Wednesday, 11 February 2009 6:06 AM

PNG Court Punishes Sorcery-Related Killer

The Papua New Guinea court has sentenced a man to 50 years in jail for his part in a sorcery-related killing while the country receives yet another report of another sorcery-related killing.

According to PNG's The National, National Court judge, Justice Nicholas Kirriwom, sentenced the man last Friday, saying that the 'courts cannot sit by and allow summary executions of innocent lives'.

The judge sentenced Wilson Okore, 29, to 50 years in jail with hard labour for the murder of National Forest Service officer, Jerry Kaiulo, on Feb 8, 2006.
Mr. Kaiulo had been accused by his colleague, Prisca Houje, 'of sorcery which caused her to have severe headaches and dizziness'.
According to the report, Ms. Houje had also accused several other male colleagues of sexually harassing her.

'She had, Justice Kirriwom noted, ". . . a bad working relationship with the rest of the staff, (because she) suspected every movement of her male counterparts as plotting or scheming some kind of witchcraft or sorcery powers to subdue her willpower for their selfish desires over her . . ."'

'Ms Houje's claims of sorcery had prompted her "nephew", Okore, to assault Mr Kaiulo in one instance' and following the attack, 'Mr. Kaiulo argued with Ms Houje who vehemently defended Okore's actions'.
According to the report, both Ms. Houje and Okore claimed to have "been divinely informed through prayers" and had visions that Mr. Kaiulo "had caused or done sorcery upon her".

The following excerpt is taken from the report by The National:

Their superstitious beliefs led to the "ferocious and merciless attack" on Mr Kaiulo between 7pm and 8pm on Feb 8, 2006, when he was outside his house bathing in the heavy rain.
Okore and another person attacked him with a double-edged, sword-shaped grass knife.
"He was in no position to effectively defend himself," Justice Kirriwom said.
"He was unarmed, without clothes and outnumbered by two armed men and stabbed several times as his wife looked on.
"He was chased further away from the house and finally stabbed through the right rib."
Mr Kaiulo died of internal bleeding.
Okore told police that he did not know that the law prohibited killing another human being.
"He thought that people can kill each other as they wished or at will," Justice Kirriwom said.
"I cannot accept his lack of appreciation of sanctity of human life . . . and he cannot be the only exception living out his primitive lifestyle in this modern world among developed people."


The judge 'deducted two years, 11 months and 19 days Okore spent in remand, and he will serve 47 years and 11 days with hard labour in prison' and stated, "Prisca Houje is clearly a principal offender under section 7(1)(d) of the Criminal Code as counsellor and procurer of this crime, and, who should be here to answer for her role in this murder."

Justice Kirriwom also stated that killings associated with suspicions of sorcery had escalated rapidly in recent times where vigilantes took the law into their own hands.
According to The National, Justice Kirriwom said, "The courts cannot sit by and allow these summary executions to continue where police are failing to clamp down on, by imposing very lenient sentences. The time has come when special sympathy, previously shown to accused persons in sorcery-related killings, must be phased out as being constitutionally flawed because it gave de facto recognition or legitimacy to these unlawful acts, thereby encouraging such killings."

This type of ruling is necessary if the country hopes to put a stop to these brutal killings before they escalate even further and the country's police force should make an effort to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice to deter others.

Sunday saw another brutal killing related to sorcery with a father and son being attacked for allegedly practicing sorcery.
According to The National, the incident took place at Ban village outside Mt Hagen, Western Highlands province, which was witnessed by a local councilor.

'Cr John Rok of the Moge Kimininga tribe, Ban village, who claimed he witnessed the incident, said only the son was chopped to death and his house set alight while the father survived despite being chopped in the back and on his hip'.

'Cr Rok claimed that about 400 villagers were involved in the incident following the death of a community leader last month', saying that 'bush knives and axes were used in the attack'.

'According to Cr Rok, the father and son had continuously postponed a community "hearing" to resolve the death of another man' and the angered villagers 'decided to act against the pair, leading to the attack'.
The councilor said he tried to intervene but was "outnumbered and overpowered" and could not save the two men.

According to the report, the country's Archbishop Douglas Young of the Catholic archdiocese of Mt Hagen described the killing and attack on the two men as "senseless and ridiculous".

'Archbishop Young said such barbaric killing was not the right way to seek justice, especially in a civilised society where rule of law and respect for human life should prevail and that 'even if someone was guilty, they must be proven guilty or innocent in a court of law and not through tribal justice'.

'Archbishop Young also said that police, due to lack of logistics and manpower, also contributed to such incidents because people were no longer looking to them as agents of Government to protect lives and properties'.

###TIME###