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Rights Group Condemns Burnings in Papua New Guinea

Bystanders watch as a woman accused of witchcraft is burned alive in the Western Highlands provincial capital of Mount Hagen in Papua New Guinea, February 6, 2013.
A prominent human rights group is calling on Papua New Guinea authorities end harassment of those accused of committing sorcery.

Amnesty International issued the appeal Friday after a woman accused of using witchcraft to kill her six-year-old son was tortured and burned alive.

A researcher with the group, Kate Schuetze, said those responsible for the "shocking torture and killing" of the 20-year-old woman must be brought to justice. Schuetze said this type of harassment in Papa New Guinea is "endemic," noting that a law in the South Pacific nation that criminalizes sorcery must be repealed.

Lethal harrassment

Earlier Friday, local media reported hundreds of villagers, including children, watched Wednesday as relatives of the boy stripped and tortured his mother. She was then bound, doused with gasoline and thrown into a mound of burning trash and tires. The boy had died in a hospital the day before.

Authorities said the crowd in the town of Mount Hagen chased away police and firefighters who tried to intervene.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Pete O'Neill said he had instructed police to use all available manpower to bring the killers to justice.


The U.S. embassy in the capital, Port Moresby, condemned the killing as "brutal murder" and evidence of pervasive gender-based violence in the country.

There have been several cases of witchcraft killings and cannibalism in PNG in recent years. In parts of the Pacific nation, deaths and mysterious illnesses are sometimes blamed on suspected sorcerers, usually women.