A Letter to the Federal Government of Germany

Foto: Steffen Kugler

For months we have been working on the compilation and publication of reports on border violence, cooperating with international NGOs, calling for statements from political actors* and using our network to exert pressure on those responsible. Yet the meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković in Berlin on 28 August 2018 was accompanied by a sobering message: According to the press release (in German), Germany was satisfied with Croatia’s role in securing the EU’s external borders.

Considering Croatia’s appallingly violent border security policy, the fact that only internal investigations are permitted to clarify the cases and the denial of all allegations of violence by the Croatian Ministry of Interior, we find this statement very alarming. Open criticism and a clear position against human rights violations must be part of a culture of political dialogue.

We decided to comment on the press release and wrote a letter to the Chancellor as well as to members of the Federal Government, pointing once again to the brutality of Croatian border officials. Truth is, this is a topic which has already been taken up in detail in the German and international press and which has meanwhile triggered political debates at EU level. Yet unfortunately the documented allegations of violence and complaints were not mentioned in the press release.

“Dear Mrs. Merkel,

Dear Members of the Federal Government,

It was with dismay that we read the transcript of the press conference by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on 28.08.2018 (→ Link).

“Croatia is doing an outstanding job with its security forces [EU External Border Guard]. I would like to praise that explicitly”.

When Croatia joined the European Union in 2013, it committed itself to complying with and enforcing international law. The Geneva Convention on Refugees, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the UN Charter of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights are important elements of this commitment. Since many months, these laws are being violated on the borders of Croatia/Serbia and Croatia/Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In cooperation with international NGOs, the association Rigardu documents cases of illegal push-backs and excessive violence by Croatian police officers* (www.borderviolence.eu). Croatian police systematically abuse and humiliate refugees in an attempt to deter them from entering the country.

The Croatian border police deports refugees back to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia without granting them access to a fair asylum procedure, even after an explicit request for asylum has been made. In addition, Croatian border officials hit people with batons, fire shots in close proximity and demand that refugees strip themselves completely. They are locked into closed cells and cars with lack of oxygen. In addition, Croatian officials steal or destroy personal items such as mobile phones and ID and registration documents. Every day, people on the run, including families and unaccompanied minors, tell us about these practices of the Croatian border police.

We refer in particular to the principle of non-refoulement in Art. 32, 33 Geneva Convention, the right to freedom and security (Art. 6 CFR)/Art. 3 UDHR), the right to property (Art. 17 CFR), the right to asylum (Art. 18 ECHR) and the right to asylum (Art. 18 ECHR).  CFR/Art. 1 ECHR/Art. 17 UDHR), right to asylum (Art. 18 CFR/Art. 14 UDHR), protection in case of deportation, expulsion or extradition (Art. 19 CFR), right to a fair trial (Art. 6 ECHR/Art. 10 UDHR) and prohibition of torture (Art. 3 ECHR/Art. 5 UDHR/Art. 4 CFR), which are ignored by the EU Member State Croatia.

This behaviour is inhumane, illegal and in no way tolerated. You must be aware that the methods of the security forces are not to be praised by the Federal Chancellor, but criticised and condemned to a high degree; the actions of Croatian border officials should be closely examined. Human rights violations on this scale must not go undetected in an EU Member State and should not be tolerated under any circumstances”.