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6/27/2014

UN Urges Papua New Guinea to Take Action to Stop Vigilante Witchcraft Killings

Filed under: culture,ideology,png — admin @ 2:57 pm

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is under heavy criticism by the UN for doing little to combat the killing of women and sometimes men for suspected sorcery. Across the country deaths and illnesses are often blamed on sorcerers, those suspected of sorcery are often subject to vigilante killings. UN investigations have concluded that sorcery is often used in PNG to mask violence against women. Even though the PNG government has taken steps to combat the violence they have not been effective, impunity is often still given at the local level to those who kill alleged sorcerers.

These problems in PNG were brought to the forefront of the international community a year ago when a 20-year-old woman was killed for alleged witchcraft when a young boy died of illness. The town’s people blamed the young woman for the death, she was striped naked, tortured and burned alive at the stake. Even though the attack was over a year ago no one has been brought to justice for the killing. Since this disturbing murder the number of vigilante attacks on suspected witches has increased sharply, causing an increase of violence and unrest.

The PNG government has responded to the UN demands to deter these attacks by repealing the Sorcery Act of 1971, which created the defense of sorcery for defendants on murder charges. The country has also responded by reinstating the death penalty for murder and rape in hopes that it will deter these violent attacks on women. The UN has criticized the reinstatement of the death penalty, saying that the death penalty does not help deter the violence in anyway. Instead the UN advises that prompt investigation and trials would be effective in halting the attacks.

Even with these heavy-handed measures to combat the violence, bringing those responsible for the killings to justice proves difficult. At the local level, those who kill witches or sorcerers are not deemed to be criminals by the population. Arresting them and convicting them is difficult when their local communities do not think of them as criminals. Since the death penalty reinstatement not one person has been given the capital punishment, the deterrence is not effective if the punishment is never given out for the crime.

The UN has recently held a conference in Port Moresby, the capital of PNG to discuss these issues with the PNG government. The PNG Deputy Secretary for Legal and Justice Affairs has stated that the UN conference should form the basis for legislative reform in the country. Other government agencies have also voiced their support for the UN conference and possible policy and legislative reforms to combat the issue of witchcraft killings.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-27827970

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