Ero, a lawyer, is on a 10-day visit to assess the human rights status of people living with albinism in a country where there have been several brutal attacks and killings involving people born with this rare genetic skin disorder.
The human rights advocate left Nigeria as a teenager and studied law in Canada before being appointed as the first United Nations “Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism” in 2015.
Inspired by her own experiences as a person with albinism, Ero has been actively engaged in research, policy development and advocacy in this field for more than a decade.
In her capacity as international advocacy and legal officer of Under the Same Sun, an NGO with a focus on albinism, she has participated in multiple activities and panels at the UN in Geneva and New York.
UN Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council, which is part of the council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.
Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis. They are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.
Her visit follows several killings of people with albinism in South Africa and other African nations.
Just last month, 40 year-old school teacher Themba Thubane pleaded guilty to several charges for his role in the abduction, killing and dismemberment of a 13-year-old girl in Mpumalanga province last year. Her body parts were to be used as traditional ‘muthi’ medicine.
In a previous attack in KwaZulu-Natal province in 2015, a 20-year-old woman with albinism was murdered and dismembered by two men who had been told by a local traditional healer that ‘muthi’ concoctions mixed with the body parts of a person with albinism would make them rich.
According to a recent study, published in the African Human Rights Law Journal by University of South Africa senior law lecturer Maureen Mswela, body parts from people with albinism are allegedly used as ingredients in rituals, concoctions and potions on the basis that their ‘magic’ will bring prosperity to the user.
Conversely, said Mswela, people with albinism have also been ostracised and even murdered because they are considered to bring bad luck to a community.
Ero, who is due to present her preliminary findings at a press conference in Johannesburg on Thursday 26 September, recently lamented several similar killings in Malawi, but also commended the governments of Tanzania and Kenya for recent efforts to protect people with albinism from persecution and harm.
“I will assess both general and specific measures that are in place to enhance the enjoyment of human rights by people with albinism in (South Africa), and I will aim to identify good practices and make recommendations to address challenges and gaps where they may exist,” Ero said in a statement yesterday. (September 16 2019)