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The office of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) says approaches to addressing sorcery related violence must be holistic and happen concurrently as part of a comprehensive program.
Human Rights Advisor Signe Poulsen attending a two day workshop in Port Moresby which started Thursday says the UNHR office has raised concerns about violence against individuals accused of sorcery and witchcraft.
Poulsen pointed out some recommendations by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women or CEDAW and three UN Special Rapporteurs that visited PNG in recent years and findings from the Human Rights Adviser’s unit in PNG, focusing particularly on justice responses to sorcery related violence.
He re-emphasised these proposals on dealing with sorcery related violence that suggests a holistic approach to addressing this violence.
“First, there must be an end to impunity for those who incite or commit acts of violence against individuals accused of sorcery and witchcraft. Crimes must be effectively and immediately investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice in fair trials. This will send a strong signal that violent responses are unacceptable. However, while we support strong measures against perpetrators, we do not believe that the death penalty is an effective measure. It is rather the certainty that perpetrators will be apprehended and dealt with through sound judicial processes that will serve as a deterrent,” he told the workshop.
He said Government, in collaboration with civil society partners, should put in place emergency procedures to rescue and resettle women who are at risk of suffering sorcery-related violence in their communities.
Another recommendation is for an urgent need for a system of health, financial, legal and other support to victims and their families, including a shelter.
“It should be noted that important work is currently being carried out by human rights defenders and civil society actors in this regard. These actors, who often put themselves at risk, should be publicly recognized, protected and supported in their important work,” Poulsen said.
PNG's deputy Secretary for Department of Justice and Attorney-General Jack Kariko addressed participants saying that solutions need to be found to address sorcery related violence.
Kariko said: “The end result of the meeting should form the basis of policy and legislative reform that we hope will alleviate the pressures of the issue of sorcery.
“The Department of Justice and Attorney-General and certainly the government stands ready to receive whatever recommendations to consider and endorse so that the issue is addressed to a manageable level and our communities and the larger society are appreciative to the negative effects and have a positive change in attitude,” Kariko said.
Ume Wainetti of the Consultative Implementation Monitoring Council pointed out some challenges that need to be recognised when putting together the action plan.
These are professional training for service providers, cost effect strategies to address these issues that include cultural issues and dealing with one’s beliefs as advocators.
Church representatives also raised serious questions.
SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS
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