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Necklacing is the practice of extrajudicial summary execution and torture carried out by forcing a rubber tire filled with petrol around a victim's chest and arms, and setting it on fire. The victim may take up to 20 minutes to die, suffering severe burns in the process.[1]

In South Africa[edit]

Necklacing was used by the black community to punish its members who were perceived as collaborators with the apartheid government.[2] Necklacing was primarily used on black police informants; the practice was often carried out in the name of the struggle, although the executive body of the African National Congress (ANC), the most broadly supported South African opposition movement, condemned it.[3][4] In 1986, Winnie Mandela, then-wife of the imprisoned Nelson Mandela, stated, "With our boxes of matches, and our necklaces, we shall liberate this country", which was widely seen as an explicit endorsement of necklacing,[5][6] which at the time caused the ANC to initially distance itself from her,[7] although she later took on a number of official positions within the party.[7]

The first victim of necklacing, according to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was a young black woman, Maki Skosana, on 20 July 1985.[8]

Moloko said her sister was burned to death with a tire around her neck while attending the funeral of one of the youths. Her body had been scorched by fire and some broken pieces of glass had been inserted into her vagina, Moloko told the committee. Moloko added that a big rock had been thrown on her face after she had been killed.[9]

Photojournalist Kevin Carter was the first to photograph a public execution by necklacing in South Africa in the mid-1980s. He later spoke of the images:

I was appalled at what they were doing. I was appalled at what I was doing. But then people started talking about those pictures ... then I felt that maybe my actions hadn't been at all bad. Being a witness to something this horrible wasn't necessarily such a bad thing to do.[10]

He went on to say:

After having seen so many necklacings on the news, it occurs to me that either many others were being performed (off camera as it were) and this was just the tip of the iceberg, or that the presence of the camera completed the last requirement, and acted as a catalyst in this terrible reaction. The strong message that was being sent, was only meaningful if it were carried by the media. It was not more about the warning (others) than about causing one person pain. The question that haunts me is 'would those people have been necklaced, if there was no media coverage?'

Author Lynda Schuster writes,

"Necklacing" represented the worst of the excesses committed in the name of the uprising. This was a particularly gruesome form of mob justice, reserved for those thought to be government collaborators, informers and black policemen. The executioners would force a car tire over the head and around the arms of the suspect, drench it in petrol, and set it alight. Immobilized, the victim burned to death.[11]

Some commentators have noted that the practice of necklacing served to escalate the levels of violence during the township wars of the 1980s and early 1990s as security force members became brutalized and afraid that they might fall victim to the practice.[12]

In other countries[edit]

This practice of lynching is found in Haiti. It was prominently used against supporters of Jean-Claude Duvalier's dictatorship at the beginning of the democratic transition, from 1986 to 1990.[citation needed].

In the early years of the 1960s, when the seeds of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka (Sri Lankan Civil War) related to Eelam were being sown, Sinhalese rioters used necklacing in anti Tamil riots.[13][14]

Following the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on 31 October 1984 this technique was applied on Sikhs by mobs in lynching.[15]

In the early 1990s, university students in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, were plagued by burglars stealing from their dormitories. The students took matters into their own hands by capturing the alleged thieves, and then executed them by placing tyres around their necks and setting the tyres on fire. Ivorian police, powerless to stop these necklacings, could do nothing but stand by and watch.[16]

In 2006, at least one person died in Nigeria by necklacing in the deadly Muslim protests over satirical cartoon drawings of Muhammad.[17]

The practice is widely used by drug dealers in Brazil (Rio de Janeiro, Southeast Region), where it's called micro-ondas[18][19] (allusion to the microwave oven).[20] Journalist Tim Lopes was a notable victim.

Necklacing was also widely used in the armed insurrection led by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna in Sri Lanka. A graphic description of one such necklacing appears in the book The Island of Blood by journalist Anita Pratap.

