Geneva (AFP) - The UN human rights chief harshly condemned Thursday the murder and mutilation of an albino toddler in Tanzania, demanding authorities protect albinos, whose body parts are used for witchcraft in the country.
"Violence and discrimination against people with albinism must be halted," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement, condemning "the horrific murder and mutilation of Yohana Bahati."
The one-year old boy was seized by men with machetes from his home in northern Tanzania's Chato district overnight Saturday, and his mother was badly injured in the attack.
Police found his body, with his arms and legs hacked off, on Tuesday.
Zeid said attacks on people with albinism, which are often motivated by the use of body parts for witchcraft rituals, had claimed the lives of at least 75 people since 2000.
He warned that the attacks seemed to be on the rise, with at least three incidents over the past two months.
"I call on the Tanzanian authorities to swiftly investigate and prosecute perpetrators of this terrible crime and to strengthen its protection measures for people with albinism," Zeid said.
The UN repeated its fears that the uptick in attacks against albinos could be linked to looming general and presidential elections in October 2015, as political campaigners may be turning to influential sorcerers to improve their odds.
"This is the year of elections in Tanzania and, as some analysts have suggested, it could be a dangerous year for people living with albinism," UN country chief Alvaro Rodriguez warned Wednesday.
Albino body parts sell for around $600 in Tanzania, with an entire corpse fetching $75,000, according to the UN.
Albinism is a hereditary genetic condition which causes a total absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes. It affects one Tanzanian in 1,400, often as a result of inbreeding, experts say. In the West, it affects just one person in 20,000.