A United Nations human rights expert today said that despite all the success in tackling crimes against persons with albinism in Mozambique, their situation remains precarious as the authorities have yet to identify and arrest the masterminds behind such crimes.
“It is believed that the masterminds operate in a secretive but powerful cross-border network akin to that of drug barons. To date, none of them have been caught or prosecuted and perceived networks are yet to be identified,” the UN independent expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, said at the end of her official visit to the southern African country.
In a news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the expert warned that “while there is a belief that the masterminds are from outside Mozambique, there are insufficient facts supporting this assertion.” She cited the need to be careful about making such inferences and avoid stoking xenophobic sentiments, particularly against the refugees and migrants into the country.
According to the United Nations, discrimination and stigmatization of people with albinism exists to varying degrees all over the world. Albinism has often been subjected to mystification, triggering erroneous beliefs and myths, such as one that potions or amulets made from the body parts of people with albinism have magical powers. This has led to attacks, abductions and killings of people with albinism, and even to the theft of their bodies from graveyards.
In 2013, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling for the prevention of attacks and discrimination against persons with albinism. The Council created the mandate that Ms. Ero operates under as an independent expert in March 2015.
During her visit to Mozambique, the release said, the expert went to Maputo, Nampula and Beira, and met the families of victims of attacks, with people with albinism and their families, and detainees accused of crimes against persons with albinism. She also witnessed an ongoing trial involving the attempted sale of a body part of a person with albinism.
“People with albinism, from cradle to grave, are hunted and their body parts are wanted – everything from their heads to their toes, their hair, their nails and even their faeces are collected,” Ms. Ero said. “Real fear therefore exists among persons with albinism across the country, particularly in provinces with reported attacks.”
Ms. Ero commended the Government of Mozambique’s response so far to the crisis faced by persons with albinism, welcoming in particular its Multi-Sectorial Plan of Action to address attacks, and the use of pre-existing mechanisms, such as reference groups. However, she warned that the Plan needed to be fully and scrupulously implemented for it to have a lasting impact.
“The UN Sustainable Development Goals have a key objective to leave no one behind. This certainly means leaving no person with albinism behind. I hope the momentum achieved by Mozambique will continue, to protect the rights of people with albinism, even in the face of economic and political challenges,” she said.
The expert will produce a full report, with recommendations, to be presented to the Human Rights Council in March 2017.