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Papua New Guinea: Help release women held captive, accused of 'sorcery'

Last week police stood by and watched as Helen Rumbali, a women's rights advocate and former school teacher accused of sorcery, was beheaded in front of her community in Papua New Guinea. 

Text PAPUA and your full name to 70505 to stop another brutal killing from taking place. Over 14s only.* Prefer not to text?

Why was Helen killed? Because she was accused of 'sorcery'. It is an accusation that has led to many other brutal attacks. And it is one that led the villagers to become so angry, police claim that they were unable to intervene to prevent Helen's murder.

Now, another woman and her two daughters are being held by a group that accuses them of practising 'sorcery'. Despite the clear and serious risk that they face the same fate as Helen, the police have so far failed to intervene effectively. They have sent just one officer to the area, to attempt to negotiate their release.

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Text PAPUA and your full name to 70505 to call on authorities in Papua New Guinea to do all they can to save the lives of these three women. Over 14s only.* Prefer not to text?

The woman and her two daughters are being held at a basic medical centre in Lopele, Bana District, Southern Bougainville by members of the community who accuse them of practising 'sorcery'. Sources in the country tell us that she is suffering from serious injuries including a severe laceration to her neck following an attack earlier this month.

Locals have set up road blocks to prevent the three women from leaving the area to seek the medical care she desperately needs.

Text PAPUA and your full name to 70505 to call on authorities in Papua New Guinea to do all they can to save the lives of these three women. Over 14s only.* Prefer not to text?

'Sorcery' in Papua New Guinea Law

The 'Sorcery Act' in Papua New Guinea law offers a reduced sentence if a perpetrator of violent crime uses allegations of 'sorcery' as an excuse -- even for murder. This law and police inaction effectively condone such violence. 

These incidents are the latest in a series of attacks against people accused of ‘sorcery' in the country. In most cases such accusations result in women being murdered. Earlier this month, there were reports of six women and one man being abused with hot metal rods, after a community made similar accusations against them.


The man managed to escape but the fate of the six women is unknown. 


In February, 20-year-old Kepari Leniata was stripped, tied up, doused in petrol and burned alive by relatives of a young boy she was accused of using witchcraft to kill. Two people were charged as a result of this incident. 


The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women has noted that women, particularly widows or those without family to protect them, are disproportionately affected by 'sorcery'-related violence in Papua New Guinea. 

But in March, the country’s Constitutional and Law Reform Commission called on the government to repeal the Sorcery Act 1971. Please add your name to the petition now, and join their call for repeal to help prevent further brutal murders like those of Helen and Kepari. 

Text PAPUA and your full name to 70505 to call on authorities in Papua New Guinea to do all they can to save the lives of these three women and bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. Over 14s only.* Prefer not to text?

Taking action by text – how it works

We will add your name, but not your phone number, to a co-signed letter which we will send to the local Police Superindentent, the Commissioner of Police and the Justice Minister of Papua New Guinea, asking them to:

  • Vigorously pursue investigations of all sorcery-related killings to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice, in line with recommendation made by the UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms Discrimination against Women.
  • Protect any survivors and their families from further attacks and ensure they are given access to appropriate medical care and counselling services
  • Develop strategies to prevent further acts of sorcery-related killings including by the repeal of the Sorcery Act 1971, consistent with the March 2013 recommendation of the Constitutional and Law Reform Commission of PNG
  • Support the passage of the Family Protection Bill 2013 through PNG Parliament as a matter of urgency.
  • Make resources available to ensure that local police are fully supported to carry out their law enforcement role.

Prefer to write your own letter?

If you'd prefer not to text, you can write directly to the authorities in Papua New Guinea. For the full details of the case and who to write to, download the case sheet (PDF)

SMS terms and conditions

*Texts charged at standard network rate, no more than 10p. Please ask bill-payer's permission. By giving us your number you agree to future communication from us by SMS. To unsubscribe, text STOP AMNESTY to 70505 at any time. See full terms and conditions


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