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Thursday, 5 October 2017 - Strasbourg
Situation of people with albinism in Malawi and other African countries

European Parliament resolution of 5 October 2017 on the situation of persons with albinism in Africa, notably in Malawi (2017/2868(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on albinism in Africa, in particular that of 7 July 2016 on the situation of persons with albinism in Africa, notably in Malawi(1), and of 4 September 2008 on the killing of albinos in Tanzania(2),

–  having regard to the reports of the UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism of 24 March 2017 and 18 January 2016,

–  having regard to the European External Action Service (EEAS) statement of 13 June 2017 on International Albinism Awareness Day,

–  having regard to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) press releases of 19 September 2017, entitled ‘Ground-breaking step to tackle impunity for witchcraft related human rights violations’, and of 28 July 2017, entitled ‘Tanzania: “Reported attacks against persons with albinism decline, but root causes still rife in rural areas” – UN expert’,

–  having regard to UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 69/170 of 18 December 2014 on International Albinism Awareness Day,

–  having regard to UNGA resolution 70/229 of 23 December 2015 on persons with albinism,

–  having regard to resolution 263 of 5 November 2013 of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) on the prevention of attacks and discrimination against persons with albinism,

–  having regard to the Regional Action Plan to end attacks on persons with albinism in Africa for period 2017-2021, and ACHPR resolution 373 of 22 May 2017 thereon,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1948,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,

–  having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,

–  having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,

–  having regard to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,

–  having regard to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities of 18 December 1992,

–  having regard to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

–  having regard to the Cotonou Partnership Agreement,

–  having regard to Rules 135(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas albinism is an inherited genetic condition affecting about one in 20 000 people worldwide, and a considerably higher proportion of people in sub-Saharan countries, specifically Tanzania, Malawi and Burundi, which have the highest concentrations of persons with albinism (PWAs);

B.  whereas the greatest threat to persons with albinism in the majority of Africa is posed by misleading and superstitious beliefs regarding the condition; whereas the false association between albinism and magical powers poses the most severe threat to PWAs; whereas such myths motivate violence and the trafficking of their body parts to bring luck, health and fortune; whereas PWA women are subjected to rape, owing to the misconception that sexual intercourse with them can cure HIV/AIDS;

C.  whereas according to human rights groups, in the past decade, more than 600 attacks against PWAs have been reported in Africa, although this is most likely an underestimate; whereas these attacks have become considerably more frequent over the past years, notably in Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique;

D.  whereas in 2016, 172 murders and 276 other attacks against PWAs occurred across 25 African countries; whereas this year, aside from in Malawi, cases of attacks against PWAs have also been reported in Burundi, Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania, in which the majority of the victims were reportedly children;

E.  whereas since the beginning of 2017, a new wave of killings and attacks targeting PWAs has been fuelled by systemic failures in Malawi’s criminal justice system, which leave members of this vulnerable group at the mercy of criminal gangs; whereas since January 2017, at least two PWAs have been killed, while seven more have reported crimes such as attempted murder or abduction;

F.  whereas despite stronger legislation being introduced in Malawi in 2016, including reforms to the Penal Code and the Anatomy Act, this has not prevented the resurgence of killings and attacks against this vulnerable group, mainly due to poor law enforcement and judicial capacities, root causes and the social and cultural environment, perpetrators are rarely identified, brought to justice or convicted;

G.  whereas PWAs are facing extreme violations of human rights, ranging from harassment, persecution, societal discrimination and exclusion, to abduction, rape and murder;

H.  whereas women and children with albinism are particularly vulnerable to social exclusion; whereas babies are abandoned as a result of their condition; whereas children’s education suffers as a result of bullying, stigmatisation and overall fear of attack;

I.  whereas the Tanzanian Government has engaged in serious and tangible action to tackle witchcraft in the country, including the suspension of traditional healers’ licences and numerous arrests of witchdoctors; whereas the Tanzanian President appointed the first Member of Parliament with albinism in 2008 and the first albino deputy minister in December 2015;

J.  whereas Mozambique, Nigeria and Kenya have adopted an action plan to respond to attacks, focusing on promoting public education on albinism and raising awareness of the issue among families and communities, guaranteeing protection and social assistance to PWAs, ensuring legal assistance, procedural celerity and the prevention of attacks, sharing and publishing judicial decisions as a means of deterrence, and conducting further research to improve measures identified in the plan and support evidence-based policymaking;

K.  whereas in June 2017, the ACHPR adopted a Regional Action Plan to end attacks on persons with albinism for the period 2017-2021, endorsed by the UN and various regional and international stakeholders; whereas this Action Plan aims to foster joint efforts and actions to combat violence against PWAs and to protect their rights and those of their families;

L.  whereas, despite increasing international visibility and the adoption of new legislation in the countries affected, prosecutions and convictions remain very few in number and crimes and torture continue to be committed with total impunity in many African countries;

M.  whereas killings, mutilation, discrimination, harassment and stigmatisation have uprooted hundreds of PWAs to areas of refuge in temporary shelters; whereas this situation has caused greater precariousness and insecurity for PWAs, limiting their access to basic services, such as healthcare and education, employment opportunities and participation in society; whereas appropriate medical care, including preventive medication for skin cancer, is restricted by the challenges PWAs face, which could be overcome with the development of medical facilities and knowledge in the region;

