Human Rights Two sentenced for Albino abduction in Malawi

Two men who abducted an Albino teenager in Malawi have been given 25 year sentences, while human right groups fear attacks on people with albinism will render them extinct.

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Two men who abducted an Albino teenager in Malawi have been given 25 year sentences, while human right groups fear attacks on people with albinism will render them extinct.

Davis Fletcher Machinjiri,17 was abducted in April by Vuto Biswick and Emmanuel Robert with the intention to traffic him to the Republic of Mozambique where he was later killed, Malawi24 reports.

Machinjiri went missing on April 24, his body was discovered in Mozambique with his arms and legs cut off.

The two were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit felony, trafficking in person, and abducting with intent to commit murder. They pleaded guilty on all three counts.

State prosecutor Patrick Bean Chambuluka said the two deserved a stiff sentence, arguing that a stiffer sentence always depends on the nature of the crime, circumstances of the offender, and public interest.

Before passing sentence, first grade Magistrate Enete Jiya Banda showed the courtroom pictures of the mutilated body of Machinjiri.

Human rights activists have remained outspoken on the need for authorities to put end to killing people with albinism in Malawi.

The United Nations has said the albino community faces systematic extinction.

The UN recorded at least 65 cases of violence against people with albinism, including killings and dismemberment, since 2014.

Ikponwosa Ero, United Nations independent expert on human rights and albinism, said last week following a visit to Malawi that even wildlife gets more protection than people with albinism.

"Persons with albinism do not rest in peace as their remains are robbed from graveyards.

"The atrocities in Malawi render persons with albinism an endangered people group facing a risk of systemic extinction over time if nothing is done to stem the tide." 

Amnesty International this week said aside from the body of Machinjiri, another was discovered in the past week , a 30-year-old woman with albinism, Jenifer Namusyo, was found dead on April 30 hours after she was stabbed in the back, abdomen and elbow. Her breasts and eyes had been removed.

“These gruesome killings are a reminder of the grave danger people with albinism in Malawi live in,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.

Authorities must act now to end this killing spree and take immediate measures to protect these vulnerable people.”

Thousands of people with albinism live in fear of being abducted or killed by criminal gangs in Malawi, where their body parts are sold for use in rituals.

Namusyo was attacked as she made her way to another village on a bicycle to seek traditional medicine. She left home 2 a.m. and her mutilated body and bicycle were found at 10 a.m. on the same day.

At least 14 people with albinism are known to have been killed in Malawi since December 2014, Amnesty International reports, while five others have been abducted during the same period. Their fate and whereabouts remain unknown.

“The Malawian authorities must ensure that suspected perpetrators of these horrific crimes are brought to justice, and that they address the root causes of these killings, which have left people with albinism living in constant fear,” said Mwananyanda.

Albinism is a congenital disorder affecting about one in 20,000 people worldwide who lack pigment in their skin, hair and eyes. It is more common in sub-Saharan Africa. There are an estimated 10,000 people with albinism in Malawi - a country of 16.5 million people.

Some people believe that body parts belonging to people with albinism have magical powers, leading to those with albinism being targeted and sold on the black market run by criminal gangs across southern and central African countries.

According to the Red Cross, witch doctors in Tanzania will pay as much as $75,000 for a complete set of albino body parts - including all four limbs, genitals, ears, tongue and nose, Al Jazeera reports.

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