SYDNEY - The Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea must crack down on crimes against people suspected of sorcery after a mob hacked a woman to death this week, Amnesty International said Wednesday.
The rights group said the death of the woman, identified only as Misila, on Tuesday in a remote part of the Highlands area of the often lawless country underlined the imminent risk to those accused of witchcraft.
"The vicious killing of Misila highlights the Papua New Guinean government's persistent failure to address the wave of attacks against those, mainly women, accused of 'sorcery'," Amnesty's Kate Schuetze said in a statement.
"The government must act immediately to ensure that the perpetrators of such attacks are brought to justice."
Rights campaigners have long pushed for justice for sorcery-related attacks, spurred by the horrific murder of a young woman accused of witchcraft in 2013.
In that case, Kepari Leniata, 20, was stripped naked, tied up, doused in petrol and burned alive in front of a crowd by relatives of a boy who died following an illness in the Mount Hagen area.
Amnesty said in the latest attack in PNG, where sorcery and cannibalism have both been reported in recent years, two other women had also been assaulted and briefly held captive in a hut but managed to flee after villagers heard their cries.
The three women had been threatened for months, with police intervening in January after the victims and their children received death threats and were accused of using "sorcery".
"The fact that two other women who only narrowly escaped death last week are at imminent risk means that the government must act now," Schuetze said.
"These two women must be given protection immediately and police must be given the resources to travel to remote communities so as to ensure the protection of others who are at risk."
Following Leniata's murder, in 2013 PNG repealed the 1971 Sorcery Act which provided for a reduced sentence for anyone who committed assault or murder if they believed their victim had been committing acts of "sorcery".
It also revived the death penalty to reduce rampant crime, a move which met with opposition and is now under review.