Nearly all the residents of Koge in Papua New Guninea watched as Julianna Gene and Kopaku Konia were dragged from their homes, to be hung from trees and tortured for several hours with bush knives. No one came forward to help. In the eyes of the
villagers, the women were witches. They deserved to die. The finger of suspicion fell on the women after a local man died in a car accident.
A shocking increase in witch-hunt deaths in Papua New Guinea has prompted the government to launch a parliamentary commission of inquiry with a view to toughening the law. Joe Mek Teine, the chairman of the nation's law reform commission, has publicly
declared that sorcery killings are getting out of hand .
Most witch hunts happen in the Highlands, the remote mountainous interior wracked by centuries of tribal wars and blood feuds. Contact with the outside world was only established in the 1930s, when some of the many ethnic groups were still living
stone-age existences. Although there are no official statistics on sorcery killings, more than 50 were reported to the police in just two Highland provinces last year.
Belief in black magic is so ingrained that the government legally recognises sorcery, under the 1976 Sorcery Act. It permits white magic (healing or fertility rites for example) but the so-called black arts are punishable by up to two years in jail.
This has resulted in murderers alleging the use of black magic as provocation and securing reduced sentences.
Branding someone a witch is a crime, but Detective Blacky Koglame estimates that fewer than 1 per cent of cases end up in court. Even when witnesses do come forward, he admits the police simply do not have the resources to investigate: And anyway,
arresting people is very hard. 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.
In one area deep in the Highlands a team of eight witch hunters claim to have tortured and killed 18 people between them. The leader of the group, a man with a reputation as a violent local gangster said: 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.
Witch hunts nearly always occur after a death or an illness of a community member. Natural causes for death or illness are just not accepted, said Pastor Jack Urame, a researcher at the Melanesian Institute and one of the country's leading
experts on sorcery killings: So whenever someone dies in a village, a person must blamed.
When James Katana returned from a church service to his village in the Bugiri district of eastern Uganda he was told that his three-year old son had been taken away by strangers.
We were looking for my child for hours, but we couldn't find him. Someone rang me and told me my son was dead and had been left in the forest. I ran there and saw him lying in a pool of blood. His genitals had been cut off, but he was still alive.
A witch-doctor is now in police custody, accused of the abduction and attempted murder of the boy.
Despite the mutilation and terror the child experienced, police say he was one of the lucky ones. Uganda has been shocked by a surge in ritualistic murders and human sacrifice, with police struggling to respond and public hysteria mounting at each
In 2008 more than 300 cases of murder and disappearances linked to ritual ceremonies were reported to the police with 18 cases making it to the courts. There were also several high-profile arrests of parents and relatives accused of selling children
for human sacrifice.
In January this year the Ugandan government appointed a special police taskforce on human sacrifice and announced that 2,000 officers were to receive specialist training in tackling child trafficking with the support of the US government. Since the
taskforce was set up there have been 15 more murders linked to human sacrifice with another 200 disappearances, mainly of children and young adults, under investigation.
This year we have had more occurrences of people attempting to sell their children to witch-doctors as part of ritual ceremonies to guarantee wealth and prosperity, said Moses Binoga, acting commissioner of the anti-human sacrifice and
Both police and NGOs are attributing the surge to a new wave of commercial witch-doctors using mass media to market their services and demand large sums of money to sacrifice humans and animals for people who believe blood will bring great
A man has been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for witchcraft because he makes predictions on television.
Ali Sibat is not even a Saudi national. The Lebanese citizen was only visiting Saudi Arabia on pilgrimage when he was arrested in Medina last year.
A court in the city condemned him as a witch on November 9.
The only evidence presented in court was reportedly the claim he appeared regularly on Lebanese satellite issuing general advice on life and making predictions about the future.
The case is causing outrage among human rights campaigners but has made little news elsewhere despite the ludicrous nature of the charges and the extraordinary severity of Sibat's sentence.
Saudi courts are sanctioning a literal witch hunt by the religious police, said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch: The crime of witchcraft is being used against all sorts of behavior, with the cruel threat of
state sanctioned executions.
Ali Sibat's supporters say he was denied a lawyer at his trial and was tricked into making a confession.
Ghanaians are waiting for their normally slow court system to deliver a verdict in a shocking case that illuminates resurgent beliefs in witchcraft.
Six people are currently appearing before a magistrate at Tema, near Accra, for allegedly burning a 72-year-old woman to death, in the belief that she was a witch. Earlier, the media had made fun of an elderly woman who, it was claimed, was arrested
by villagers who claimed that she had fallen out of the sky after running out of witches' gas on a flying expedition with her coven, and fallen under a tree.
In both cases, anyone with the slightest knowledge of dementia would recognise symptoms of the disease from the accounts given of the behaviour of the women. They were where they were not supposed to be, and when they were asked what they were doing
there, they could not explain themselves. This is because dementia sometimes robs its victims of the ability to speak coherently.