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“THEY VALUE THEIR BODY PARTS MORE THAN THEIR LIFE” – URGENT APPEAL TO STOP ATTACKS AGAINST PERSONS WITH ALBINISM

15 October 2015

GENEVA (Issued as received) – United Nations human rights expert Ikponwosa Ero today issued an urgent appeal for coordinated action in southern and eastern Africa to tackle the upsurge in attacks against persons with albinism. Ms. Ero warned that “an apparent increase in demand for body parts of persons with albinism has been reported in the run up to elections in several African countries.”

“Persons with albinism are amongst the most vulnerable persons in the region,” noted the first United Nations Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism. “After centuries of chronic neglect of their plight, they have been relegated to the fringes of society where stigma and discrimination in every aspect of their lives have been normalized.”

“Today, their woe has been compounded by a constant fear of attacks by people –including family members - who value their body parts more than their life,” the human rights expert stressed. “I am deeply concern at the highly disturbing pattern of increase in attacks when elections occur in the region.”

Ms. Ero called on affected governments “to carry out as a matter of urgency specific measures, particularly through regional and international collaboration, to bring an end to these abhorrent crimes.” She also urged “all political parties to ensure that their candidates and supporters are not associated directly or indirectly with such grave human rights violations.”

Since the Independent Expert took office on August 1, attacks have been reported in 6 countries in the region. These include the case of a 56 years old man with albinism from Kenya who was attacked with some of his body parts hacked off. He later succumbed to his injuries.

A month earlier, the remains of the dismembered body of a 20 year old woman with albinism were found in a shallow grave in her village of Phelandaba in South Africa. Most of her body parts as well as her skin were missing. The expert welcomed the prompt reaction of the South African authorities that led to a 20 year conviction for two of the perpetrators involved.

Note to editors: Albinism is a congenital condition which affects about one in 17,000 to 20,000 in Europe and North America. According to the World Health Organization, it is more common in sub-Saharan Africa, with an estimate of one in every 5,000 to 15,000. In several ethnic groups in the region, estimates are as high as one in 1,000 to 1,500 persons. Learn more, check the special website: “People with albinism: not ghosts, but human beings - http://albinism.ohchr.org/

Ms. Ikponwosa Ero (Nigeria) was designated in June 2015 as the first UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism by the Human Rights Council. Inspired by her experiences as a person with albinism, Ms. Ero spent the last seven years working on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism. As international advocacy and legal officer of Under The Same Sun, an NGO with a focus on albinism, she participated in multiple activities and panels at the UN in Geneva and New York. She has extensive experience in research, policy development and advocacy in the field of albinism. She is the author of numerous papers and articles on the issue, including with regards to the categorisation of persons with albinism in the international human rights system. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Albinism/Pages/IEAlbinism.aspx

The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For inquiries and media requests, please contact please contact Arnaud Chaltin (+41 22 917 9188 / achaltin@ohchr.org) or write to albinism@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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HR15/326E