Albino crime cases to get special treatment,forum agrees

21Jun 2016
Crispin Gerald
The Guardian
Albino crime cases to get special treatment,forum agrees

A regional forum for action on albinism in Africa which ended in Dar es Salaam yesterday resolved, among other things, to appoint a special team of investigators and prosecutors to deal with cases of crimes against people with albinism.

Tanzania Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance chairman Bahame Nyanduga briefs journalists in Dar es Salaam yesterday.Others are Standing Voice communication officer Sam Clarke (2nd-R), UN Independent Expert on Albinism Ikponwosa Ero (2nd-L), and Under the Same Sun managing director in Tanzania Vicky Ntetema.

The forum, which began on Friday last week, was hosted by UN independent expert on albinism Ikponwosa Ero and attended by over 150 participants from 29 countries.

According to a statement issued at the conclusion of the gathering: “Participants including government representatives pledged to carry out some (…) specific measures by working to elevate the issue nationally, allocating a budget on the issue, and dedicating a person or a committee to deal with the crisis in all aspects.”

“Further, appoint special prosecutors and investigators to immediately prosecute crimes against persons with albinism while using fair trial procedures. And provide witness protection to encourage testimonies in court, as well as socio-economic and counseling support to victims.”

Ero told a press conference that a recent civil society report cited nearly 500 attacks on people with albinism in 25 countries across the region, with these being reported cases only.

Most cases go unreported due to the secrecy of witchcraft practices, family corroborations and the likely involvement of the rich and powerful, she explained.

“Attacks against persons with albinism for the sale of their body continue to occur across the continent due to ignorance about the scientific basis of albinism, and also insufficient government responses,” the UN expert added.

According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the total number of registered refugees and asylum seekers in the country numbered 230,682 as of February 8 this year.

“The human rights issues faced by persons with albinism are an emergency in several countries in the region and it should be treated as such with specific and effective action directed at it,” Ero explained.

The action plan developed during the just-ended forum will be refined over the coming year with the help of an advisory group elected at the forum, with plans for the finished plan to become a continental standard for holding all stakeholders, particularly governments, accountable.

As a short to medium-term measure, government participants at the forum pledged to clarify legislation to better prosecute crimes against people with albinism, develop regulations to oversee traditional medicine practitioners, and intensify a sustained public awareness campaign for at least two years.

On his part, UN resident coordinator Alvaro Rodriguez said it is terrible for the world to keep witnessing the killings of people with albinism with no concrete steps being taken by African governments to stop the atrocities.

He called on the governments to allocate more funds to facilitate sustainable campaigns against attacks and killings of people with albinism.

Under the Same Sun executive director Vicky Ntetema said the forum also resolved to work with International Police (Interpol) and immigration officers to control the movement of people with albinism through Tanzanian borders.

“We need to see intensive government efforts on combating trafficking of people with albinism in the same way that they control drug dealers and trafficking of other non-albino humans,” Ntetema asserted.

The chairman of the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG), Bahame Nyanduga, urged the government to double its resources for covering basic social services to people with albinism.