The High Court of Malawi on Tuesday convicted and sentenced three people to death for killing a person with albinism.
The three, identified as Douglas Mwale, Fontino Folosani and Sophie Jere killed Priscott Pepuzani in 2015, using a metal bar and a hoe handle, before chopping off his limbs and later buried his body in a garden.
During a court ruling in the Mchinji District of the Central Region of Malawi, Judge Esmie Chombo said the court found and proved beyond reasonable doubt that the three murdered the victim.
Chombo said the sentence would help to warn and deter others from committing the same crime, as murders of people with albinism are becoming rampant.
The landmark sentence has been applauded by various communities in Malawi, including albino-rights activists and lawyers.
“We are satisfied with this ‘sentence’ given the nature of the crime and the circumstances Mr. Pepuzani was killed, which created trauma and panic to persons with albinism in the country,” government attorney Mathews Kamadzi told local media.
Persons with albinism in Malawi are facing attacks and killings due to a negative mystification of albinism.
There have been at least 25 killings of albino since 2014, a spree that has spread terror through the 10,000-strong albino community, local media reported.
Early May, the high court sentenced another killer Willard Mikaele to death for murdering 19-year-old albino Mphatso Pensulo in 2017.
Persecution of Albinos
Persecution of people with albinism may occur for different reasons. One is based on the belief that certain body parts of albinistic people can transmit magical powers. Such superstition is present mostly in some parts of Sub-Saharan African communities, especially Tanzania, where albinos represent one in every 1429 births, a much higher rate than in any other nation.
Below are some creepy beliefs and facts about the ritualistic killing and mutilation of albino’s in Sub-Saharan Africa.
1. As a result of the belief that certain body parts of albinistic people can transmit magical powers, people with albinism have been persecuted, killed and dismembered, and graves of albinos dug up and desecrated.
2. According to Red Cross, a complete set of albino body parts can go for as much as $75,000 (£50,000) in Tanzania, and are usually bought by witchdoctors.
3. A United Nations report on albino persecution published in 2013, placed Tanzania at the top of a list of African nations where albinos are targeted for murder. “In most of the cases documented, the attacks involved dismembering the victim’s limbs and resulted in death,” the report said. “In a few other cases, the victims were beheaded; genitals, ears, and bits of skin were removed; tongues were cut out and the eyes and the heart gouged out.”
4. The first ever conviction for the killing of an albino in Tanzania occurred on 23 September 2009. The conviction came about following the murder and mutilation of a 14-year-old albino boy, who was attacked by three men and chopped into pieces.
5. In most rural Tanzania, treatments made from albino body parts are believed to be particularly powerful. Because of this, their remains are used in preparing human potions used by traditional healers to treat the sick.
16. As a result of the belief that a witchcraft ritual would be more powerful if the victim screams during the amputation, body parts are often cut from live victims.