Authorities urge Italian couple to give back Belarusian girl allegedly abused in orphanage

The Associated Press

ROME The Belarusian ambassador to Italy and an Italian ministry concerned with child welfare urged a Genoa couple on Wednesday to comply with a court order to send a 10-year-old girl back to her native Belarus, where she was allegedly abused while living in an orphanage.

Police in Genoa said they were trying to find the girl but would not otherwise talk about the case. The couple were not identified, while the girl was only identified by her first name, Vika.

She was due back in Belarus after spending the summer in Italy, as many children from Belarusian orphanages do as part of volunteer efforts to give youngsters good food, sunshine and recreation during vacations from school.

The couple had won a juvenile court order allowing Vika to stay through October, but later the court decided that the child should go back last week, said Giovanni Ricco, a lawyer for the couple.

The Social Solidarity Ministry said that the Italian couple's reaction can be "understood on a human level," but that their actions, "besides being illegal and a cause for international friction" were also "harmful" for the child.

The Genoa juvenile court had ordered the girl be returned to her homeland "while being cared for, and under protection," the ministry said in a statement.

The couple claim that Vika had been abused at an orphanage and hid her after the court order that she be returned by Sept. 8, Ricco said.

The lawyer said that the Belarusian Embassy filed a complaint earlier this week.

"The girl is not the daughter of this couple and they have no rights to her," Aleksei Skripko, the ambassador, told The Associated Press by telephone Wednesday. "There's no other solution than to give this girl back to Belarus where she will be cared for exactly as she needs," he said.

According to Ricco, Vika has claimed that she was victim of severe sexual, physical and mental abuse at the orphanage, and that medical examinations in Italy have confirmed that.

The Belarusian embassy said in a statement the situation at the orphanage was being scrutinized but did not elaborate.

An Italian foreign ministry undersecretary discussed the case with the ambassador on Wednesday and said the ministry was working for "a positive solution," the ministry said.