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Press briefing notes on attacks against people with albinism and Mauritania: Prosecution of activists

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Date: 10 March 2015

(1) Attacks against people with albinism

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein this morning issued a press release expressing revulsion at a recent surge in violent attacks against people with albinism in several East African countries. In the past six months, at least 15 people with albinism in Tanzania, Malawi and Burundi were abducted, wounded, killed or subjected to attempted kidnappings, including three such incidents in the past week alone.

“These attacks are often stunningly vicious, with children in particular being targeted,” Zeid said. “As a result, many people with albinism are living in abject fear. Some no longer dare to go outside, and children with albinism have stopped attending school because of the recent spate of assaults, murders and kidnappings.”

In Malawi alone, at least six incidents have been reported in the first ten weeks of this year, compared to four incidents recorded over the previous two years. In Machinga District, in the south of the country, where several kidnappings and killings have taken place, groups of men are reported to be roaming around hunting for people with albinism.
More information, including details of specific cases, is available in the full press release on:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15673&LangID=E in English and
http://www.ohchr.org/FR/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15673&LangID=F in French

(2) Mauritania / rights activists

We have been closely following the judicial proceedings in Mauritania against members of two civil society organisations, including the anti-slavery Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA), after they held a demonstration on 11 November last year in Rosso in the southwest of the country.

Three men, including former presidential candidate Biram Dah Abeid, are serving out two-year sentences on charges that include "illegal assembly" and "refusal to carry out orders given by the administrative authorities". Another three people remain in detention in Nouakchott pending a verdict in their case, which is expected to be delivered on Thursday. Among other charges, these three IRA members are being prosecuted for belonging to an “unregistered organization”. This is a charge that was dropped in Dah Abeid’s case, even though he is the president of the IRA. The prosecutorial decision to charge these men under this offence appears to be arbitrary and unjustified.

We are deeply concerned at the severity of the sentences against Dah Abeid and his colleagues. The three men are appealing the verdict, but they remain in detention pending appeal.

In a report issued by the UN Human Rights Office in Mauritania in December, we urged the authorities to conduct an independent investigation into the events of 11 November 2014, including the behaviour of security forces. Regrettably, such an investigation has yet to be set up, in spite of concerns that our office has repeatedly expressed to the authorities on possible violations of the right to peaceful assembly and to freedom of association.

We urge the Government of Mauritania to immediately conduct such an investigation, and to release all those detained for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and to freedom of association. We call on Mauritania to ensure that those involved in the judicial process, including prosecutors, carry out their work in line with international human rights norms and standards.

We have also, in our engagement with the Government, encouraged a review of existing legislation on the rights to peaceful assembly and association, to ensure conformity with international human rights law.

For more information and media requests, please contact please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org ) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org).

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