Tue, Jan 13, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Papua New Guinea to crack down on killing of ‘witches’

AFP , PORT MORESBY

Papua New Guinea will toughen laws against sorcery-related killings after a surge in murders of people accused of witchcraft, reports said yesterday.

The Constitutional Review and Law Reform Commission will strengthen the laws after more than 50 people were killed in sorcery-related murders over the past year, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said.

Commission chairman Joe Mek Teine said people in the country’s volatile Highlands region were using accusations of witchcraft to get rid of people.

“It’s the easy way out for someone to kill somebody else, and use sorcery as an excuse,” he told the broadcaster.

“And you would find that the victim is totally innocent,” he said.

Mek Teine said the new laws could force rural courts to be harder on defendants in cases involving sorcery-related killings.

The Post-Courier newspaper quoted him as saying “a lot of people are being killed on allegations of sorcery.”

The newspaper said that many victims of these crimes, especially women and older men, were murdered after being accused of causing deaths through sorcery.

“It is a problem that has been existing in the country before the arrival of Western influence and it’s deeply rooted,” Mek Teine told the paper on Thursday.

“The churches have done a lot to improve it but it’s getting worse every time,” he said.

Last week, a young woman was stripped naked, gagged and burnt alive at the stake in the Highlands town of Mount Hagen in what some speculated was a sorcery-related crime.

Reports said the victim could have been accused of sorcery, adultery or of passing on HIV/AIDS to one of her killers.

“If it is alleged she was a sorcerer, this is yet one more example of hysteria and superstition running rampant in parts of our country,” the Post-Courier said in an editorial at the time.

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