Witch Hunting in Papua New Guinea

Video highlights from Uncensored with Michael Ware

Torture, killing and burning women at the stake

In Papua New Guinea ritual witch killings are rampant. The terrifying act is practised all over the small island nation -throughout villages, townships and small cities.

Torture, mutilation and humiliation are enforced on those branded as witches. A brutish mob will abduct the accused woman, persecuting them without any formal trial before murdering them publicly.

The UN has estimated there are 200 witch killings in Papua New Guinea annually.

A small island country just off the North Cape of Australia, Papua New Guinea is deeply tribal. The hunting of witches first came to the attention of the public after the killing of Kepari Leniata. At just 20 years old, the young mother was accused of killing a young boy with sorcery. She was stripped naked, tortured with a branding iron, bonded and finally set alight.

The crowd snapped pictures of her torture and killing on their camera phones, sharing it proudly over social media. Kepari’s case was one of at least three carried out in the Warakum settlement’s trash dump between 2009 and 2013, with more and more occurring each year.

The majority of witch hunts take place in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Witchcraft is secretive, so most killings are not reported. Though the government recognises ‘white magic’ (healing and fertility) and sorcery, black magic is punishable by up to 2 years in jail.

The ritual killings are mostly committed by mobs of men. The accused is first tortured until confessing to being a witch and then is forced to name other “witches.” She is then rounded up and publicly executed.

"It is part of my culture, my tradition; it's my belief. I see myself as a guardian angel. We feel that we kill on good grounds and we're working for the good of the people in the village, said one member of the killing mob.

The barbaric ritual is no closer to being extinguished from Papua New Guinea. According to Detective Koglame, local police often find it difficult to intervene:

Everyone in the community is usually involved, so you can't just go in looking for suspects, as you'd have to arrest the whole village, and that's impossible.

Watch Uncensored with Michael Ware tonight at 9.30pm as he dives deep into the Highlands of Papua New Guinea to investigate the ancient and barbaric ritual of Witchcraft.

Header: Accused of Witchcraft, A stil from Uncensored with Michael Ware

Related Articles

Discuss this article


Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
We use our own and third-party cookies to improve our services, personalise your advertising and remember your preferences. If you continue browsing, or click on the accept button on this banner, we understand that you accept the use of cookies on our website. For more information visit our Cookies Policy AcceptClose cookie policy overlay