Witchcraft killings of people with albinism rose during pandemic – UN expert
29 July 2021
GENEVA (28 July 2021) – Killings of people with albinism have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, as some people plunged into poverty turned to witchcraft in hopes of gaining quick wealth, Ikponwosa Ero, the outgoing UN independent expert on the rights of people with albinism, said today.
“Despite progress on many fronts, I was deeply saddened at the notable increase in reported cases of people with albinism being killed or attacked because of the mistaken believe that using their body parts in potions can bring good luck and wealth,” she said. “Even more tragically, the majority of victims have been children.”
Ero was named to the post by the Human Rights Council in 2015 and will be succeeded on 01 August by Ms. Muluka Anne Miti-Drummond of Zambia.
“As I leave office, I am gratified that the Human Rights Council has, in an historic resolution, condemned harmful practices related to witchcraft and ritual attacks, but there is still much to be done,” she said.
The ground-breaking resolution passed by the Human Rights Council earlier his month condemned human rights violations committed through witchcraft accusations and ritual attacks and called for international consultation and recommendations on the matter.
“I have spent the last six years battling witchcraft-related attacks against people with albinism, and am gratified that there has been much progress on several continents, despite some setbacks during the pandemic,” said Ero.
As progress on the issue, she cited a regional action plan on albinism in Africa in collaboration with the African Union. In addition, awareness-raising campaigns have increased public understanding of the challenges for persons with albinism in Africa and globally, including in countries like Brazil, Japan and Fiji.
Research on albinism has increased more than tenfold, she said, and the explosion in data and reliable information has increased understanding of how the right to health, education, on disability rights and racial discrimination pertain to people with albinism. There is also increased understanding of the rights of women and children impacted by albinism and the need to protect against harmful practices.
“While we have come very far in the fight against these heinous acts, the road ahead remains long and arduous,” said Ero. “For this reason, this mandate remains crucial, and I call on States to provide all possible support to my successor.”
Ms. Ikponwosa Ero (Nigeria), Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights of persons with albinism was designated in June 2015 as the first UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism. The vision of Ms. Ero’s mandate is driven by the cross-cutting principle of the UN Sustainable development goals: “leaving no one behind…starting with the furthest behind first.” Ms. Ero has over a decade of experience in the research, policy development, and practice of human rights concerning persons with albinism. She has advised organizations and governments around the world on human rights concerning persons with albinism. As the International Advocacy and Legal Officer for Under the Same Sun -- an international organization with a focus on albinism -- she developed strategic initiatives involving regional and international human rights mechanisms, prepared guiding documents, and oversaw the implementation of recommendations made by the UN and other human rights organizations. Ms Ero is also the author of numerous papers and articles, particularly with regards to applicable legal frameworks as well as the development and implementation of special measures to facilitate the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism.
The mandate of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism was established by the Human Rights Council in June 2005.
Special Rapporteurs 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.