporarily. We have a justice system to prevent people taking their own revenge. For this function, it is more important that the laws reflect the views of people who feel they have been wronged then that they are about real crimes.
The individual errors in this post have largely been addressed by commenters.
The meta-error remains unstated, which I find surprising. Not all shades of gray are equal. Just because there are flaws in their system of justice, and there are flaws in our system of justice, that does not mean that the two are practically comparable, and it certainly does not mean some third system must therefore be appropriate. Indeed, given how complex and difficult to create our current legal system is, the obvious question is why we should expect a private legal system to be any better than the African one mentioned, rather than why we should expect private to be better than the American one.
I will mention the obvious error in 2, because I don't see that in the comments. "You rely on ___ evidence," and "You rely *solely* on ____ evidence" are two wildly different statements. The former applies to the US, the latter to the relevant example; equating the two is unjustified.
By the way, the article doesn't explicitly address the point, but from this line -- "His principal advice to clients, he said, was to act normally and refrain from casting any spells in the courtroom." -- it sounds as if many of the accused witches believe they really are witches.
Henry Harpending, a cultural and genetic anthropologist, found in his years in Africa that a fear of witchcraft contributed to order in African villages. When individuals feared that if they did bad things to their neighbors, they would be hexed in return, they were less like to do bad things in the first place. In contrast, in places where fear of curses was dying out, rape, robbery, assault and the like were rising.
It was interesting and enjoyable to read the article in the original source. What follows isnt' an appeal from direct knowledge of the cultural anthropology of this nation--which is zero-- but rather from a cursory search of online sources in a span of a few minutes. Where in the article was there any evidence that the author was a proficient speaker of French or Sangho (the national language)? It's curious that no one has asked this question thus far. If one doesn't speak the language(s) with any degree of fluency or understanding of nuance, one doesn't know diddly--right off the bat. Not a great place to start offering interpretations.
There was no mention of the fact that CAR became an independent state as late as 1960, or that the median age of the male population is less than 19, or that infectious disease is rampant--all of which would seem to call to mind a place where attributional systems based on animistic beliefs are commonplace--unlike developed western democracies. There was no mention that the Azande tribe straddle several nations--situated to the north--and who apparently do not represent a meaningful proportion of the population, the majority of whom belong to other ethnic groups and are nominally Christian. The source story dealt with some happenings in the southwest part of the country, where one wouldn't expect to find many indigenous Azande anyway--but Mbaki looks from the map to be a border town, so one would expect other salient dynamics to be in play. Why bring up a northern tribe?
Pedantic quibble on the original article: lex talionis was not "preached" in the bible. The preaching, purportedly, was quite to the contrary.
Alex, Robin created a caricature of you for some inscrutable reason and you fell for it. His position was that you lacked nuance when comparing us vs. them. Your response is that us is a lot better.
It's a game. Play along.
Robin may or may not be a warlock, but I bet if the government launched an investigation on the matter they could get him on obstruction of justice. He'd probably plead guilty too when he saw the lengthy prison sentence he'd be facing if he went to trial and lost.