Papua Witch Hunt: Violent Torture Of Accused Sorcerers Is On The Rise In Papua New Guinea [VIDEO]

By Philip Ross on June 10, 2013 5:55 PM EDT

witch hunt papua
Witch hunts have experienced a comeback in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Hundreds of women accused of sorcery are hacked with machetes, tortured and even burned alive every year on the tropical island nation. (Photo: YouTube/Screenshot)

A Papua witch hunt a few months back is just one in a series of recent violent attacks on women accused of witch craft in Papua, New Guinea.

In April, on the island of Buka in Papua New Guinea's Bougainville island region, a mob of people armed with guns, axes and machetes raided the wooden home of Helen Rumbali. After dragging the woman, who was in her 40s, from the house they repeatedly hacked her with knives and then beheaded her. AP reports that Rumbali was accused of killing a little boy with sorcery. The attackers claimed they trailed a swarm of flies from the boy's grave that led them to Rumbali's house.

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"There is a widespread belief in sorcery in the poverty-stricken Pacific nation where many people do not accept natural causes as an explanation for misfortune, illness, accidents or death," Raw Story noted.

Earlier this year, in February, another woman in Mount Hagen, the third largest city in Papua New Guinea, was tortured and burned alive by an angry mob of townspeople that accused her of witch craft. IScience Times reported that 20-year-old Kepari Leniata was stripped naked, tortured with a branding iron, bound, doused in fuel and set on fire atop a mound of garbage and car tires.

When authorities arrived on the scene, the mob chased them off.

According to AP, violence linked to witch hunts is a growing problem in Papua New Guinea, a South Pacific tropical nation of about 7 million people, mostly rural farmers, that occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Experts say that witch hunts have spread to areas of the country where previously there were none.

In a statement put out yesterday, the North Bougainville Human Rights Committee noted that Rumbali was killed because of "jealousy against her and her family." In a country that has one of the highest levels of inequality in the Asia-Pacific region, accusations of witch craft are used like a weapon to either gain access to someone's property or to fulfill a personal grudge against the blamed.

"She was wrongfully denied the opportunity to go to Court and defend herself against the allegations of sorcery," Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee Helen Hakena said.

UN spokesperson Cecile Pouilly said in February that the UN insisted the government of Papua New Guinea to take action against the "growing pattern" of violent attacks on alleged witches.

"We urge the Government to put an end to these crimes and to bring perpetrators of attacks and killings to justice through thorough, prompt and impartial investigations in accordance with international law," Pouilly said during a news conference in Geneva. "In the light of the heinous crime which has been committed, we encourage the authorities to hasten the process to strengthen the legal response to such killings."

In 1971, Papua New Guinea passed a Sorcery Act that criminalized the practice of witch craft and also recognized the accusation of sorcery as a justification in murder cases. But because of the recent spate of violent attacks, the nation's Parliament recently voted to repeal the act and to reinstate the death penalty instead.

"Sorcery and sorcery-related killings are growing and the government needs to come up with a law to stop such practice," local bishop David Piso told The National.

According to Jamie Tahana of Radio New Zealand International, while Papua New Guinea is quickly becoming a modernized nation, traditional beliefs still linger. Father Philip Gibbs, from the Catholic Bishops Conference, told Radio New Zealand International that many religious groups in the country still preach sorcery to large followings, and that because of the country's religious freedoms, they are perfectly entitled to do so.

In this video, uploaded to YouTube from Unreported World, Ramita Navai reported on the rampant witch craft murders in Papua New Guinea:

Read more from iScience Times:

Accused Witch Burned Alive; Kepari Leniata Tortured By Mob In Papua New Guinea

6.4 Earthquake Today: Papua New Guinea Hit By Second Quake In 7 Days

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