Sorcery behind half PNG murders

tvnz,  July 26, 2011

Police in Papua New Guinea estimate around half of all murders in the Pacific nation are sorcery related.

Last month two men were hacked to death in their beds because a female relative had been accused of sorcery.

ONE News Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver told TV ONE’s Breakfast today that while it may seem unbelievable to most New Zealanders, sorcery is a very real problem in PNG.

And it appears that authorities are powerless to help.

“In one province alone there are an estimated 200 sorcery related deaths a year,” Dreaver said.

Amnesty International reports that women are six times more likely to be victims of sorcery killings than men.

But no-one is immune, with accusations of sorcery often escalating into feuds between families or even villages.

“It becomes tribe versus tribe,” Dreaver said.

The practice is not just confined to rural areas. Last month in the capital Port Moresby two women accused of sorcery were abducted, tortured and killed.

In another recent case a man was found trying to eat his live baby.

Sorcery is so prevalent that PNG Parliament passed a Sorcery Act, but Dreaver says police are often unable to act on the legislation.

Police spokesman Dominic Kakas, said in a statement that the police “can’t be everywhere”.

Even when police are present they are often unable or unwilling to intervene.

“In some instances we are overpowered, some of these killings have happened right before our eyes, but we really can’t do much,” Kakas said.

Dreaver said that while police in PNG are stretched they are also often afraid to get involved for fear of retribution.

Witnesses are also often afraid to testify making prosecution difficult.

Papua New Guinea has a population of around seven million, with more than 850 indigenous languages. The country remains one of the world’s least explored regions.

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