Necklacing is a method of extrajudicial summary execution and torture carried out by forcing a rubber tire drenched with petrol around a victim's chest and arms, and setting it on fire. The term "necklace" originated in the 1980s in black townships of apartheid South Africa where suspected Apartheid collaborators were publicly executed in this fashion.[1]

South AfricaEdit

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, and who herself had endured torture and four imprisonments to a total of two years,[5] stated, "With our boxes of matches, and our necklaces, we shall liberate this country", which was widely seen as an explicit endorsement of necklacing.[6][7] This caused the ANC to initially distance itself from her,[8] although she later took on a number of official positions within the party.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13]

In other countriesEdit

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 allegedly showed strong support for this practice, calling it a "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.[14][15]

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.[16][17] 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.[citation needed] This technique was widely applied on innocent Sikhs by the mobs during state sponsored massacre of the community, following the assassination of then-Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards in the first week of November, 1984.[18] 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.[19]

In 2006, at least one person died in Nigeria by necklacing in the deadly Muslim protests over satirical cartoon drawings of Muhammad.[20]

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.[21][22][23] Journalist Tim Lopes was a notable victim.[24]

In popular cultureEdit

  • 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,[25] cartel 'madrina' Elena Sánchez's (Salma Hayek) henchman, 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).
  • In the 2008 British horror film, Eden Lake, the young child Adam is 'necklaced' by the group of delinquents led by Brett, after their victim Jenny escapes the bonfire they built.
  • In the 2019 Indian television series Sacred Games, a Muslim youth is necklaced by a Hindu-led lynch mob. The tyre is not set on fire, and the mob allows the already-dying youth to take it off, but it is used as a form of humiliation.
  • Delhi: A Novel by Khushwant Singh describes anti-Sikh necklacing in response to the murder of Indira Gandhi.


  1. ^ Oliver, Mark (19 May 2018). "Death By Tire Fire: A Brief History Of "Necklacing" In Apartheid South Africa". All That's Interesting. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  2. ^ Gobodo-Madikizela, Pumla (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". The Killings in South Africa: The Role of the Security Forces and the Response of the State (Report). Human Rights Watch. January 1991. Retrieved 18 February 2008.
  4. ^ Fihlani, Pumza (12 October 2011). "Is necklacing returning to South Africa?". BBC News. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  5. ^ Monica McCausland (6 May 2020). "An Analysis of the Imprisonment and Detainment Treatment of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela". South African History Online. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  6. ^ "Winnie Madikizela-Mandela". South African History Online. 17 February 2011. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  7. ^ Beresford, David (27 January 1989). "Row over 'mother of the nation' Winnie Mandela". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  8. ^ a b Meintjes, Sheila (August 1998). "Winnie Madikizela Mandela: Tragic Figure? Populist Tribune? Township Tough?" (PDF). Southern Africa Report. Vol. 13, no. 4. pp. 14–20. ISSN 0820-5582. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  9. ^ "Evelina Puleng Moloko". Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Human Rights Violations Submissions – Questions and Answers. Duduza. 4 February 1997. JB0289/013ERKWA. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  10. ^ "Truth Commission Looks at First "Necklace" Murder". South African Press Association. 4 February 1997. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  11. ^ Porter, Tim (18 February 2003). "Covering War in a Free Society". Retrieved 18 February 2008.
  12. ^ Schuster, Lynda (2006) [2004]. A Burning Hunger: One Family's Struggle Against Apartheid. Ohio University Press. p. 304. ISBN 978-0-8214-1652-5.
  13. ^ Turton, A.R. (2010). Shaking Hands with Billy. Durban: Just Done Publications. Retrieved 2 April 2021.[page needed]
  14. ^ "Aristide's "Pe Lebrun" speech". Haïti Observateur. 27 September 1992. Retrieved 10 January 2011.
  15. ^ Smith, C. Fraser (2 October 1994). "Enigmatic Father Aristide Exhibits A Haitian Character Lost in Translation". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  16. ^ Subramanian, Samanth (2015). This Divided Island. Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-0-85789-595-0. Archived from the original on 19 March 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015.[page needed]
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "Tyres: The Unusual Weapon Used During the 1984 Riots". 16 July 2015. Retrieved 30 December 2021.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Grellet, Fábio (24 May 2010). "Autorizado a visitar família, condenado por morte de Tim Lopes foge da prisão". Folha de S.Paulo (in Portuguese). Archived from the original on 27 May 2010. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
  22. ^ "Polícia encontra 4 corpos que seriam de traficantes queimados com pneus". O Globo (in Portuguese). 18 September 2008. Archived from the original on 25 September 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2013 – via Federação Nacional dos Policiais Federais.
  23. ^ "Micro-ondas". Retrieved 6 July 2013..
  24. ^ "Repórter foi capturado, torturado e morto por traficantes" (in Portuguese). Agência Estado. 9 June 2002. Retrieved 3 October 2020.
  25. ^ "Savages". 6 July 2012.

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