PNG: Extrajudicial Killings

The United Nations (UN) system in Papua New Guinea (PNG) condemns and demands an end to extra-judicial killings related to accusations of sorcery in PNG. The UN also renews its urgent call for the Government of Papua New Guinea to repeal the Sorcery Act 1971 to promote and support the prosecution of sorcery cases through the judicial system. The provision of protection to victims of sorcery-related violence must also be increased as a matter of urgency. The UN is deeply disturbed with the increasing reports of violence, torture and murder of persons accused of practicing sorcery around the country. These vigilante killings constitute murder and must not be treated with impunity.

Thorough and fair investigations of such actions should be conducted and perpetrators tried in court accordingly. This week another horrific case was reported in the Bana District of South Bougainville on the kidnapping and torture of two women accused of sorcery which led to the eventual murder by beheading of one of the women. This case adds to the increase of reports of extra-judicial torture and killings of both men and women, especially elderly women, accused of sorcery. This year alone cases have been reported in the Highlands, Madang and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, thus it is an issue of National concern. These reports raise grave concern that accusations of sorcery are used to justify arbitrary and inhumane acts of violence. The UN strongly advocates that cultural and traditional beliefs can never be used to justify the murder, torture or brutal attack against another person. All criminal cases should be pursued through the judicial system.

The Government of PNG is urged to uphold its commitments to protect the human rights of all its citizens enshrined in the PNG Constitution as well as carry out its international commitments. Multiple international bodies have recommended to the Government of PNG to address the issue of extra-judicial torture and killings related to accusations of sorcery as a priority concern. Since 2010, these calls for action have been echoed by the UN Human Rights Council on the PNG Universal Periodic Review, the Recommendations on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Report on PNG by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, and the Report on PNG by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Girls. In February 2013 the Minister of Police also endorsed the COMMIT Campaign to end all forms of violence against women and pledged to advocate for the repeal of the Sorcery Act 1971.

The UN urges the Government to act on the recommendations by the Constitutional Law Reform Commission submitted to the Minister for Justice and Attorney General to repeal the Sorcery Act 1971 and to thoroughly investigate and hold accountable all cases of extra-judicial attacks related to sorcery. The UN welcomes open dialogue on increasing advocacy to promote the use of the judicial system to address all criminal cases including suspected cases of sorcery to prevent further cases of vigilante attacks and killings that have increasingly alerted the people of PNG and the international community to the unspeakable violence being perpetrated against the vulnerable members of the country’s citizenry.

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