November 22, 2023
Chris H. Smith, Chairman
House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee
on Global Health, Global Human Rights,
and International Organizations
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Mr. Chairman:
Thank you for your letter of September 23 and for sharing your concerns regarding reports of politically motivated ritual abuse and sacrifice in Africa. The Department appreciates your engagement on this topic, including your September 19 hearing titled, “Efforts to Address Ritual Abuse and Sacrifice in Africa.”
The Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2021 and 2022 include information on discrimination and societal abuses such as ritual killings and related instances of organ harvesting for countries across Sub-Saharan Africa. The 2021 and 2022 Country Reports for nearly half the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa incorporated details about ritual abuses, including ritual killings.
With respect to the countries of concern mentioned in your letter and the September hearing, the recent Human Rights Reports covering Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Uganda all note instances of ritual abuse, including attacks and ritualistic killings of children and persons with disabilities and witchcraft accusation related to violence against women.
Department officials will continue monitoring, reporting on, and raising this important issue in bilateral engagements. The Department regularly engages through both our diplomacy and foreign assistance programming on issues of human rights and harmful traditional practices, including in West Africa where the Department continues to support countries’ efforts to ensure communities are aware of modern constitutional rights which supersede the legal frameworks that governed traditional communities for decades. Through assistance, the Department also aims to raise awareness of the consequences of these practices, empowering members of the community to be agents of change and strengthen the capacity of community-based organizations to advocate for reform.
The Department also vigilantly tracks and documents electoral violence that can manifest in a broad range of actions, including ritual abuse. As you know, Liberia held general elections on October 10. Thus far, there have been no reports of politically motivated ritual abuse from Embassy Monrovia, civil society organizations, or trusted investigative reporters based in Liberia surrounding this recent election. The Department will continue to monitor the situation.
The Department remains committed to promoting respect for human rights and advancing a free, peaceful, and prosperous world on behalf of the American people.
We hope this information is helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of further assistance.
Bureau of Legislative Affairs