GENEVA (18 July 2013) – Three United Nations human rights experts* have called on the Italian authorities to spare no efforts to facilitate the return to Italy of Kazakh national Alma Shalabayeva and her six-year-old daughter who were unlawfully deported to Kazakhstan on 31 May 2013.
“The circumstances of the deportation give rise to the appearance that this was in fact an extraordinary rendition which is of great concern to us,” the experts said.
Alma Shalabayeva is married to former political prisoner Mukhtar Ablyazov, who is a political opponent of Kazakhstan’s President Nazarbayev. He was granted political asylum in the United Kingdom in 2011 but fled after UK police warned him his life was in danger.
Ms. Shalabayeva and her daughter were legal residents in the European Union and living in Italy when they were expelled. The experts said the actions of the Italian authorities had violated guarantees of due process and deprived Ms. Shalabayeva of her right to appeal against deportation and to apply for asylum.
The experts, François Crépeau, Juan E. Méndez and Gabriela Knaul, said the authorities also appeared to have ignored concerns that Ms. Shalabayeva might be at risk of being persecuted, tortured or subjected to other forms of ill-treatment upon her forcible return to Kazakhstan due to her husband’s political activities.
“We are encouraged to see that Italy has now publicly recognized that the deportation of Ms. Shalabayeva and her daughter was unlawful and unacceptable,” said the UN experts on the rights of migrants, torture and independence of the judiciary.
They welcomed the decision to officially revoke the deportation order and the announcement that investigations were under way to determine responsibility for the illegal expulsion.
“We appreciate the Italian authorities’ commitment to carry out thorough investigations on the case and welcome the developments thus far,” the experts said. “We urge both Italy and Kazakhstan to continue to investigate and hold those responsible accountable.”
Italy is a State party to many international treaties which prohibit the expulsion, refoulement or extradition of a person to a State where it is feared he or she would be at risk of persecution and/or torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, including the Convention against Torture and the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees.
“Furthermore, the Italian authorities have an obligation, under international law, to provide for an effective remedy to the victim of the violation, in this case Ms. Shalabayeva and her daughter,” the Special Rapporteurs said.
“Given the possible serious implications of this case, we call upon both the Italian and Kazakh authorities to cooperate and reach a diplomatic agreement to facilitate the rapid return of the deportees,” the experts said.
“We also urge Kazakhstan to uphold international human rights and respect Ms. Shalabayeva’s and her daughter’s freedom of movement by allowing them to safely return to Italy where they have been welcomed back by the Italian authorities.”
(*) The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau; the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez; and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul.
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