3 women, accused of sorcery, tortured in PNG Highlands

12:42 pm on 26 August 2015
Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands.

Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

The police commander in Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands says more needs to be done to stop sorcery beliefs, after police this week rescued three women from being tortured.

Inspector Mas Tuman says the women were accused of using witchcraft to kill a person who died of natural causes in a village near Mendi last week.

They were hunted down by some villagers and tortured with burning rods. Two managed to escape and police arrived in time to save the third.

Mr Tuman says the first two women opted to return to their home villages for safety, but the third has chosen to return to the village, which he said police were powerless to stop.

"We tried to take her away and the local village councillor assured police that there won't be any further attack on her or any further torturing," said Mr Tuman. "So he assured us that he will take her into his custody. We warned the councillor that if anything happens then we will hold him responsible."

Mr Tuman said police were trying to conduct an awareness campaign about sorcery on local radio.

The number of attacks on people in Papua New Guinea accused of practising sorcery has been rising in recent years.

Many observers believe accusations have often been used as an excuse to mask assaults and other violent acts motivated by jealousy or greed.

In 2013, a number of violent sorcery-related killings, including that of 20-year-old Kepari Leniata, who was burned alive in the centre of Mt Hagen, stirring an international outcry and prompted the government to reactivate the death penalty.

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