Malawi justice system faulted for resurgence of attacks on people with albinism


Amnesty International has faulted Malawi’s failure to prosecute suspects and resolve previous attacks on people with albinism for the resurgence of the attacks.

The human rights organisation has said this today in a press statement to mark the International Albinism Awareness Day which is commemorated on June 13 every year.

Amnesty says due to government’s failure, a new wave of killings and attacks targeting people with albinism has been reported over the past six months.

Albinos MalawiThe attacks waned in the last six months of 2016 but since January 2017 two people have been killed while seven other attacks have been recorded.

Amnesty has said failure of the criminal Justice system has left members of this vulnerable group at the mercy of criminal gangs.

“Despite stronger legislation, including reforms to the Penal Code and the Anatomy Act, to tackle attacks against people with albinism, we are seeing an alarming resurgence of killings and attacks against this vulnerable group in 2017,” says Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.

“When the wheels of justice turn so painfully slowly, as they do in Malawi, and historic cases of attacks on people with albinism remain unresolved, it creates a climate of impunity and emboldens suspected perpetrators of these horrific crimes.”

According to the statement, in Malawi, police are empowered to prosecute and convict suspected perpetrators of crimes, however they are under-resourced and receive little training.

As a result most cases are poorly handled and rarely result in a conviction. The vast majority of cases involving crimes against people with albinism, in particular murder, fail to go before a court due to a lack of funds and legal aid support for suspected perpetrators.

Albinos attackers are not facing the wrath of the law.(Google images)

Amnesty International notes in the statement that even where cases have been brought to court, the perpetrators have often been released due to flawed investigations and a lack of relevant admissible evidence.

On this, Muchena says thugs are taking advantage of Malawi’s failing criminal justice system hence the need for government to take measures to end the evil acts.

“The only way to stop these killings is by ensuring that existing laws are applied effectively and that there is efficient prosecution and coordination across the authorities,” says.

In its June 2016 report, Amnesty International exposed how people with albinism were ‘hunted and killed like animals’ for their body parts. Their bones are believed to be sold to practitioners of traditional medicine in Malawi and Mozambique for use in charms and magical potions associated with wealth and good luck.

Attacks against people with albinism this year include the killing of Mercy Zainabu Banda, a 31-year-old woman with albinism who was found murdered on 28 February in Lilongwe with her hand, right breast and hair removed.

On 10 January, 19-year-old Madalitso Pensulo was killed after he was invited for afternoon tea at his friend’s house in Mlonda village in Thyolo District. A passer-by heard him scream, but he died before the police arrived at the scene.

The latest abduction took place on 28 May when a nine-year-old boy, Mayeso Isaac, was taken by a gang of 10 men. The incident took place in neighbouring Mozambique where he had travelled at the invitation of relatives.