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African Commission Grants CHREAA The Observer Status.

The announcement was made on 14 May 2017 at the commissions 60th ordinary session in Niamey Niger.

Benefits of having this status.

 

OBTAINING
AND
THE
BENEFITS
OF
OBSERVER
STATUS
WITH
THE
AFRICAN
COMMISSION
ON
HUMAN
AND
PEOPLES’
RIGHTS
Prepared
by:
CENTRE
FOR
HUMAN
RIGHTS
FACULTY
OF
LAW
UNIVERSITY
OF
PRETORIA
SOUTH
AFRICA
18
AUGUST
2008
2
1
Introduction
The
African
Commission
on
Human
and
People’s
Rights
(the
Commission)
was
established
under
article
30
of
the
African
Charter
on
Human
and
Peoples’
Rights
(the
Charter)
with
the
twin
mandate
of
promotion
and
protection
of
human
rights
in
Africa
as
provided
for
in
the
Charter.1
It
is
the
primary
body
responsible
for
human
rights
in
Africa.2
In
accordance
with
articles
75
and
76
of
the
Commission’s
rules
of
procedure,3
non-­‐governmental
organisations
(NGOs)
granted
observer
status
by
the
Commission
may,
through
authorised
representatives,
participate
in
the
public
sessions
of
the
Commission4
and
its
subsidiary
bodies.
Furthermore,
the
Commission
may
consult
such
NGOs
on
various
issues.
2
Criteria
for
granting
observer
status
In
terms
of
a
resolution5
adopted
by
the
Commission
during
its
25th
ordinary
session
held
in
Bujumbura,
Burundi,
from
26
April
-­‐
5
May
1999,
the
Commission
subjects
the
granting
of
observer
status
to
a
set
of
criteria.6
These
criteria
are
as
follows:
1. All
NGOs
applying
for
observer
status
with
the
Commission
shall
be
expected
to
submit
a
documented
application
to
the
Secretariat
of
the
Commission,
with
a
view
to
showing
their
willingness
and
capability
to
work
for
the
realisation
of
the
objectives
of
the
Charter;
1.1
All
NGOs
applying
for
observer
status
with
the
Commission
shall
consequently:
a. Have
objectives
and
activities
in
consonance
with
the
fundamental
principles
and
objectives
enunciated
in
the
OAU
Charter
(now
the
Constitutive
Act
of
the
African
Union)
and
in
the
Charter;
b. Be
NGOs
working
in
the
field
of
human
rights
c. Declare
their
financial
resources
1.2 To
this
effect,
such
an
NGO
shall
be
requested
to
provide:
1 Art
45
of
the
Charter.
2
Article
30
of
the
Charter.
33
Adopted
in
line
with
art
45(2)
of
the
Charter.
4
According
to
rule
2(1)
of
the
Commission’s
rules,
the
Commission
holds
two
ordinary
sessions
per
year.
5
Resolution
on
the
criteria
for
granting
and
enjoying
observer
status
to
non-­‐governmental
organisations
working
in
the
field
of
human
rights
with
the
African
Commission
on
Human
Peoples
Rights.
6
This
was
in
line
with
the
AHG/dec.126
(XXXIV)
of
the
Assembly
of
Heads
of
State
and
Government
which
had
requested
the
Commission
to
undertake
a
review
of
the
criteria
for
observer
status
with
a
view
to
enhancing
efficiency
and
co-­‐
operation
between
the
Commission
and
NGOs.
3
a.
A
written
application
addressed
to
the
Secretariat
stating
its
intentions,
at
least
three
months
prior
to
the
Ordinary
Session
of
the
Commission
which
shall
decide
on
the
application,
in
order
to
give
the
Secretariat
sufficient
time
to
process
the
said
application
b. Its
statutes,
proof
of
its
legal
existence,
a
list
of
its
members,
its
constituent
organs,
its
sources
of
funding,
its
last
financial
statement,
as
well
as
a
statement
on
its
activities.
c. The
statement
of
