UN creates watchdog for albino rights after surge in attacks

26th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

The UN Human Rights Council on Thursday decided to appoint an expert to investigate abuses suffered by albinos, who have faced a surge of attacks in east Africa.

The 47-member council adopted by consensus a resolution establishing the three-year watchdog position.

It expressed "grave concern at attacks and widespread violations against persons with albinism, including women and children, persons with disabilities and the elderly."

The resolution, presented by Algeria on behalf of the group of African states, comes after UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein earlier this month decried a steep hike in attacks on albinos in east Africa.

"These attacks are often stunningly vicious, with children in particular being targeted," Zeid said.

In the past six months, at least 15 people with albinism in Tanzania, Malawi and Burundi have been abducted, wounded, killed or escaped being kidnapped, his office said.

Attacks on albinos are often motivated by the use of body parts for witchcraft rituals.

The UN has warned that the surge in Tanzania could be linked to looming general and presidential elections in October 2015, as political campaigners may be turning to influential sorcerers to improve their odds.

Tanzanian authorities imposed a ban on witchcraft in January.

Albinism is a hereditary genetic condition which causes a total absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes.

It affects one Tanzanian in 1,400, often as a result of inbreeding, experts say, compared to just one person in 20,000 in western countries.

Thursday's resolution also voiced concern about discrimination against albinos elsewhere.

"In various parts of the world, persons with albinism continue to face barriers to their participation as equal members of society and violations and abuses of their human rights."

"Greater attention is needed to address these challenges," it said.

The new independent expert on rights of people with albinism, who will be appointed by the council president, will be tasked with reporting abuses.

He or she will also be asked to help "combat stereotypes, prejudices and harmful traditional practices and beliefs" about people with albinism, the resolution said.

© 2015 AFP

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