A young Malawian albino girl,photographed in 2015. Picture: AFP/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA
A young Malawian albino girl,photographed in 2015. Picture: AFP/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

Blantyre — A Malawi court has convicted and sentenced two men and a woman to death for killing a person with albinism, a judiciary official said on Wednesday.

Malawi has, since late 2014, seen a surge in attacks on people with albinism, whose body parts are often used in witchcraft rituals to bring wealth and luck.

The court found Douglas Mwale, Fontino Folosani and Sophie Jere guilty of murdering Priscott Pepuzani in 2015 using a metal bar and a hoe handle. The trio chopped off Pepuzani’s limbs and later buried the rest of the body in a garden.

The “three were found guilty of [murder and possessing human tissue] and have been sentenced to death”, Agness Patemba, judiciary spokesperson said.

The sentence was handed down in the western town of Mchinji on Tuesday.

This is the second death sentence handed down in the country in the past three months following one in May this year for the murder of albino teenager Mphatso Pensulo in 2017.

Malawi has not carried out any executions since 1994, with death sentences commuted to life imprisonment. The Association of People Living with Albinism welcomed Tuesday’s ruling, hoping it will deter attacks on their members.

“This ruling enhances our faith in the judiciary and solidifies our belief that we have them as an advocate in our fight to curb killings and abductions against people with albinism,” said Ian Simbota, leader of the association.

In March, President Peter Mutharika appointed a commission of inquiry to investigate the spate of attacks on people with albinism after coming under mounting criticism over his response to the attacks.

Albinos are often targeted in brutal attacks in Malawi — one of the world’s poorest and most aid-dependent countries — because they have white skin due to a hereditary condition that causes lack of pigmentation.

Of 163 cases reported in the country since November 2014, 22 have been murders, Amnesty International said in May 2019, criticising impunity for the crimes. Just 30% of those attacks have been properly investigated, according to official statistics.