UN condemns PNG sorcery-related violence

3:38 pm on 26 August 2015

The United Nations system in Papua New Guinea has condemned the latest incidents of sorcery-related violence in the country.

It has highlighted the brutal torture of two women in Southern Highlands Province last week and other cases reported by PNG media in recent days, including in New Ireland Province.

In a statement, the UN Country Team in PNG says these attacks violate a person's fundamental right to life and to be treated with dignity and respect.

It also calls for urgent action by PNG authorities to provide protection as well as medical and psychosocial support services to victims subjected to violence due to accusations of sorcery.

The UN team says that over two years since the high-profile murder of Kepari Leniata in Mount Hagen, continued impunity for perpetrators of violence is a grave concern.

The UN special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, Juan Mendez visited PNG in 2014.

According to many people interviewed by Mr Mendez, an "accusation [of sorcery] may be motivated by considerations such as jealousy or greed...; aimed against those who do not fully fit in...; or intended to get rid of outsiders, the elderly and the marginalized, often women."

The UN has called for urgency in prioritsing efforts to address sorcery-related violence, espeically with potential aggravating impacts caused by the current El Niño event.

PNG's government is developing a Sorcery National Action Plan, which has been submitted to the National Executive Council for endorsement. It calls for urgent multi-sector action to end sorcery accusation-related violence.

The UN says it's committed to supporting the government in these efforts, and will continue to work with law enforcement agencies to strengthen their capacity to address human rights violations.