activities
shall
cover
the
past
and
present
activities
of
the
NGO,
its
plan
of
action
and
any
other
information
that
may
help
to
determine
the
identity
of
the
organisation,
its
purpose
and
objectives,
as
well
as
its
field
of
activities.
d. No
application
for
Observer
Status
shall
be
put
forward
for
examination
by
the
Commission
without
having
been
previously
processed
by
the
Secretariat.
e. The
Commission’s
Bureau
shall
designate
a
rapporteur
to
examine
the
dossiers.
The
Commission’s
decision
shall
be
notified
without
delay
to
the
applicant
NGO.
3
What
observer
status
entails
According
to
the
said
resolution,
all
observers
shall
be
invited
to
be
present
at
the
opening
and
closing
sessions
of
all
Sessions
of
the
Commission.
a. An
observer
accredited
by
the
Commission
shall
not
participate
in
its
proceedings
in
any
manner
other
than
as
provided
for
in
the
Rules
of
Procedure
governing
the
conduct
of
sessions
of
the
African
Commission.
Amongst
others,
NGOs
with
observer
status
can
prepare
“shadow”
reports
on
the
human
rights
situation
in
their
countries.
These
“shadow”
reports
enable
the
Commission
to
have
a
constructive
dialogue
with
a
state
representative
when
that
country’s
periodic
report
is
being
considered.
b. All
observers
shall
have
access
to
the
documents
of
the
Commission
subject
to
the
condition
that
such
documents:
(i) shall
not
be
of
a
confidential
nature;
(ii) deal
with
issues
that
are
of
relevance
to
their
interests.
c. The
distribution
of
general
information
documents
of
the
Commission
shall
be
free
of
charge;
the
distribution
of
specialised
documents
shall
be
on
a
paid-­‐for
basis,
except
where
reciprocal
arrangements
are
in
place.
d. Observers
may
be
invited
specially
to
be
present
at
closed
sessions
dealing
with
issues
of
particular
interest
to
them.
4
e. Observers
may
be
authorised
by
the
Chairman
of
the
Commission
to
make
a
statement
on
an
issue
that
concerns
them,
subject
to
the
text
of
the
statement
having
been
provided,
with
sufficient
lead-­‐time,
to
the
Chairman
of
the
Commission
through
the
Secretary
to
the
Commission.
f. The
Chairman
of
the
Commission
may
give
the
floor
to
observers
to
respond
to
questions
directed
at
them
by
participants.
g. Observers
may
request
to
have
issues
of
a
particular
interest
to
them
included
in
the
provisional
agenda
of
the
Commission,
in
accordance
with
the
provisions
of
the
Rules
of
Procedure.
4
Relations
between
the
Commission
and
Observers
1
Organisations
enjoying
observer
status
shall
undertake
to;
a.
establish
close
relations
of
co-­‐operation
with
the
Commission
and
to
engage
in
regular
consultations
with
it
on
all
matters
of
common
interest;
b. present
their
activity
reports
to
the
Commission
every
two
years.
Administrative
arrangements
shall
be
made,
whenever
necessary,
to
determine
the
modalities
of
this
co-­‐operation.
2
The
Commission
reserves
the
right
to
take
the
following
measures
against
NGOs
that
are
in
default
of
their
obligations:
a.
non-­‐participation
in
sessions;
b.
denial
of
documents
and
information;
c.
denial
of
the
opportunity
to
propose
items
to
be
included
in
the
Commission’s
agenda
and
of
participating
in
its
proceedings;
d.
observer
status
may
be
suspended
or
withdrawn
from
any
organisation
that
does
not
fulfil
the
present
criteria,
after
deliberation
by
the
Commission