In popular culture[edit]

  • The Shield season two villain Armadillo Quintero used necklacing as a means to kill his enemies. The season premiere opens with the villain killing a rival drug dealer this way and the episode's plot entails two of the detective characters attempting to find witnesses that link Quintero to the murder.
  • The Americans' third season featured a South African intelligence operative being put to death through necklacing, for attempting to false flag a bombing in order to discredit a college based anti-apartheid group.
  • Elementary season three (episode 10: "Seed Money") has necklacing as an important plot point arc. In the episode, Kitty tries to find a runaway teen, Sherlock and Joan work a case in which the murder of a brilliant bioengineer looks to be at the hands of a drug cartel.
  • In Max Payne 3, Marcelo Branco is murdered this way by the Cracha Preto; the scene's purpose is to show how cruel the villains are and to implicate the Comando Sombra in the crime.
  • In Elite Squad, student and NGO volunteer Pedro Rodrigues is necklaced under orders from main antagonist Baiano as retaliation for bringing police attention to his slum, even if inadvertently.
  • In chapter 64 of I Am a Hero a burnt body is shown on the side of the road. One of the characters, Araki, says it may have been executed by necklacing.
  • A man is seen being necklaced in the 2003 war drama Tears of the Sun as the SEAL team enters a Nigerian village being massacred by rebel forces.
  • In the opening scenes of the movie Bopha!, a black South African police officer is executed by a lynch mob of black anti-apartheid militants who accuse him of betrayal.
  • In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, one mission has the player take on the role of a disavowed Task Force 141 member infiltrating a village under control of Sierra Leone militia, who are executing villagers by necklacing. Villagers can be saved, depending on the player's actions.


  1. ^ "Death By Tire Fire: A History Of "Necklacing" In Apartheid South Africa".
  2. ^ Pumla Godobo-Madikizela (2006). A Human Being Died That Night: Forgiving Apartheid's Chief Killer. Portobello Books. p. 147. ISBN 1-84627-053-7.
  3. ^ "The Black Struggle for Political Power: Major Forces in the Conflict". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 18 February 2008.
  4. ^ Fihlani, Pumza (12 October 2011). "Is necklacing returning to South Africa?". BBC News. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  5. ^ "Winnie Madikizela-Mandela". South African History Online. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  6. ^ David Beresford (27 January 1989). "Row over 'mother of the nation' Winnie Mandela". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  7. ^ a b "Winnie Madikizela Mandela: Tragic figure? Populist tribune? Township tough?". AfricaFiles. Archived from the original on 13 December 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  8. ^ "Truth And Reconciliation Commission". Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  9. ^ "Truth Commission Looks at First "Necklace" Murder". SAPA. 4 February 1997. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  10. ^ Tim Porter (18 February 2003). "Covering War in a Free Society". Retrieved 18 February 2008.
  11. ^ Lynda Schuster (2004). A Burning Hunger: One Family's Struggle Against Apartheid. Ohio University Press. p. 453. ISBN 9780821416525.
  12. ^ Turton, A.R. 2010. Shaking Hands with Billy. Durban: Just Done Publications.
  13. ^ Subramaniam, Samantha (5 February 2015). This Divided Island. Atlantic books. ISBN 9780857895950. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  14. ^ Dalrymple, William (9 March 2015). "This Divided Island: Stories from the Sri Lankan War review – a moving portrayal of the agonies of the conflict". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  15. ^ Broadcast, Harper (16 July 2015). "Tyres: The Unusual Weapon Used During the 1984 Riots". Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  16. ^ Kaplan, Robert D. (1996). The Ends of the Earth: A Journey to the Frontiers of Anarchy. New York: Random House. p. 14. ISBN 0-679-75123-8.
  17. ^ Musa, Njadvara (19 February 2006). "Muslims' rage over cartoons hits Nigeria". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 18 September 2009.
  18. ^ Fábio Grellet (24 May 2010). "Autorizado a visitar família, condenado por morte de Tim Lopes foge da prisão" (in Portuguese). Rio de Janeiro: Folha de S. Paulo. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
  19. ^ O Globo (18 September 2008). "Polícia encontra 4 corpos que seriam de traficantes queimados com pneus" (in Portuguese). Rio de Janeiro: Federação Nacional dos Policiais Federais. Archived from the original on 25 September 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
  20. ^ "Micro-ondas". WordReference. Retrieved 6 July 2013..

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