On 22nd February, at roughly 4:00 am, one group in transit of six Moroccan and Algerian men aged between 23 and 32 years old were walking on a forest path in Croatia 14 km far away from Vojnić (HR) (45°18′28.63″N 15°48′55.89″E HR). The group of six were spread out along the path when suddenly two Croatians police officers (one female and one male) wearing blue uniforms appeared in the middle of the path.
The authorities pulled a gun on the group of respondents saying “sit down, don’t move!”. Forced to obey and scared, the group sat down on the ground.
“We didn’t want to add anymore tensions. Everybody sat down, peacefully”
The policewomen used her radio to call backup. The respondents described the female officers behaviour :
“When she call her friends, she starts to laugh very high and even making kind of dancing in front of us. She was happy to catch six immigrants”
The respondents were brought by the authorities a few meters away from the place they were caught. At this place, a group of nine Moroccans on the move were already sat on the ground, guarded by one Croatian policemen wearing a dark blue uniform.At this point, three officers were present and combined group of detained persons 15.
All the people-on-the-move were gathered together, forced to be sat on the ground. During the wait, the officers took the opportunity to frisk each group member. The respondents report that the officers took their personals belongings like power banks, money and phones. “Everything they find, they take” adds one of the respondents. The authorities put all the stuff in one bag which they put it in the front of the vehicle.
After what the respondents felt was fifteen minutes of waiting, a police van arrived. Inside was one officer wearing green uniform. He parked just near to the group sitting on the ground. He rolled down the windows and said “with a big smile” :
“Hey mother fuckers!”
This officer, allegedly to be matching the description of the Croatian Special Forces, got out from the van to put the fifteen respondents inside, with the help of the three officers already present. Brought one by one, the respondents were pushed into the vehicle. The group reports that one of them was more violated than the others, saying that he was the only one to be hit by the van’s driver at this moment.
“It’s because I’m the tallest, I seems to be stronger than the others”
Alleged the group member who was disproportionately targetted by one officer. The group noticed that this officer was especially violent and aggressive, with an enraged behavior, and speaking only in shouts and grunts. The respondents informed the interviewer that this officer was the van’s driver.
“I am sure he took drugs. He wasn’t normal. He was enraged like dogs [imitations of the driver officer noises]. He entered on the van and just shouted, hitting everywhere”
The group of respondents report a reckless and abrupt drive: “he was driving like a mad”. The trip was approximately one hour, in a windowless van while the air conditioning was on. The van stopped at a river-border between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina (45°13′37.61″N 15°53′50.78″E HR) at roughly 05.00 am on the morning.
At this location, when the van’s doors were opened by the driver, the group of respondents could notice one unofficial car: “golf Serie 7, white”. Four new policemen wearing green uniforms who were covering their faces with ski masks were waiting for the group of fifteen respondents. The group in transit noticed that the officer who was driving the police van was the same than previously “he just added a ski mask, we can easily recognize him, he was already under the influence of drugs” says one member of the group. At this point, five Croatian policemen, wearing green uniforms and ski masks was involved. The officers was armed with batons. At first, they forced to undress the respondents, still on the van.
“They started to take our backpack, after our jackets, following our shoes and then, our hats”
One officer made a fire with the respondents’ stuff. “When you go out of the vehicle, you will see the fire” precises one of them. The policemen took four respondents at first ; letting the stay of the group in the closed van. The respondents describe the authorities way of biting :
“They make a circle around you. They take you by the collar. You will go on the middle. They bit you with the iron rods, the hands and the kicks. When one policemen hit you, he gives you to the others. Do you know who they hit for the baseball ? They hit you until you fall on the knees”
After this humiliating way of violence, those four respondents were “threw” into the river. The group reports that one of the officer was “choosing” the respondents to go out from the van. They describe :
“The mad driver was pointing with his finger the next who will have to go outside. He was a monster”
After the first group, just one of original transit group was brought to the rivers edge. The officers hit him with kicks and baton strikes, which forced the young man to jump into the river. Another group were ordered to get out of the van. This time the respondents recognized it to be the driver who brought them close to the fire where the officer asked : “where are you from ? Why did you come here?”. After the men answered, the driver shouted :
“Go back in Morocco or I will burn you ! If I see you again, I will kill you ”
The entire group of 15 suffered this treatment of beating, and then coercion or physical pushes into the river. Describing how they fled into BiH the respondents said: “when all our friends crossed the river we ran out of there”. The original transit group of six began to run away from the river, at which point the police fired shots in their direction. The group heard around six gunshot.
“If they had a chance to kill us, they would do it”
Wet and without shoes, the six respondents walked until the first town where they could find someone to give them clothes and shoes. After 15 km walking, the group arrived in Velika Kladuša (BiH) at around 12:00.