CHREAA Meets With The Defence and Security Committee in Lolingwe

Early this week, CHREAA executive director Victor Mhango was invited by members of parliament from defence and security committee to appreciate what the organisation does especially when it comes to issues of access to justice to vulnerable groups. The director highlighted that since 2014 CHREAA has been campaigning for the outlawing of this legislation on the basis that its application violated the citizen’s constitutional rights to dignity because it gives too much discretion to law enforcers and because the right to be presumed innocent is negated. And after the High sitting as the constitutional court then agreed and held that the application of section 184(1)(c) of the penal code produces disproportionate results in many cases with marginalised groups.

Another major success that CHREAA scored in the past year was the in securing a major victory for sex workers in the “Republic vs Pempho Banda and 18 others in zomba. Over and above cases, CHREAA continued to undertake its other projects such as Bail Education, Strategic Litigation and Advocacy where remarkable gains were made in raising awareness and advancing human rights.

The director also highlighted to the committee some of the issues that the prison department face including poor quality of medical care and overcrowding and poor physical conditions (for example, prison cells are built to accommodate 50 to 60 inmates but currently holds 150 to 250 per cell) among others.

The defence and security committee hailed CHREAA for the remarkable job its doing and hopes for the organisation to expand into other districts as well. On the other hand the director is also hoping to work together with the committee for defence and security in other areas.

 

CHREAA Drills Police On Malawi Bail Project (MBP)

Centre for Human Rights Education Advice Assistance (CHREAA) recently organized training in order to civic educate the police on Malawi Bail Project (MBP)   .A research that was made five years ago by CHREAA revealed that 75% of the suspects are ignorant of their right to seek bail as they await trial. It also follows resistance CHREAA paralegals’ face at police stations and prisons whenever carrying out their duties concerning bail application for suspects on remand as well as data collection on those who have been bailed. The findings led to the establishment of MBP which aims at assisting suspects realize their right to bail particularly those arrested for minor offences.

CHREAA executive director Victor Mhango introduced the project to the police in order to familiarize them with its objectives. He also explained that CHREAA distributed radios and booklets in various police stations to help disseminate messages on how suspects can access bail. The radio messages targeting illiterate suspects are translated in vernacular for easy understanding.

A detective from Bangwe police station Josephy Chilinda hailed CHREAA for the MBP saying that it has helped to decongest prison and police cells. He also pledged to continue playing the radio message to detainees so that they understand what it takes for them to acquire bail.

CHREAA has been implementing various projects to promote human rights and justice for the people across the country for several years now and through bail project the organization conducts interviews with suspects in police stations and prisons in order to assist them with legal skills through which they can apply for bail.

In related development, police with funding from CHREAA held a side meeting with community leaders of Ndirande Township in Blantyre. The aim of the meeting was to sensitize the leaders on cases of mob justice which are reported to be rampant in the area. The police appealed to the community leaders to confine such acts in their respective communities and report suspects to the police for justice to prevail. Few weeks ago a man was murdered by an angry mob in Ndirande for stealing less than 10kgs of maize. Similarly, a 15 year old girl in the same township was rescued by the police from an angry mob for stealing a 2metres cloth (Chitenje) that was left hanging to dry. Acts of Mob justice infringes suspect’s rights to fair trial (section 42 of the constitution of the republic of Malawi) which is also contrary to what CHREAA fights for.

 

 

 

 

CHREAA Trains Sex workers on Rights

Educative, enlightening, eye opener; these are the descriptions that most sex workers gave after a day-long training organised by Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) in the commercial capital Blantyre.

IMAG2205
The training, which took place at Kanjedza lodge in Blantyre brought together sex workers from Mwanza, Dedza and Lilongwe districts. It aimed at providing sex workers with basic legal skills and advice on how best they can handle discrimination and sexual harassment they encounter on daily basis.
During the training, Executive Director for CHREAA, Victor Mhango, urged sex workers to have interest in knowing their rights and laws that promote their welfare. Mhango cited sex workers’ ignorance on the laws as one of the factors aggravating exploitation among them. He advised them to take advantage of the legal knowledge acquired at the training to teach their colleagues in their respective working places.
Sex workers were also reminded that no law enforcement authority will arrest them on the basis of rogue and vagabond for the statute was declared unconstitutional early this year. They were also advised to use the Gender Equality Act (2012) in order to protect themselves when they face arrest and various violations. IMG_20170308_102143
Participants also discussed various challenges they encounter in their respective working areas such as being duped by their clients and discrimination in various social gatherings.
Representative of sex workers for the southern region Jamila Chilembe, hailed CHREAA for organizing such a meeting saying it was an eye opener and that it had come at an opportune time. “Knowledge is power indeed. Most of us didn’t know what to do when we faced with such challenges like being arrested at night when we go out doing our business, but now we know where to complain to. It was surprising to see that even when we were at drinking joints, we are the only ones being scolded while men go scot free. We somehow felt that it was wrong but we didn’t know where to complain to, so we thank CHREAA for organizing such a training.” She said.
Lastly, CHREAA representatives distributed flyers to sex workers containing constitutional rights and laws to use in teaching their fellow sex workers. The training was organised with funding from Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA).

