PAPUA NEW GUINEA - REPEAL OF SORCERY LAW, AS DEFENCE IN MURDER CASES
By Matt Siegel - May 29, 2013
SYDNEY, Australia — The Parliament of Papua New Guinea has voted to repeal the country’s Sorcery Act and to reinstate the death penalty in certain cases to help stem an increase in violence against people accused of practicing black magic.
Such violence is endemic in the South Pacific island nation, and a rise in the number of public killings in the past year has prompted international condemnation and embarrassed the government of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.
Last month, he vowed to repeal the 1971 Sorcery Act, which criminalized the practice of sorcery and recognized the accusation of sorcery as a defense in murder cases. He made the pledge after the highly publicized decapitation of an elderly former teacher by a mob whose members accused her of using witchcraft to kill a colleague.
Under the amendments passed on Tuesday, rape, robbery and murder will be among the crimes that can now draw a death sentence. Although death by hanging has been legal for decades in Papua New Guinea, a former Australian colony, no hangings have been carried out since 1954. A variety of new methods of execution — lethal injection, asphyxiation, firing squad and electrocution — were stipulated as part of the new legislation.
Daniel Korimbao, a spokesman for Mr. O’Neill, said in a statement that the decision to reinstate capital punishment was difficult but ultimately necessary to combat a culture of lawlessness and violence in the impoverished country. “These are very tough penalties, but they reflect the seriousness of the nature of the crimes and the demand by the community for Parliament to act,” he said.
Papua New Guinea has come under increased international pressure to end a growing trend of vigilante violence against people accused of sorcery. Last July, police officers arrested 29 members of a witch-hunting gang who were killing and cannibalizing people they suspected of being sorcerers.
The killing in February of Kepari Leniata, 20, who was stripped, tortured, doused with gasoline and set ablaze, caused an international outcry. The United Nations said it was deeply disturbed by her killing, which was reportedly carried out by relatives of a 6-year-old boy who, they claimed, had been killed by her sorcery.
This month, Mr. O’Neill publicly apologized to women for the high rates of sexual and domestic violence in the country, and he said he supported making crimes like aggravated rape and gang rape punishable by death.
Amnesty International, which has campaigned loudly against sorcery-related violence in Papua New Guinea, praised the repeal of the Sorcery Act but assailed the reintroduction of the death penalty. Isabelle Arradon, a spokeswoman, said that represented “several giant steps back.” ___________________________________________________
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Subject: Papua New Guinea - Call for Repeal of Sorcery Act, End to VAW
PAPUA NEW GUINEA - CALL FOR REPEAL OF SORCERY ACT, END TO VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
femLINKPACIFIC: 17April 2013
In the last week the Pacific women’s rights movement has rallied together in their condemnation of the the torture and killing of Helen Rumbali, President of Bana Bougainville Women’s Federation and women’s rights advocate.
On 4 April 2013, four women, including Helen Rumbali, were kidnapped and tortured after being accused of sorcery (sanguma). Three women, Helen’s sister and her two nieces, remain in a local health centre serviced only by nurses and their condition is unknown.....
Full Article Follows Below.
Pictured: Young mother suspected of sorcery and was burnt alive among pile of rubbish and tires
18 March 2013 - The country’s court system says the 1971 Sorcery Act is inappropriate because evidence to prove sorcery related incidences in court is hard.
The Constitutional and Law Reform commission was tasked to review this Act by putting together a terms of reference.
Last week Friday it announced the Review of the Law on sorcery and sorcery related killings report.
The review dates back to 2009 when the then Minister for Justice and Attorney General Dr Allan Marat issued the terms of reference to enquire into the extent of enforcement of the sorcery Act and to recommend appropriate remedial action.
However, Secretary for CLRC Dr Eric Kwa said they are looking to have the 1971 Sorcery Act repealed because provision of evidence in a sorcery killing is difficult.
He said the village court Act will deal with an alleged sorcerer under traditional customs, while the killing of an alleged sorcerer will be considered a criminal act.
