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Statements Special Procedures

Statement on harmful practices and hate crimes targeting persons with albinism

15 March 2022

Delivered by

Ms. Muluka-Anne Miti-Drummond, independent expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism


Human Rights Council 49th session



Thematic Report (A/HRC/49/56)1

Mr. President,
Distinguished delegates,

I have the honour to present to you today, my first report as the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism. I thank this Council for entrusting me with this important mandate.

While it is an honour to address this forum, I am deeply saddened that there is still very much a need for this. Only a few days ago, I received disturbing reports of attacks and abductions of persons with albinism, in two different countries. Both of which had little or no known attacks against persons with albinism until the recent months. One of the victims was a child whose body was reportedly thrown into a river after her eyes and organs had been removed, no doubt for ritual purposes.

My current report before you today is therefore aptly focused on harmful practices and hate crimes against persons with albinism. It discusses ongoing violations against persons with albinism as harmful practices, particularly where they are related to ritual attacks and killings.  I am pleased to note that last July, this very Council adopted resolution 47/8 on the elimination of harmful practices related to accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks – thereby recognizing the existence of this phenomena not only for persons with albinism but also other persons in vulnerable situations, including women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons.

My report further highlights that egregious violations against persons with albinism can qualify as hate crimes. Hate crimes are crimes carried out with a bias motive – that is, the person committing the crime has a bias against an actual or perceived characteristic of a victim’s identity. In the case of albinism, they are perpetrated on the basis of the colouring and physical appearance of this people group.  Indeed, the barbaric myths and mis-beliefs that their body parts can bring fortune, wealth, luck and protection, have been purely based on the colouring of persons with albinism.

Hate crimes also differ from ordinary crimes in the impact they have on the targeted persons or community. They cause  greater psychological injury, as well as increased feelings of vulnerability for victims because they are unable to change the characteristics that made them victims in the first place. For many persons with albinism, this is what their day-to-day realities entail – experiences of ostracism, rejection and the debilitating fear of being abducted or attacked on their way to school, work or home. All because of a condition that could be easily explained by science and genetics.

Having specific hate crime laws in which persons with albinism can be recognised as victims with protected characteristics will not only condemn the bias motive in the crimes against them, but can prompt further investigations and impact the way victims are treated, how they are interviewed and the seriousness of sentences given to offenders.

In the report, I identify good practices in relation to harmful practices and hate crimes, including the European Union’s strong common response to tackle hate crimes through its Framework Decision 2008/913, as well as the establishment of mechanisms for the reporting of hate crimes in different countries. These mechanisms must recognise that attacks against persons with albinism will almost always constitute hate crimes. The African Union’s Plan of Action to End Attacks and other Human Rights Violations targeting persons with albinism (2021 to 2031) is another valuable initiative and I continue to urge the implementation of this Plan of Action. The appointment of the Special Envoy on albinism will greatly assist in the implementation of the Plan of Action and I hope to see this come to fruition.

Mr. President, Excellencies, distinguished delegates,

As this is my first report as Independent Expert, it also presents my vision for the mandate. I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the amazing work of my predecessor, Ms. Ikponwosa Ero. During her six-year tenure she developed a broad human-rights-based approach to albinism, which not only identified the violations in relation to the attacks against persons with albinism, but also the intersecting and multiple forms of discrimination leading to the violations of the rights to health, education and work, among others.

Unfortunately, many people are still unaware that it is not just in Africa where the rights of persons with albinism have to be protected. In addition, persons with albinism remain invisible in too many discussions that are important to their human and personal development. For example, although they are often subjected to, or have to resort to, moving within and across borders, including as trafficked individuals, to escape persecution or for environmental reasons, they remain invisible in discussions on migration and climate and environmental change. They are even invisible in discussions about human rights defenders. Such invisibility leads to exclusion and exclusion ultimately leads to violations of rights. This is even more so the case with smaller groups of people. It is therefore my vision to ensure that persons with albinism, and their voices, are mainstreamed in these areas. Regardless of the size of a population, they cannot be neglected. I take this opportunity to remind you all as States, of your commitment under the SDGs to ensure no one is left behind and to reach the furthest behind first. I remind you too that persons with albinism continue to be among the furthest left behind.

Finally, I look forward to engaging with Member States in addressing the challenges identified in my report. I stand ready to engage with you through regular dialogue and exchange of information, as well cooperate through other means, including country visits where I would be best placed to provide technical support and concrete recommendations to improve the human rights situations of persons with albinism.

I thank you for your attention.