Amnesty International chides Italy over Kazakh deportations

'Prosecution necessary for any human rights violations'

Amnesty International chides Italy over Kazakh deportations

(see related) Rome, July 16 - Amnesty International on Tuesday weighed in on a brewing scandal in Italy over the "illegal" deportation of the family of Kazakh opposition politician Mukhtar Ablyazov. "The Italian authorities must ensure that there is a full investigation and criminal prosecution for any violation of their human rights. Only then can any allegations of collusion between the Italian and Kazakhstani authorities be put to rest," said John Dalhuisen, director of Amnesty's Europe and Central AsiaProgramme. At the end of May, Ablyazov's six-year-old daughter and wife Alma Shalabayeva were rounded up in nighttime raid, placed on a private jet with Kazakh diplomats and flown back to the former Soviet country with a chequered human-rights record. Following an outcry from Italian opposition parties, the government said it was unaware of the case until after the fact, and Premier Enrico Letta ordered an internal review of its handling, which was delivered by the chief of police Tuesday to the interior minister, Angelino Alfano. "This inquiry must be - and be perceived to be - truly independent," added the Amnesty director. "It is of great concern that the ministry of the interior is essentially investigating itself: It is responsible for all immigration-related matters, including expulsions and deportations. "The investigation into Shalabayeva's forced return cannot be seen as an inside job". Alfano, who is also the secretary of the center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, has been particularly called out in the case given his ministry's role as head of the police force. Critics have pointed out that during his stints as premier Berlusconi helped foster lucrative commercial ties between Italy and oil-rich Kazakhstan. According to Italian media, Berlusconi, who is currently a Senator and still one of the country's most influential players, met with Nursultan Nazarbaev, the president of Kazakhstan, in Sardinia on July 6, suggesting close ties between the two. Berlusconi has denied meeting Nazarbaev while he was there. After the deportation case was brought to light, Italy overturned the expulsion order. "The repeal of Alma Shalabayeva's expulsion order is one small step in a case that requires transparency and accountability up to the highest levels of law enforcement and government," said Dalhuisen. "It is a travesty that a woman and her young daughter were whisked out of Italy on a private plane without due process and sent to a country where they would be at risk of persecution".

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