20170224_145632

Friday morning, on February 24th, Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) staff drove to Blantyre Magistrate Court to support Robert Moyo, a street vendor, who was awaiting a verdict in his unlawful wounding case.

Mr. Moyo dragged two city rangers, Mr. Macford Majonga and Mr. Innocent Maluwa to court on the charge of unlawful wounding after they allegedly beat him severely after he allegedly warned his counterpart on the rangers move to chase the vendors plying their trade in the street. He lost two teeth in the process.20170224_141643

But few minutes upon arrival, CHREAA staff were informed that the court will sit at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the team went back to their office and returned after five hours.

During the court session, magistrate Ibrahim Hussein calmly read the judgment, making one think that the court has ruled in favour of Moyo but in the end Hussein exonerated Majonga and Maluwa from the charge of unlawfully wounding Moyo.

In his ruling, magistrate Hussein said that there was a high possibility that Mr Moyo could have lost his teeth after falling down while resisting an arrest by the rangers as testified by one of the defense witnesses.

Hussein cited a medical report which indicated that Moyo sustained bruises both on the chest and forehead, arguing that that could have been caused by the same impact. He also took into account that city rangers do not use weapons when carrying out their duties contradicting Mr. Moyo’ s argument that he was beaten with an object.

Lawyer for CHREAA Fostino Mayere, was not pleased with the court’s ruling. He said that the evidence he presented before the court should have satisfied the magistrate to make a conviction. He asked for more time to go through the judgment in order to determine the way forward.

Robert Moyo is a newspaper vendor who plies his business in the city of Blantyre, but on this particular day Mr. Moyo was not on duty. It was on a Tuesday 19th July 2016 around 4 pm at Malswitch when a certain lady asked Mr. Moyo to look after her car for some few minutes. No sooner had he agreed to the lady’s request than the city rangers arrived on the scene. Mr Moyo was then brutally beaten by the city rangers for allegedly alerting a vendor selling Mandasi whom the rangers spotted and had planned to apprehend. Moyo had interfered in their routine activity of arresting vendors who trade their businesses in undesignated places contrary to the city’s bylaws.

Moyo was then handcuffed and taken to Wenera police station alongside his uncle who could not bear to abandon him as he was bleeding from his mouth. He was detained at the station for the whole night without medical care. Mr. Moyo said he cried the whole night because of the pain from his jaws. The following day in the afternoon hours, it was when Mr Moyo was taken to the hospital for treatment. Few days later, he filed a law suit against the two Blantyre city rangers for unlawful wounding. Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) joined the prosecution team through its lawyer Festino Mayere to access justice.

There have been concerns from various people in the city of Blantyre over the conduct of the city rangers in their campaign to keep Blantyre city clean. Many vendors have suffered various degrees of injuries and loss of property when they are intercepted by the rangers.

Effects of delayed justice in Malawi

womenprisoners

Ellen Kanjete is a 37 year old woman who comes from Traditional Authority Dambe in Mneno. She lost her daughter Flora in 2016 who was struck by lightning and left behind a two year and six months girl. On the day of the incident, Ellen was at the maize field but upon her return to the village she found her daughter Flora no more, and she was also told that her mother had been killed by an angry mob in suspicion that she (Ellen’s mother) magically sent the lightening to Flora.