Findings from the report showed that a great majority of sorcery and sorcery related killings brought to police were not pursued due to lack of witness cooperation or wrongdoing on the part of the police.
The report has been given to minister for justice and attorney general Kerenga Kua to be presented to cabinet in the next parliament sitting.
Salome Vincent, National EMTV News
Papua New Guinea - Special FemTalk 1325 Report: A Call for the Resumption of Weapons Disposal Programme in Bougainville:
Helen Hakena speaks to FemLINKPACIFIC
17April 2013 - In the last week the Pacific women’s rights movement has rallied together in their condemnation of the the torture and killing of Helen Rumbali, President of Bana Bougainville Women’s Federation and women’s rights advocate.
On 4 April 2013, four women, including Helen Rumbali, were kidnapped and
tortured after being accused of sorcery (sanguma). Three women, Helen’s sister
and her two nieces, remain in a local health centre serviced only by nurses and
their condition is unknown.
Earlier today, FemLINKPACIFIC’ s Community Media Officer, Nandini Vandhana managed to contact Helen Hakena, the Executive Director of Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency who is the Chairperson of the North Bougainville Human Rights Committee who organised a protest march and is also amplifying the call against the violence and also in calling for the repeal of the Sorcery Act by the Papua New Guinea Government.
She explained the situation remains tense and women remain vulnerable to armed violence and so many are choosing not to venture out to their gardens and river particularly with the prevalence of guns:
“(because) there are guns around and guns have been displayed in the open during last week and again this week by people who have been keeping (the women) as hostages.”
According to Hakena there is also a need to accelerate the formulation
of the Bougainville Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security because that would
pave the way for women’s full security:
“And I really would like as a woman leader to see guns and stronger laws here, guns are removed and destroyed, there should be laws put in place so that guns you know those that hold guns should get license from the government.”
The guns remain despite the UN assistance weapons disposal programme ahead of the first elections for the establishment of the Autonomous Bougainville Government:
“These are guns which were used during the Bougainville crisis and which were not collected by the UN when they were here… but some of those containers of weapons were not destroyed so guns were taken out of containers several years ago and are in circulation in the communities around Buka across Bougainville.”
The presence of guns also puts the political stability of the John Momis Government at risk and Hakena is calling for the resumption of the weapons disposal programme and strengthening of the police force, particularly to ensure the safety and protection of women: “Immediately we women would like complete total disposal and destruction of guns and we would like the Police to carry out investigations on the death of those women and the torturing of those women because we would really like the laws to start protecting women and to put a stop and to end more killings.”
“So women feel and think that it’s still not okay for people to walk around or to be passing on information, like it’s too risky, risky for people because there is fear, and there is mistrust again in the area.”
While several ex combatants have been helpful and have assisted the government in minimizing the risk in Bana women still feel vulnerable and Hakena feels that the police should be better equipped to be able to address the current situation as well as address the root causes of the situation:
“Women are still scared that they may be shot at following the incident. The Police should be taking on an enhanced role to minimize the cause of the conflict by going into the area because they have implemented for the government of ABG.”
“Women could not defend themselves and that’s why we called on the government particularly the Police to carry out investigations to the killings, to the suspects or carry out investigations and bring out the perpetrators to justice because those women, there are laws in place because those people did not use the laws that are in place to protect, so women could come and defend themselves, you know the law of court, but you know that wasn’t done. Here in Bougainville we are working hard to restore law and order and to restore peace and there are means available, there are Police in all the Districts and those policemen were not used or the courts were not used, you know so that women could defend those allegations. They were kidnapped in the night and taken to isolated villages where they were continually harassed and tortured.”
While it is understood that the women are slowly recovering from knife wounds in the local health centre Hakena insists that they should be released and transferred to the Buka General Hospital. Meanwhile, she and other women’s rights activists are also mobilizing with women’s NGOS, the churches and the ABG to accelerate the repeal of the Sorcery Act:
“We are mobilizing and lobbying government, here on Bougainville. We
would like the sorcery act laws to be repealed quickly. The perpetrators should
be brought to justice and women or those that are suspected of sorcery must
have the opportunity of defending themselves in court.”
