Torturing of witchcraft suspects posted on social media

A gruesome video online shows the torture of four women accused of witchcraft and “invisibly” taking out a man’s heart and eating it in a village of Papua New Guinea.

The footage, reportedly taken in a village of the Enga province, shows four women who have been stripped, tied up, burned and beaten. Several men prod the women threateningly with machetes while hurling questions at them.

According to a local Lutheran missionary, Anton Lutz, the video was first shared by local high school students on their mobile phones before it appeared on social media.

The Guardian reports that several similar acts in recent years have also been filmed or photographed and shared.

“It’s not police photos or anything of the crime being shared,” said a source who is involved in rescues of victims. “It’s actual participants who are there and actually bragging about what they’re doing. It’s kind of like a Abu Ghraib video or something.”

He said he was aware of many people sharing the video on their smartphones, including high school students, and said it wasn’t out of horror but rather approval for the actions being taken against the four accused women.

The torturers later claimed the women returned the man’s heart after they were tortured, apparently proving their guilt, according to the social media reports.

It is believed at least one woman died after the ordeal, but this has not been confirmed.

The Catholic Bishop of Mendi Bishop Donald Lippert is hosting a forum against such violence this week.

He says the key to stopping sorcery-related violence in Papua New Guinea is to hold people accountable.

High-ranking members of the Catholic church from around the region are expected to attend as well as Australian National University’s Miranda Forsyth, sociologist Philip Gibbs and the US ambassador to PNG and the Solomons, Walter North.

Lippert says police and business community representatives will also attend.

He says the focus will be on introducing deterrents to sorcery-related violence.

“It’s really difficult to stop someone from believing something so if people want to believe in sorcery for the rest of their lives, it’s up to them, but they have to know if they act on those beliefs in a way that harms innocent people then they have to be held accountable.”

Last December the Catholic Bishop of Wabag, Arnold Orowae, launched a campaign against the persecution of so-called witches, threatening any Catholics who get involved in sorcery-related attacks with excommunication.

In an interview, Orowae expressed his disgust with people who call themselves Christians and yet spread dissension linking innocent persons to sorcery.

He also said that the Catholic Church would fight against these witch hunters together with the police.

“The unethical and unlawful killing of women alleged to be witches must and will be stopped in 2015,” the bishop said.

The Bishops’ Conference of Papua New Guinea published an open letter in the two major Papuan dailies, condemning the persecution of pseudo-witches.

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News category: Asia Pacific.

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