After Floras burial, the police went to the village and arrested 11 people over the grandmother’s death. Three months later, police went back to the village and arrested Ellen. She was taken to the police station and later appeared before the Magistrate Court in Blantyre. Ellen claims to have understood nothing from the court for they were speaking English without translation to vernacular and couldn’t understand what they were saying. After that she was taken to Chichiri Prison where she is being detained since 17 April 2016. Ellen says she has been to court two times, and she is waiting to face court again on 22nd march 2017 in Blantyre. To this date, Ellen claims not to know the reason for her 10 months detention at Chichiri prison.

While crying in front of her granddaughter, Ellen said she wishes to be set free on the grounds that she did nothing wrong to be found at such a place and also that the prison environment is not conducive for both her and her granddaughter.

Such is also the case for a 30 year old Muderanji Bonongwe from T/A Nsabwe village in Thyolo. She is also detained with her two year old girl at Chichiri prison for 10 months now. She was arrested mid last year over the death of her first ex-husband four years ago. Then, the ex-husband was murdered by an angry mob, after he was allegedly seen stabbing her over her alleged refusal to remarry him. Bonongwe claims the two were divorced because her ex-husband was abusive.

Four years later after the murder incident, Bonongwe met with one of her former in-laws in Limbe Township where she sells vegetables to support her family. She was then arrested after her former in-law reported her to the police. Bonongwe was kept in police custody at Limbe police for 8 days without proper charges. When she asked the police for the reason behind her arrest, she said the police told her that she was being detained because they wanted to protect her from her former in-laws. She later stood trial at Midima Magistrate Court. Bonongwe has been on remand at Chichiri prison from 2nd June 2016 to date. She also worries for her two year old daughter as the prison environment is not conducive.

 

The Blantyre Child Justice Court sitting through a Camp Court facilitated by Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) under ‘The Malawi Bail Project (MBP)’ released a total of 18 Children who had overstayed on remand for various offences at Bvumbwe Young Offenders Prison.

During the Camp Court, First Grade Magistrate Joyce Tizifa and Second Grade Magistrate Efrezia Moyo reviewed over 40 cases whose warrants had expired. The exercise resulted in 07 children granted bail, 04 discharged, 02 committed on probation release, 05 sent to Chirwa Reformatory School while  22 cases were adjourned for further hearing.

 

Camp Courts, are special court sessions which the court moves from its formal court structures and sits right in the prisons to hear cases of various offences particularly those with minor offences, whose remand warrants have expired, have overstayed or the accused is sickly, so as to expedite justice delivery.

The MBP is a project by CHREAA that seeks to empower remand prisoners particularly those arrested of minor offences, with simple techniques so as to enable them apply bail by imparting them knowledge through paralegal aid clinics, Bail booklets and simplified bail audio messages so as to increase the amount of bail applications granted and consequently reduce the amount of people living in inhumane and degrading conditions in pre-trial detention across Malawi.

The MBP has been operating for four years now, and statistics show that in last year alone (2016 project period) out of 30,913 people the project managed to educate, 21,928 people successfully applied and secured bail.

 

 

 

 

Written submission to the UN Human Rights Council, 34th Session

Agenda Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of Human rights by persons with albinism

