“if you cannot run they beat”

  • Date and time: January 25, 2020 10:00
  • Location: Close to Lohovo (BiH)
  • Coordinates: 44.57283255684207, 16.01559928564451
  • Push-back from: Croatia
  • Push-back to: Bosnia
  • Demographics: 5 person(s), age: 16 - 30 years old , from: Afghanistan, Pakistan
  • Minors involved? Yes
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), exposure to air condition and extreme temperature during car ride, threatening with guns, forcing to undress, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings, reckless driving
  • Police involved: 6 officers dressed in uniforms with insignia matching Croatian Special Forces, undisclosed number of Croatian officials in the station, unknown number of officer dressed in black with a Croatian police van
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: Border Violence Monitoring, Balkan Info Van

Original Report

A transit group of four Afghan males were travelling in the Croatian interior. The group included one minor aged 16 years old. On the morning of 24th January 2020 the group were discovered by Croatian authorities in a wooded area in the Croatian interior.

The description of the officers given by the respondent alleged their uniform to be green, and marked with an insignia “like a knife” which matches to the dress worn by Croatian Special Forces units. The authorities had hand guns (“pistol”) which they were holding when they approached the transit group. The officers included five men and one woman. The respondent describes how “they collect” the transit group from the woods, removing everything from them at the site of apprehension.

The officers demanded their jackets, bags and valuables, and searched each individual, proceeding to break their phones:

“They will check everybody. If first time they [the transit person] doesn’t give, after [the officer began breaking phones] everybody gives”

The respondent describes how the minor had 105 euros stolen from him by the officers, and several of the other transit group members had money taken. When asked if any of the group expressed intention to claim asylum the respondent said that the police officers ignored everything the transit group said:

“they just like a wall”

The Special Forces officers called a further unit of police officers dressed in darker uniforms who took the group of four in a Croatian police van to a station nearby. The respondent recalls how they were held in a detention cell together for approximately 24 hours without food or water.

“They don’t allow for water, no toilet”

The cell was described as unfurnished, and the transit group were forced to sleep on the cold floor. The respondent states that between the hours of 15:00 and midnight on 24th January 2020 the transit group were pleading through the cell door for the officers to provide some food and water. However, he reports that the officers present in the station could only be heard laughing at these requests.

The group were removed from the station in the morning of the 25th January 2020. They were loaded into a police van along with one other Pakistani man who was being held in the police station, bringing the detained persons to a total of five. The group were driven for some hours during which the police turned on the airconditoning in the rear and reportedly emitted “some gases” through the vehicles ventilation system which made the group feel very sick.

The transit group were delivered to a spot on the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina. The respondent suggests this was in the late morning, at around 10:00. At the border there were numerous officers dressed in dark uniforms, the respondent was unable to recall the exact number. The officers stood at the back of the van and as the transit group exited, they beat the men and minor with batons:

“one-by-one stick”

The respondent recalls the slippery conditions which he says the police chose intentionally. There was compacted snow on the ground and the respondent describes how:

“When they deport us [there’s] some ice on the ground… if you cannot run they beat”

As the group slipped and fell the police reportedly targeted them with vertical baton blows. The Pakistani man who had been merged into the detained group was beaten severely over the shoulder and head. The transit group were ordered back into BiH and walked for around five hours, arriving back to Bihac from the southern side of the city. From the route they took back and the villages they recognized on the way, the respondents group were able to identify the area close to Kulen Vakuf (BiH) where they believe they were pushed back.