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UN rights expert: people with albinism facing attacks over 'witchcraft' beliefs

[JURIST] In her first report [materials] to the UN Human Rights Council, UN expert Ikponwosa Ero noted the increasing violence [press release] against people with albinism triggered by fallacious "witchcraft" beliefs. Those with albinism are reportedly being hunted, killed and dismembered with machetes for witchcraft rituals because people believe that they are inhuman ghosts. Some have even had their graves desecrated. There is a widespread belief that using the body parts of those with albinism is effective in potions and spells and that the effectiveness is increased the more the victim screams which has led to even more particularly atrocious attacks. While there have been 40 reports of attacks since Ero assumed her duties, she fears that there a great number of unreported cases due to organizations working in secret or in remote locations. The violence has been reported across seven countries and it is believed that in some cases families of those targeted are complicit in the attacks. Ero ended her report with recommendations and strategies that could be used to end the violence against those with albinism. "There is no room in this 21st century for erroneous and harmful beliefs, or for discrimination on any grounds. People with albinism are just as deserving of dignity as every other human being."

The treatment of albinos in Africa and neighboring countries has been a highly contested human rights issue for many years. Last year the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) launched a website [JURIST report] aimed at disproving [official website] the myths of albinism, the rare condition which is still misunderstood both socially and medically. In 2014 the OHCHR said that the Tanzanian government's system of placing children with albinism in government care centers does not provide this vulnerable group with adequate protection [JURIST report] from those who target albinos due to erroneous beliefs and superstitions. In May 2014 then-UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for increased protection [press release] for people with albinism after the murder of a 40-year old woman with albinism, adding that the killing demonstrated that the human rights situation for people with albinism in Tanzania and other countries remains dire. In March 2013 Pillay condemned the increase [JURIST report] in attacks on those with albinism in Tanzania. Her statement came after four attacks on albinos, including three children, took place over a 16-day period. Up to that point there were 72 murders of albinos since 2000 in Tanzania.

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