GENEVA (3 March 2017) – A United Nations human rights expert has welcomed the conviction in South Africa of a man who masterminded the murder and dismemberment of the body parts of a woman with albinism by a decision of 23 February 2017 of the High Court of South Africa, kwazulu-natal local division.
The 20-year old victim was kidnapped in August 2015 in a village in Kwa-Zulu Natal and later found dead. Her body parts were collected to be used in a form of traditional medicine or witchcraft ritual, aimed at producing wealth for clients of the mastermind.
The United Nations Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, said: “Too often, only middlemen and hired hands are arrested or prosecuted. This sentence from the High Court of South Africa is particularly important as it condemns the man who organized and recruited persons for the crime.”
The mastermind behind the attack pleaded guilty to premeditated murder. He had offered large sums of money to the two others he recruited in exchange for bringing the requisite body parts. One of the hired perpetrators was chosen because he had been in a relationship with the victim, and therefore could easily lead her to the location of the attack.
Evidence showed that the mastermind was a traditional healer, He was also the leader of a church attended by one of the hired perpetrators. He had instructed his accomplices to follow a ritual for killing the woman and for obtaining the requisite body parts.
“Such cases are fundamental to understanding patterns and root causes of the ongoing attacks against persons with albinism,” said Ms. Ero. “This case confirms reported trends such as the direct implication of some traditional healers, witchcraft belief and practice, as well as the involvement of people who have a relationship with the victim,” the expert concluded.
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.
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.
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