N.  whereas long lasting and even permanent psychosocial damage is caused by life-long fear and discrimination;

O.  whereas in March 2015, the UN appointed its first Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, and officially proclaimed 13 June as International Albinism Awareness Day;

P.  whereas the EU has carried out public advocacy campaigns to generate wider awareness of the issue and has supported the engagement of civil society organisations and the capacity-building efforts of local authorities in the fight against PWA killings;

Q.  whereas PWAs are disproportionately affected by poverty, owing to the violence, discrimination and marginalisation they face;

1.  Expresses its deep concern at the continuous and widespread discrimination and persecution faced by PWAs in Africa, in particular following the recent rise in violence in Malawi; strongly condemns all killings, abductions, mutilations and other inhuman and degrading treatment suffered by PWAs and expresses its condolences and solidarity to the families of the victims; condemns, in addition, any speculative trading in PWA body parts;

2.  Remains highly concerned that the introduction of stronger legislation in Malawi has not prevented a recent resurgence in attacks against PWAs; welcomes the reforms to the Penal Code and the Anatomy Act; calls, however, on the Malawian authorities to fully investigate the recent spate of crimes against PWAs and bring the perpetrators of albinism-related crimes to justice;

3.  Recalls that the primary responsibility of a state is to protect its citizens, including vulnerable groups, and calls on the Government of Malawi to offer effective protections for PWAs so as to uphold their right to life and personal security, in accordance with Malawi’s international human rights obligations and commitments;

4.  Urges the Malawian authorities to act proactively against any criminal organisation active in witchcraft and human trafficking, give the police adequate training and resources, thoroughly investigate crimes related to albinism, put an end to impunity, and seek, as a matter of urgency, international support to conduct impartial and effective investigations into all reported attacks against PWAs, in order to bring those responsible to justice and hold them accountable;

5.  Calls on the African countries affected to extend legislation where necessary, in order to criminalise the possession and trafficking of body parts;

6.  Calls on the Malawian Government to meet the medical, psychological and social needs of PWAs more effectively by guaranteeing them equal access to healthcare and education, as part of inclusion policies; recalls that access to healthcare and education remains a considerable challenge for PWAs which needs to be tackled; calls for greater investment in creating adequate social, care and counselling structures for victims, in particular for women and children, and a better response to their medical and psychological needs; insists that policies should be put in place to facilitate their reintegration in their communities;

7.  Underlines that the general lack of understanding of and health information on albinism tends to aggravate the health condition of PWAs; stresses the need to ensure that they have access to healthcare, in particular in rural and remote areas; considers that healthcare workers should be given sensitivity training on albinism; calls for the improved training of teachers and school administrations on albinism and for the Malawian authorities to facilitate PWAs’ access to and enjoyment of education;

8.  Welcomes the efforts made by the Tanzanian Government to combat the discrimination of PWAs and its decision to outlaw witchdoctors in a bid to stop the killing of this group, while acknowledging that too few cases are brought to justice; welcomes, in addition, the efforts made by Mozambique, Kenya and Nigeria;

9.  Reiterates that more effort should be put into addressing the root causes of discrimination and violence against PWAs through public awareness campaigns; stresses the crucial role of local authorities and civil society organisations in promoting the rights of PWAs, informing and educating the population, and shattering myths and prejudices with regard to albinism;

10.  Is concerned at the specific challenges faced by women and children with albinism, which leave them more exposed to poverty, insecurity and isolation; insists that all victims should have access to appropriate medical and psychological care, and that adequate policies should be put in place to facilitate their reintegration into their communities;

11.  Calls on the authorities of the countries affected, in cooperation with their international and regional partners, to commit to tackling the harmful superstitious beliefs perpetuating the targeting of people with albinism, taking all necessary measures to prevent and tackle the illegal trade in PWA body parts, revisit cases of suspected grave robberies, trace and identify the source of demand for such body parts, and bring ‘PWA hunters’ to justice;

12.  Recalls that violence against PWAs is often of a cross-border nature and insists on the need to strengthen regional cooperation on the matter; welcomes, therefore, all initiatives taken at regional and international level to fight violence against PWAs and, in particular, the recent adoption of the Regional Action Plan on albinism for the period 2017-2021 by the African Union and the UN, which is a positive and concrete sign of commitment from African leaders; calls for its immediate and effective implementation;

13.  Calls for the EU and its Member States to keep engaging with the countries affected, in order to effectively support their efforts to formulate policies addressing the specific needs and rights of persons with albinism, on the basis of non-discrimination and social inclusion, by providing the necessary financial and technical assistance;

14.  Calls for the EU to continue closely monitoring the human rights situation of PWAs in Africa, in particular through regular reporting and follow-up work by its delegations, and to continue to promote significant improvements to their protection and social integration;

15.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Governments and Parliaments of Malawi and Tanzania, the African Union and the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0314.
(2) OJ C 295 E, 4.12.2009, p. 94.

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