Friday, February 8, 2013

Papa New Guinea Sorcery Killing

     On February 6, 2013, a young woman was killed in Papa New Guinea after having been accused
of sorcery. The victim, 20-year-old Kepari Leniata, was tortured, doused in gasoline, and set on
fire while hundreds of people watched and blocked police officers from intervening. The killing
was reportedly carried out by relatives of a 6-year-old boy who claimed Leniata killed him by
sorcery. While this event is shocking, sorcery killings have been occurring in Papa New Guinea
for years. A law enacted in 1971, called the Sorcery Act, criminalizes witchcraft and likely
contributes to why these killings have continued for so long. It’s hard to believe that just last
year in July of 2012 police arrested 29 members of a witch-hunting group who were allegedly
murdering and cannibalizing people they suspected of ‘sorcery’. After learning about the story
and seeing several images, it was surprising to see the city in which the killing took place. I
expected such a brutal scene to have taken place in rural, remote, even uncivilized region of the
world. Yet the images showed a 3rd world city like any other. The buildings, the cars, and even
the people all seemed appropriate in the 21st century. This observation makes it even harder to
understand how such a tragedy could happen today and highlights the extreme importance of
having a government enact legislation to protect human rights. Just today, the United Nations
human rights office and Amnesty International urged Papa New Guinea to repeal the Sorcery
Act. If the government is not willing to intervene to protect human rights, the violence will
only continue as citizens feel justified in criminalizing sorcery. I hope pressure from the UN
and Amnesty International can allow Papa New Guinea to make changes that will protect their
citizens and end this violence.

-Luis Valles

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