Stephanie Nebehay reports for the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation on Swissinfo.ch that the United Nations formally condemns the Papua New Guinea “sorcery crime” reported earlier this week where a young woman was burnt alive following witchcraft accusations. Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner, called Papua New Guinea authorities to demand that the crime be investigated further and that the perpetrators of such a heinous act be brought to justice. Today in a news conference, the United Nations human rights office is also suggesting the repeal of the 1971 Sorcery Act in Papua New Guinea.
In a Feb. 6 incident, Kepari Leniata, a 20-year-old mother, was accused of witchcraft for allegedly killing a six-year-old boy by means of sorcery Following the accusations, she was burnt alive on top a pile of garbage and old tires in Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea. Relatives of the deceased boy looked on while the crime was committed and police intervention failed to stop the crime from occurring. Representatives of the U.N. also assert that the crime committed this week is one of a number of “vigilante attacks” on those who face witchcraft allegations.
According to the UN News Centre, the United Nations human rights office is urging the Papua New Guinea government to investigate the crime, and similar crimes, quickly, impartially and thoroughly. Cécile Pouilly, a spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed deep disturbance with the reported crime, stating:
“We urge the government to take urgent action to prevent further cases through education, to provide protection to persons accused of sorcery and witnesses of sorcery-related killings, and to provide medical and psychosocial treatment for victims.”
The U.N. is looking to have the Sorcery Act of 1971, making sorcery a crime, repealed. The act some ambiguous wording, suggesting it has been created “to prevent and punish evil practices of sorcery and other similar evil practices, and for other purposes relating to such practices.” Further, the act attempts to define the differences between “innocent sorcery” and “forbidden sorcery,” with forbidden sorcery carrying a potential punishment of imprisonment for up to, but not exceeding, five years. Meanwhile, false accusations of sorcery can lead to a one year prison sentence for the accuser and the ownership of any “tools” used for sorcery also currently carries a one year prison sentence in Papua New Guinea.