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Protection needed for people with albinism prior to elections in Tanzania


ShadowofSunFilm Jpeg

 20 February 2015 - On 18 February the body of murdered one year old baby with albinism, Yohana Bahati was found by police in Tanzania. His arms and legs had been cut off by five unidentified men with a machete to be sold through a black market of body parts and used for the purposes of witchcraft.

Attacks against people with albinism have claimed the lives of at least 75 people in Tanzania since 2000 only five of which resulted in successful prosecutions. The attacks seem to be on the rise, with at least three incidents reported over the past two months. Due to the secretiveness of the practice it is believed that many attacks remain undocumented and unreported.

Zeid Raád Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned the attack and called on the Tanzanian authorities to swiftly investigate and prosecute perpetrators of this terrible crime. Attacks of this sort are more frequent during election periods, with people turning to witchcraft to boost political campaigns. The High Commissioner emphasized the need for the Tanzanian government to strengthen its protection measures for people with albinism given the upcoming election in October. 

On 18 December 2014 the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 13 June as a International Albinism Awareness Day Day commencing in 2015. 

Ciné-ONU: "In the Shadow of the Sun"

There was a UN screening on 18 February of “In the Shadow of the Sun”, a documentary about people with albinism in Tanzania which was followed by a discussion with expert speakers from OHCHR and albinism NGO’s Standing Voice and Under the Same Sun.

Paul d’Auchamp, Deputy Regional Representative of OHCHR commented on the segregated schools in Tanzania which despite providing certain protections from attacks deny the same quality of schooling as others in the community. “This is a violation of basic human rights standards.” He said. He also announced that OHCHR are launching a major awareness campaign in March 2015.

Ikponwosa “I.K.” Ero, International Advocacy Officer for Under the Same Sun pointed out that despite the severity of the current situation in Tanzania, violence towards people with albinism is a pan-African issue. She said that the international context of the UN’s work is essential because given the sums paid for the limbs of people with albinism, participants in the market are often very wealthy and powerful and can afford impunity from government prosecution. She called for the UN to appoint a special expert on albinism for a more efficient approach to tackling this issue.

Harry Freeland, director of “In the Shadow of the Sun” and co-founder and campaigner for the charity Standing Voice noted that when he started making the film six years ago he was not aware that people with albinism were being murdered as the murders were not being reported. “The very fact that we now hear reports about the attacks constitutes progress” he said.

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