Tuesday, 17 February 2009 6:30 AM

Amnesty International Calls on PNG to Stop Sorcery Deaths

Human rights organization, Amnesty International, is urging Papua New Guinea to make a greater effort to put an end to sorcery-related killings in the country which seems to be on the rise.

According to the report by Amnesty International, the media has reported over 50 deaths in 2008 related to sorcery 'either because of an actual increase in such incidents or that more incidents are now being reported'.

"When dozens of people have been killed after literal witch hunts, it's clear that the government is not doing enough to protect its own citizens and maintain the rule of law," said Apolosi Bose, Amnesty International's Pacific Islands researcher. "The police and judicial authorities have to step in immediately before another person faces this kind of vigilante violence."

The organisation pointed out that the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) is often unable to enforce the law using the example of the 8 February killings in which a father and son became the latest victims with the 60 year-old father being shot and burnt while his son was dragged from his home and burnt alive. Police 'reported they visited the crime scene to confirm the men's deaths, but heavily armed locals prevented them from removing the bodies to hospital for autopsies'.

"People often don't trust the police or the judiciary and instead blame events on supernatural causes and punish suspected sorcerers," Apolosi Bose said. "The Constabulary, the Public Prosecution Office and other relevant authorities should step up efforts to curb vigilante violence and raise awareness in communities about ways in which people can legitimately seek justice."

'Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch sent joint letters to Minister for Justice Hon Dr Alan Marat and Police Commissioner Gari Baki on 26 January, expressing concern at ongoing reports of sorcery related killings, particularly of women, and called for greater action from the authorities to curb the violence and murders. To date, there has been no response'.

'The organization has called on the RPNGC to vigorously pursue investigations of all cases and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice'.

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