LILONGWE, JUNE 7, 2016 (CISA) – Amnesty International has today called for authorities to do more to punish those responsible for attacks against people with albinism in Malawi following an increase in the number of such attacks since late 2014 by people seeking their body parts for witchcraft.
“The unprecedented wave of brutal attacks against people with albinism has created a climate of terror for this vulnerable group and their families,” Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s director for southern Africa said in a statement, Reuters reported.
“Some perpetrators have been arrested, charged and convicted, but the majority of crimes remain unresolved. Charges and penalties often have not been commensurate with the gravity of the crimes, creating a sense of impunity,” the report said.
The body parts of albinos – who lack pigment in their skin, hair and eyes – are believed to bring wealth and good luck and are prized in witchcraft for use in charms and magical potions.
According to Amnesty, in the past 19 months authorities in Malawi have recorded the murders of 18 albinos and abduction of five others although Amnesty fears the real number is likely to be higher as many attacks in secretive rituals in rural areas are never reported.
The human rights group said that children have been sold by their parents, and some of the attackers were close family members. April was the bloodiest month for attacks on albinos in Malawi according to Amnesty, with four people murdered including a child aged under two.
The child’s father and four others have since been arrested. At least 69 crimes against people with albinism have been documented in Malawi since November 2014, according to police reports.
Attacks against people with albinism have occurred elsewhere in southern and eastern Africa, including in Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Burundi.
The Amnesty report came ahead of international albinism awareness day on June 13. Albinism is a congenital disorder affecting between one in 5,000 and one in 15,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa.
It affects about one in 20,000 people in Europe and North America.