The issue she said is not isolated to Bougainville and must be a national priority:
“Because what is happening is in the highlands of Papua New Guinea women are being burnt to death and tortured.”
Hakena will be using the New Guinea Islands Development Forum in East
New Britain to also amplify the call for the protection of all citizens,
particularly the women.
And the cost of armed violence is not only at the personal level but also has serious implications for Papua New Guinea’s economic security says Hakena: “(with) law and order problems people will be losing property, millions of kina will be lost, as well as making women more vulnerable.”
Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls, Executive Director: FemLINKPacific (www.femlinkpacific.org.fj), M +6799244871
April 26 2013
While the remaining women held hostage in Bana have been released according to Helen Hakena who has been a founding member of GPPAC in the Pacific and a leading peace activist it is critical that the root causes of this recent crisis is addressed including the repealing of the PNG Sorcery Act and a resumption of the Weapons Disposal Programme.
She spoke to FemLINKPacific's Community Media Officer - Nandini Vandhana a few hours before the announcement of the release:
"We think that the Sorcery Act needs to be repealed because it has loopholes, there is no space to condemn or to bring perpetrators to justice , to Court, so it is one of the weakest link, the government needs to look at that to strengthen and to repeal what has been contained, to repeal the Act to make it stronger. Like perpetrators should be brought to Court. In past years, we heard that the Act was available and then we heard that the government did not want to discuss it further so we really feel that we need someone to explain to us the Act so we can lobby the government to repeal the Sorcery Act."
"For women leaders and NGOs and the general public, we really would like the act to be repealed because then the perpetrators could be brought to justice and to the court and then victims can then have the chance to talk about the issues, to protect themselves."
Hakena has been leading a Human Rights Action Committee which will continue to work with other civil society groups to continue to advocate for the repeal of the PNG Sorcery Action but she is also adamant that the presence of weapons must also be addressed.
She says it is a matter of both personal and political security:
"We women of Bougainville would really like the government to remove all the weapons in Bougainville before the Referendum in two years time because weapons disposal is one of the pillars in the peace agreement and the ABG needs to remove and destroy them so it needs political will from ABG to do that."
Civil society including women's groups must be included in defining and implementing security sector governance reform as well as broader human security and human development issues particularly to address increasing levels of crime:
"Things are being stolen from Buka, boats, computers, from the shops. Young people are looting, they are taking these things across to the Solomon Islands."
It is essential, she says to improve border controls measures.
The law and order issues, according to Hakena stem from the unresolved issues of the Bougainville crisis:
"Women have been urged to report to the police anything they see in their homes and ask them to continue to do peace building work for the security of the people in the community in Bougainville."
This she says is also affecting the delivery of health services referring to a recent rally organised to bring attention to the poor conditions in hospital services and to protest rising acts of crime targetting hospital services was a demonstration of the way in which Bougainville community needs to work together:
"(Yes) the Hospital rally, there were three members of parliament included as well as other women leaders and the Police was also present. The hospital management, doctors and nurses, they walked of their job today to be part of the rally. So everyone today condemned the action of the thieves and this is the fifth time that it has happened to the hospital properties and there has been in the past, hospital buildings have been vandalized."
"Today, we called on the hospital management to look at people’s right to access Hospital services. Their health security is at stake particularly, women who are coming in from long distances to give birth but only to find that the hospital is closed as well as little children are sick and then they can’t access these services. They have to but their own medicine from the pharmacy which is very costly and now the doctors have vowed to do a better job and that they will continue to work despite the harsh conditions."
Sharon Bhagwan Rolls M+6799244871 - FemLINKPacific is the Pacific Secretariat of GPPAC (Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict) - http://www.femlinkpacific.org.fj/