Submitted 10 February 2016
Mr. President,

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) and the Malawi Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) welcome the reports of the Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of Human Rights by Persons with Albinism. As human rights organisations we oppose discrimination of any kind and support the mandate of the Independent Expert.
We welcome the steps that have been taken by countries such as Malawi and Mozambique to increase the protection for persons with albinism as highlighted in the Independent Expert’s respective reports. However, we agree with the Independent Expert that a lot more has to be done by all states to increase such protections, including the need to raise awareness about albinism; train prosecutors and the judiciary to ensure proper prosecution and effective sentencing in cases relating to violation of rights of persons with albinism; as well as to take steps to address the legal gaps which allow for perpetrators of violent attacks against persons with albinism to go unpunished.
We further encourage states to ensure that, in seeking to protect the rights of persons with albinism, policies and practices are not implemented which inadvertently further violate their rights. A case in point is the judgement by a Magistrates court in Malawi which employed a tougher sentence against a man with albinism on the basis of his condition. While the sentence was reduced by the High court upon review, this court appeared to reinforce the discriminatory position of the Magistrates court. The details of the case are as follows:
1. The man in question is an 18-year old with albinism who was charged with and pleaded guilty to being found drunk and incapable in a public place contrary to section 183(1) of the Malawi Penal Code. He was unrepresented at his trial. In determining his sentence, the Magistrates Court took into account the fact that he is a persons with albinism as an aggravating circumstance and sentenced him to a fine of MWK10,000.000 (about US$13.90) or six months’ imprisonment. The Court reasoned that in the light of the attacks against persons with albinism and government efforts to prevent these attacks, his crime warranted stronger punishment due to his heightened responsibility to ensure his safety.

2. On review he argued that the sentence imposed on him on basis of his condition wa unconstitutional and discriminatory. The Magistrates Court’s reference to him as “pathetic” and its reasoning in the sentencing to impose on him a form of special moral responsibility due to his condition infringed his rights to human dignity and to equality before the law. He argued, further, that the Court impermissibly sought to use him as a scapegoat to deter other offenders despite that he was a first-time offender and failed to appreciate that albinism is a disability and should have been regarded as a mitigating circumstance on his case, specifically. He also argued that the decision was manifestly excessive and unlawful for instating a sentence ten times the maximum penalty under the Penal Code and imposing an impermissible alternative custodial sentence for the offence. Consequently, he asked that his sentence be set aside.

3. In advancing his legal argument, he cited the finding of the 2016 Report of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism explaining how myths present ostracism, exclusion and discrimination against persons with albinism as a natural necessity, a practice that strips persons with albinism of their humanity.

4. On 8 February 2017, the case was heard on review at the Malawi High Court. The High Court held that the Magistrates Court’s decision was unlawful, being in excess of the maximum prescribed. It set aside the MWK 10,000 fine and the alternative custodial sentence and replaced it with a fine of MWK 500 (about US$ 0.69).

5. Despite the progress, however, the High Court disagreed that the sentence of the Magistrates Court was discriminatory. In its oral judgment, the High Court similarly affirmed that persons with albinism should have greater moral culpability for being drunk and disorderly in the context of the violence against them.
The fact that a person has albinism ought not to be a factor that aggravates their punishment.Such judgements are discriminatory as they impose a higher sentence on a person with albinism merely because of their condition. They violate the right to dignity, fair trial right and equality before the law. They further victimise persons with albinism and make them responsible for their own protection.
The IBAHRI, SALC and CHREAA therefore call on the government of Malawi to ensure that such a negative approach to sentencing people with albinism does not become accepted practice or policy. We further remind the authorities that it is primarily the responsibility of the state to protect, promote and fulfill the rights of all persons without discrimination.
We further wholeheartedly support the recommendations of the Independent Expert to both the government of Malawi and Mozambique, in particular the recommendation to ensure that training for magistrate, judges and prosecutors and all actors involved in the administration of justice include content concerning the protection of the rights of persons with albinism.
To states and to the Independent Expert we offer our technical assistance to ensure increased protection of the rights of persons with albinism. To this end, the International Bar Association has set up a task force on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism to carry out relevant legal research into albinism. The task force is at the disposal of the Independent Expert to assist her mandate in this regard.

For further information please contact:
1. Muluka Miti-Drummond
Senior Programme Lawyer
International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
Muluka.Miti-Drummond@int-bar.org

2. Annabel Raw
Lawyer, Health Rights Programme
Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC)
AnnabelR@salc.org.za

3. Victor Mhango
Executive Director
Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA)
victormhango@chreaa.org

THE PLIGHT OF PEOPLE WITH ALBINISM IN MALAWI.

