On Thursday, 22 November 2018, we received an e-mail from the spokesperson of the Police Directorate Novo Mesto, Slovenia, which they have asked us to publish on our website. We welcome this approach by the Slovenian Police, interpreting it as a sign of taking of responsibility. We believe this discussion can and should be of interest to the public and therefore decided to publish their e-mail. However, we could not refrain from adding some comments of our own. Here is the e-mail in full length, followed by the reply of the team behind Border Violence Monitoring:
We noticed an article posted on your website concerning alleged violence of Slovenian police officers in procedures with foreigners illegally crossing the state border. We examined thoroughly the allegations published in the article
and concluded that the events described could have taken place neither in the area of Črnomelj Police Station nor in the wider area of Novo Mesto Police Directorate. The date and time, as well as the number of persons, their nationality or any other parameter indicated in the article do not correspond to any case handled by the police in the area of Novo Mesto Police Directorate.
We want to point out that procedures involving foreigners who illegally cross the state border are often subject to direct monitoring by the Ombudsman and the UNHCR. No irregularities and no unlawful or inappropriate police conduct were identified in procedures with foreigners. Police officers strictly respect their rights and all human rights. All foreigners are given humanitarian aid (food, clothing, etc.) and, if appropriate, medical care. In case they seek asylum, they can file an application for international protection.
It has happened before that when trying to verify migrants’ allegations of violence we found that certain information was inaccurate – the individuals making the allegations had either not been processed by our police officers at all or they were unable to provide the date of procedure or the place where they had crossed the border or say the police of which country brutalised them. We emphasise that all police officers are obliged to carry out their tasks in a legal and professional manner and to respect human rights during procedures. Their work is subject to regular and extraordinary supervision carried out by their police station, regional police directorate and the General Police Directorate. If any irregular or even unlawful conduct is established, appropriate action is taken against police officers concerned.
To make sure the public is given accurate and objective information we demand that our explanation regarding the alleged violence of Črnomelj police officers in procedures with migrants is published on your website. We fully reject the claims made as it has been established that the events described cannot be placed in our area.
Representative for Public Relations
Police Directorate Novo mesto
Dear Police Directorate Novo Mesto, dear Alenka Drenik,
thank you very much for your letter. We too are very concerned that the public receives accurate and objective information. However, we are afraid that until now we cannot see how exactly it has been established that the events described cannot be placed in your area.
While we are pleased that you are taking our work seriously and have examined your records for parameters that might correspond with the depicted report, we are sincerely surprised that you could not find any evidence. According to the report, the family were taken their fingerprints and had to fill their personal details at a Slovenian police station. Surely, then, these must have gotten lost somewhere in the jungle of bureaucracy? We would appreciate if you can indeed prove the allegations wrong, for this would mean that the family has actually never suffered any violence by the Slovenian police – a fact we would be very happy to hear. To convince us it would suffice if you simply shared the evidence of your investigation with the public. Besides receiving accurate and objective information, we too believe it to be of public interest that Slovenian police officers carry out their tasks in a legal and professional manner and respect human rights during procedures.
For this reason, we have also informed the Slovenian Ombudsman and asked him to take insight into the files concerned. You seem to be used to close cooperation with this institution which, of course, we appreciate.
For the report you referred to, as for all the reports in our database, we would like to point out that they are recorded based on strict standards established by MSF and other grass root organisations.
For this special case we verified that the report was taken with the assistance of a translator who did not know the family personally and whose both English and Persian was on the level of a native speaker to avoid misunderstandings with the victims of violence.
The testimony was given only one day after the family’s return from Croatia and the person interviewing the victims was at the same time in contact with the doctor treating them, so the injuries were most likely caused during the time of the push-back.
Also, the interview was conducted separately with several persons from the affected group. All of their statements coincided in the course of events described in the report.
Even though in this special case we cannot provide it, it should be easy for you to request a medical report from the hospital in your area or from MSF, who treated the son of the family because of his fractured arm. The name in the report was anonymized, however we are sure that it will not cause you any difficulty to examine the treatment of a young Iranian man at the date mentioned in the report, including details of his testimony to a doctor as to how it came about that his arm was fractured.
Oh, and while you are at it: A quick look into the database revealed some more cases in which, allegedly, the Slovenian police was involved in unlawful behaviour. In 2018 alone there are 28 cases of push-backs involving Slovenian police officers. We have collected these reports for you below. In 22 of the cases, requests for asylum were deliberately ignored. In seven cases, the persons seeking asylum reported to have been physically abused by Slovenian police officers. Seven cases involved minors. Most of the interviewees claim to have been body-searched, some to have been stripped of their clothes. Many were taken to a police station were they had to sign documents they did not understand, for only rarely a translator was provided.
We would like to use this opportunity to ask the Slovenian police for their position regarding this information. We assume it to be in your own interest that all of these cases are looked into, so that – should it turn out that unlawful push-backs are indeed not something entirely made up – appropriate measures can be taken to prevent them from happening in the future.
All of the cases below are so-called chain push-backs. That means that Slovenian police officers deport people on the move to the border with Croatia, where they are transferred to the Croatian police who then continue to deport them to Bosnia or Serbia.
Slovenia is a party to the Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees. In line with the basic right to apply for asylum, the Geneva Convention includes the principle of non-refoulement (Art. 32, 33). Non-refoulement forbids states from returning anyone declaring the will of applying for asylum to a place in which they would be in likely danger of persecution.
Sadly, our reports show that the individuals the Slovenian police hands over to their Croatian counterpart actually are in danger of persecution in Croatia. Before being returned to Bosnia or Serbia, police officers beat and humiliate them systematically. For evidence, you are invited to scroll through the reports on our website or read one of the multiple media reports around this topic.1
With this in mind, we would like to ask the Slovenian Police how they aim to justify chain-push-backs to Croatia, even when they do not inflict any violence themselves?
We are very much looking forward to your response which we will be happy to publish on this website,
The team behind Border Violence Monitoring
Push-Backs involving Slovenian Police (2018)
1See for instance: