The barbaric murder of a woman with albinism in Tanzania has prompted the United Nations human rights chief to call for greater protection for this “exceptionally vulnerable” community.
According to police reports, 40-year-old Munghu Lugata was brutally murdered Monday night at her home in Mwachalala, a village in the country’s northwest. Her attackers chopped off her left leg above the knee, two of her fingers and the upper part of her left thumb, apparently while she was still alive. Two local witchdoctors were arrested the following day.
Such attacks, which are often motivated by the use of body parts for ritual purposes, have claimed the lives of at least 73 people with albinism in Tanzania since 2000.
“This killing and the terrible circumstances surrounding it sadly demonstrate that the human rights situation of people with albinism in Tanzania and other countries remains dire,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a news release.
She stressed that the fight against impunity is a key component for prevention and deterrence of the crimes targeting this “exceptionally vulnerable community.” Victims often face significant difficulties in bringing their cases to justice, fearing retaliatory attacks or further stigmatization. Without effective and affordable access to justice, many cannot claim their rights.
Ms. Pillay stressed that States’ obligations to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of such crimes is particularly critical due to the vulnerability of people with albinism. States must also ensure access to effective remedies, redress and rehabilitation, including medical and psychological care for survivors and victims’ families.
“All over the world, people with albinism continue to face attacks or suffer terrible discrimination, stigma and social exclusion,” said the High Commissioner, whose Office has received reports of more than 200 cases of attacks against people with albinism in 15 countries between 2000 and 2013, although the actual number could be much higher.
She also voiced concern about the appalling living conditions in Tanzania’s 13 centres for displaced children and adults with special needs, which also host hundreds of children with albinism who have been abandoned by their families or have fled their homes out of fear of being attacked or killed.
Ms. Pillay urged the Tanzanian authorities to take urgent measures to assess and address the situation in these centres, including allegations of sexual harassment and abuse, and the poor living conditions. They were also urged to take urgent measures to protect people with albinism, and to actively engage in the fight against stigma attached to albinism through education and awareness-raising campaigns.