International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Persecution of Albinos in Tanzania: Will the ICC Intervene?

This New York Times Article discusses the horrific persecution of albinos in Southeast Africa, particularly Tanzania. Last weekend, a one-year-old boy was kidnapped by five men and had both arms and legs cut off so that his extremities could be sold used for witchcraft. Targeting albinos is not a new phenomenon: 75 albinos have been killed since 2000 in Tanzania and the rate of persecution is only rising. And with presidential elections coming up in October and politicians increasingly supporting and using witchcraft in their campaigns and their daily lives, there is sincere concern that the government will not put a stop to these atrocities. So far, there is already a high degree of impunity even now. Furthermore, “witch doctors” are willing to pay $75,000 for a full set of albino body parts, further incentivizing this awful practice.

In Tanzania, about one in every 1400 people are albino, compared to every one in every 20,000 in the western world. While this is still a small number, and only 75 albinos have been killed in the last 15 years, at what point can the international world label this situation as a crime against humanity or even genocide? The targeting of albinos might not be considered “systematic” or “widespread” yet, but taking into account the large-scale impunity, the incredibly high value of body parts, and the general negative sentiment and intense discrimination towards albinos in that region, it is not inconceivable that this issue could turn into a “core crime.”  The preamble of the Rome Statute reads that the ICC must “contribute to the prevention of such crimes,” yet it seems unlikely that they will step in anytime soon, in light of their other “situations” and their suspected bias towards Africa. On the other hand, seeing that the Tanzanian government is probably “unwilling” to address these atrocities adequately, it could give the ICC reason to intervene. It will be interesting to see how the ICC deals with this situation, if they ever do.

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2 responses to “Persecution of Albinos in Tanzania: Will the ICC Intervene?

  1. mtidona February 27, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    This article is very interesting because it brings up broader issues with international intervention and justice. The first issue this article brings up is when to intervene. There are many ongoing debates as to the qualifications for intervention. It is so controversial because it is extremely hard to measure the severity of violence and indicate which cases deserve attention and intervention and which cases do not. One of the hardest questions the international community faces is how to identify which lives are “worth” it, in a sense, over others. Should intervention be based on a flat number of killings and once that number is reached then intervention should occur, or should it be based on the nature of the crimes dependent on how horrific they are, even if that number is relatively small (however this leads to another issue of how to judge the horridness of crimes), or should intervention be based on the possibility of success and effectiveness of resource use? There is so much information that has to be taken into account when deciding whether or not to violate a state’s sovereignty and intervene. The other issue this article brings up is how to categorize these crimes. The definition of genocide can be interpreted many ways, and since Albinism is a hereditary genetic condition and not ethnic in any way, I am curious if the term genocide could be applied to this situation. The response of the international community to this growing violence and threat to albinos in Tanzania will be extremely interesting to follow because as it develops it will highlight the issues talked about above by showing how intervention and the degree of crimes and violence are addressed and decided.

  2. snech February 27, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    I think mtidona’s discussion of intervention is interesting because I do wonder at what point is an international intervention necessary? I think it is important to not have an international power intervene constantly because there needs to be faith that the government can step in and do it’s job. Additionally stepping in too often can drain the power of an international invention, taking away the gravitas of future ones. But when systematic killings seem to be occurring, as is happening in this case, it seems necessary for international powers step in. Even though the numbers aren’t large, it seems like this is a clear-cut case of racial targeting and something needs to be done.

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