People with albinism have white skin, blue eyes and yellow hair because of a genetic disorder and the macabre trade in their body parts is driven by a belief that their bones are filled with gold.  This belief has not only affected Malawi, these beliefs are rampant in neighboring countries like Tanzania and Mozambique where the killings of albinos has taken precedence with little being done to curb the violence. Historically speaking Malawi does not have a great record of accomplishment when it comes to dealing with people with Albinism. It was a common myth during the one party era under Dr. Hasting Kamuzu Banda that people with Albinism did not die rather vanished into thin air. The reality on the ground was harsher than any magic trick, the truth was that people with albinism were being picked out and getting disposed of in a manner that must have surely been as gruesome as recent events suggest.

Due to the authoritarian nature of the one party rule, people did not really know the truth behind the disappearances. Only recently with the wave of violence that has been perpetrated against people with albinism have people started to build a picture of the plight of people with Albinism. Unfortunately, quite a number of people believe that albinos simply vanish; this belief is very prominent in the rural areas.

In the most recent years, Malawi has witnessed distressing killings and abductions of people living with albinism. It is not uncommon of a newspaper to carry a headline such as “four arrested for exhuming albino bones”, “police nab albino attackers” and “two sentenced to 25 years for killing an albino”. Mothers spoke of taking their children out of school due to the fear that they will be abducted or worse, there have been incidents where a child has been sold by his/her own parents or close relative.

The first incident that triggered a nationwide outcry was when a man with albinism, Morton Juma was gruesomely murdered in Karonga District, in 2012.  An investigation took place and it was discovered that Mr Juma’s body parts had been harvested because he had albinism. There is a common belief among Malawians and members of neighboring countries like Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique that because body parts of someone with albinism lack pigmentation, these parts have healing powers, wealth and good luck and are prized in witchcraft for use in charms and magical potions. 

In the same twist of events, a 38 year old albino man, Fletcher Masina was murdered while working in his garden allocated along Linkhubula river in Ntcheu district. Similarly, a 19 year old man, Madalitso Pensulo was also killed at Mlonda village, Traditional Authority Nsabwe in Thyolo, in the southern part of Malawi.

These attacks have left families devastated, divided and traumatized. Reports indicate that nearly 10 000 Malawians with albinism live in fear of further attacks. Parents have been forced to remove their children out of schools and constantly have to be in the presence of their children.

Despite taking more security measures, the saddest part of this story is that these families are defenceless against armed kidnappers who break into their homes at night and abduct their children. Such was the experience of Harry Mokishioni’s parents, whose son was abducted in his home around midnight by two unknown thugs who broke into the house in which he had slept with his twin brother. Harry’s mother, Edna Cedrick is still traumatized and fears for the life of Harry’s twin brother who is also an albino.

President Peter Mutharika publicly condemned the attacks and announced several measures, including the appointment of a legal counsel to assist with investigations, and a national response plan. Judge Digiswayo Madise made a landmark ruling when he banned alternative healers from advertising their services and practicing their trade. In his ruling Justice Madise granted an order banning “…witchdoctors, charm producers, magic users and fortune tellers from conducting their businesses…” 

However the World’s Human Rights Body, Amnesty International said measures taken by government have failed to stop the violence. Amnesty International has also condemned Malawi’s police force for failing to protect this vulnerable group. The Association for People with Albinism in Malawi (APAM) agrees that more can be done to protect people with albinism. In a statement co-signed by APAM Chairperson, Abigail Dzimadzi, and chairperson for the network of civil society organizations defending the rights of persons with albinism, Amon Lukhele, the organization said over 50 attacks of people with albinism had been recorded between December 2014 and March 2016 alone.

In conclusion, it is time that the society rises up to support our fellow citizens. Amnesty International believes the number of people with albinism killed is likely to be much higher because many secretive rituals in rural areas are never reported. There is also no documentation of crimes against people with albinism in Malawi. There is an obvious need to educate the public about issues in relation to people with albinism. There is a need to educate people about harmful practices that are discriminatory in nature and target an innocent group of people because of an individual’s baseless believes.