Tanzania sentences albino killers to death

32 witch doctors arrested in Tanzania

A court in north-west Tanzania has sentenced four people to death for the murder of an albino woman who was killed so that her limbs could be used for black magic purposes.

The four convicted killers include the husband of the victim, whose legs and right hand were hacked off with an axe and machete.

The judge at the Mwanza court told local media that the death sentence had taken into account "the escalating killing of people with albinism in the country." The court's sentence comes as part of measures by Tanzania to deal with the problem and follows a recent ban on witch doctors who pay up to $75,000 for body parts of albinos which they use in spells and charms, claiming they bring good luck and wealth.

The death sentence also coincides with the arrest of 32 witch doctors as part of a concerted campaign by police to stamp out the horrific practice in Tanzania where witchcraft is still strong in some areas of the country.

Albinism is a congenital condition, characterised by a deficiency of melanin pigmentation in skin, hair and eyes, which protects from the sun's ultraviolet rays, and it affects an estimated one Tanzanian in 1,400.

There is now mounting pressure on the Tanzanian government to confront the situation which sees albinos, including many children, kidnapped and hacked to death. The country's president Jakaya Kikwete has been meeting with albino rights activists and has promised to end the killings which he described as "disgusting and a big embarrassment to the nation."

According to the United Nations, attacks on people with albinism have claimed the lives of at least 75 people in Tanzania since 2000. There are now 17 people on death row in Tanzania for killing albinos, however the country has not hanged anyone since 1994.