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.
Necklacing was used by the black community to punish its members who were perceived as collaborators with the apartheid government. 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. 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. This caused the ANC to initially distance itself from her, although she later took on a number of official positions within the party.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This form of lynching was used in Haiti, where it was known as Pé Lebrun, or Père Lebrun (French), after a tire advertisement showing a man with a tire around his neck. It was used prominently by mobs allied with Jean-Bertrand Aristide to assassinate political enemies. Aristide himself showed strong support for this practice, calling it "beautiful tool" that "smells good", encouraging his Lavalas supporters to use it against wealthy people as well as members of the Lavalas party who were not as strong in their fervor.
In other countries
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. Necklacing was also widely used in the second armed insurrection led by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna. A graphic description of one such necklacing appears in the book The Island of Blood by journalist Anita Pratap.
In the early 1990s, university students in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 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.
The practice is widely used by drug dealers in Brazil, notably in Rio de Janeiro, where it is called micro-ondas, or microwave in Portuguese. Journalist Tim Lopes was a notable victim.
In popular culture
- 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 Winter tries to find a runaway teen, Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson 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 film 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.
- In Night of the Kings, the character Zama is killed by necklacing.
- In the 2012 Oliver Stone film "Savages", cartel 'madrina' Elena Sánchez's (Selma Hayek) henchmen, Alex Reyes (Demián Bichir) is 'necklaced' to death by her enforcer Miguel "Lado" Arroyo (Benicio del Toro) after he is set-up by protagonists 'Chon and Ben' (Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Taylor-Johnson)
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- Musa, Njadvara (19 February 2006). "Muslims' rage over cartoons hits Nigeria". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 28 February 2007. Retrieved 18 September 2009.
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- An exploratory study of insider accounts of necklacing in three Port Elizabeth townships by Ntuthu Nomoyi and Willem Schurink, "Violence in South Africa: A Variety of Perspectives", editors Elirea Bornman, René van Eeden, Marie Wentzel, HSRC, Chapter 6, pp. 147–173, ISBN 0-7969-1858-9.