2 Dec 2014

Twenty arrested over sorcery hangings

8:37 pm on 2 December 2014

Vanuatu police have arrested at least 20 people over the hanging deaths of two men accused of sorcery.

Police said they were investigating the incident, which took place in November, as a homicide, , the ABC reported.

Vanuatu Independent editor Tony Wilson said it was likely there would be more arrests because the double hanging had been witnessed by more than 40 people on Akam Islands.

Mr Wilson told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat programme the case was unprecedented.

"It has taken everyone by surprise, there's a lot of people shocked by it, police absolutely shaking their head in amazement," he said.

No charges had yet been laid but those arrested were being held by authorities, Mr Wilson said.

Last week, former Vanuatu cabinet minister Willie Jimmy called for witchcraft to be made a crime punishable by death following the deaths.

He said he wanted the country's legal system changed so people suspected of practising witchcraft could be prosecuted.

"I think we have a problem with our judicial system here," he said.

"Until the parliament passes a law to do with sorcery and all this black magic, we will have an alternative option on how to handle these people who commit these crimes."

He said he believed the legal process should take its course "but it should not leave the matter there".