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UN condemns Papua New Guinea ‘sorcery’ witch trial

Bystanders watch as a woman accused of witchcraft is burned alive in Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea. Picture: AP

Bystanders watch as a woman accused of witchcraft is burned alive in Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea. Picture: AP

REPORTS of a woman burned alive by vigilantes amid accusations of sorcery in Papua New Guinea have been condemned by the United Nations.

• UN condemns reports of woman burned alive after being accused of sorcery

• Kepari Leniatan was tortured and doused in petrol by mob of 50

• Papua New Guinea Prime minister Peter O’Neill calls incident “barbaric and inhuman”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged local authorities to track down those responsible for killing Kepari Leniata after she was accused of murdering a six-year-old boy using witchcraft.

“We are deeply disturbed by reports of the torture and killing of a 20-year-old woman accused of sorcery in Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea, on February 6,” Ms Pillay’s spokesperson said.

Ms Leniata was apprehended by a mob of up to 50 people and dragged to a rubbish dump where she was doused in petrol before being set alight.

Police arrived at the scene as the mob, some of whom included relatives of the deceased boy, tortured Ms Leniata as she burned.

No arrests were made as authorities said that officers were outnumbered and unable to intervene.

The UN said that such vigilante attacks on those accused of sorcery have become more frequent in a country where belief in witchcraft is widespread.

Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O’Neill also condemned the killing as “barbaric” while admitting that such incidents were becoming “all too common”.

“What has been reported is very barbaric and inhuman. No one commits such a despicable act in the society that all of us, including Kepari, belong to.

“Barbaric killings ... are becoming all too common in certain parts of the country.

“It is reprehensible that women, the old and the weak in our society, should be targeted for alleged sorcery or wrongdoing that they actually have nothing to do with.”

 
 
 

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