Papua New Guinea’s prime minister, Peter O’Neill, has vowed to repeal the country’s controversial Sorcery Act after the latest in a string of brutal public killings of people accused of practicing black magic.
According to Amnesty International, violence against those accused of sorcery is endemic in the South Pacific island nation. In the most recent case, an elderly former primary school teacher in the autonomous Bougainville region was decapitated by a mob whose members accused her of using witchcraft to kill a colleague. Three other women, all relatives of the victim, were also injured in the episode.
Mr. O’Neill, responding on Thursday to a question from a reporter about that killing, pledged to repeal the 1971 Sorcery Act, which criminalizes the practice of sorcery and recognizes the accusation of sorcery as a defense in murder cases. Critics of the law say that it encourages violence against people accused of being sorcerers by codifying black magic as a legal phenomenon.
Over the last year, Papua New Guinea has come under increased international pressure to end what appears to be a growing trend of vigilante violence against people accused of sorcery. Last July, police officers arrested 29 members of a witch-hunting gang who were murdering and cannibalizing people they suspected of being sorcerers.
A good effort from the prime minister. While the practice of witchcraft is superstition, it’s still horrible that people suspected of witchcraft are being killed by vigilantes taking the law into their own hands.
And a plea from activist Leo Igwe on this issue who notes “accusations of sorcery trumps state laws and human rights mechanisms”:
The international community must step up efforts to eradicate witchcraft- and sorcery-related killings in the affected parts of the world. In Africa, India, Nepal and Papua New Guinea brutal attacks and murder of suspected witches are on the rise. And local authorities are unable to intervene and protect victims of witchcraft accusation or stop the wave of sorcery related persecution and execution ravaging countries and communities. When it comes to witchcraft persecution and execution, many countries have failed in their responsibility to protect their citizens and uphold the rule of law. So the international community should step in and bring more pressure to bear on these countries.
Also, this was in the news from India yesterday. Women killed for practising witchcraft – Times Of India.