Croatian police officers shot at the men’s feet and beat them with batons when they found them in Blata, Croatia. Then, with four officers holding him down, one man had a knife pulled on him by a policeman, who proceeded to slice his palm and index finger open.
The group of 10 or 11 Pakistani men left Bihac (BiH) on 24th May 2020 and walked on foot, crossing into Croatia. The respondent said they walked for three days. During this time they observed a larger transit group of about 80 people also walking in the area and moved away so as not to draw attention from the police.
On the 26th May 2020, the men reached some railway tracks, in order to avoid a longer detour they decided to walk a little by the tracks
“We crossed a small river and kept going until we reached a railway track. I looked on the map and we were close to the E71 road”
They started walking by the tracks in the dark, and at about 02:00 the next day (27th May 2020) they were spotted by police close to a small village called Blata (HR).
“We are about to go past there, we were walking when suddenly in the jungle there was the train track on one side there was a ditch and on the other the mountain and we are walking in the middle on the train track. In this time the Croatian police arrives 4-5 men.”
Two officers shone torch-lights in their faces, while others shouted for them to stop. The officers were wearing black uniforms and had guns and batons, matching the description of Croatia’s Interventna division. The group were then forced to link arms by putting a hand on the shoulder of the next person. In this way, the Croatian police forced them into a line and started marching them down the tracks.
“We stopped there they told us to put our hands on the shoulders of each other “Hand over the shoulders” that’s how they said it. So we put our hands on each others shoulders and we started walking as one, along the train tracks.”
The officers were carrying guns and shot at the men’s feet as they walked. They also used sticks to beat the group:
“They kept shooting us, they were shooting us so closely that the stones under our feet were flying they were being blown into pieces. After that they kept coming behind us slapping us, kicking us hitting us with sticks. After the sticks once we arrived at the original train station, like the ones in Pakistan or Iran or turkey even Greece”
They arrived at the old station in Blata and were ordered to sit by the tracks and empty their bags. In the train station, a further five Pakistani men from another transit group were already being held and looked as though they had been beaten. At this point the respondent recalls the worst of the beatings beginning. Alongside the five officers that had caught them there were at least another five waiting on the station platform.
“They beat me a lot there were 5 of them and 5-7 others standing on the platform. Those others started kicking me and hitting me with steel or iron rods they hit my knees legs and calves and on all my body my face a lot they kept me in the centre of them and beat me a lot. They then pushed me aside and started beating my friends I don’t remember understanding what was going on, my head was full of blood my nose was bleeding. They hit me on the face so many times, on my back on my head with the butt of a rifle on my face my cheeks, my head they hit me on my back.”
Two police cars arrived with several other officers, the respondent recalls seeing a total of at least 12 police at the scene. The new officers, dressed in the same uniforms, spoke to the officers beating the men and then joined in themselves.
“They told me to stand up “stand up. stand up” I wasn’t able to stand upSo I was still on the ground and they hit me with rods. The thing that makes me sad is that they were smiling and laughing like properly laughing I couldn’t understand why this had happened to us.May God help the other brothers (in the transit community)”
Eventually, despite being ordered aggressively, the respondent was no longer able to stand. At this point, the police pulled a knife on him and pinned him down.
“The third time they said stand up, when I wasn’t able to stand up one took my arm and put one knee on my chest and another on my neck.Two men were on top of me, one of them had a dagger strapped close to his knee. It was a black coloured dagger, he pulled it out and pointed it at my face. I said “no sir, no sir, please no sir” I moved my hand in front of it to move it from my face. So a third police man who was standing by took hold of my hand and another forth police man took my other hand and put both his feet on my hand. The second one on my body was hitting my legs with a stick he just kept hitting and hitting. God protected me.”
The respondent was immobilised by four officers, while the fifth used the blade to cut his hand which was pinned by his other colleagues feet:
“The first on with the knee on my chest and neck and the dagger in his hand said something in another language then he knifed the index finger of my left hand, and blood start spurting out like a small shower, then he smiled, then he cut my middle finger followed by my palm with a larger cut. The whole hand is swollen beyond recognition. They then continued hitting my face and my nose. I kept saying stop please stop”
The respondent was left severely injured and in shock. He stated that after the attack, all of the group (now about 15 people) were loaded into a police vehicle and driven to the border with Bosnia. The ejection from Croatian territory occurred close to the Bosnian town of Velika Kladusa. At the border the officers ordered the group across telling them to “run, run”.
“I couldn’t even stand up, I fell out of the car onto the road, there were other Croatian police there, they also had stick but they didn’t say or do anything to me. They told the other guys to pick me up with my arms around their shoulders and take me to Bosnia in English. Only I was cut with the knife. The first day my hands was so swollen I couldn’t move them, now a week later I can start to move my fingers”
Other members of the group described having broken hands, and one had a fractured eye socket. Relaying the shock of local Bosnian people, who saw them after they had returned on foot the respondent said:
“When we were on the side of the road in Bosnia, we looked so bad that people driving by were taking photos throwing water and money at us we looked in such bad condition, they were so upset at seeing us like this. When I saw myself the mirror I got really worried”
Those that could walk returned to Miral TRC, the closest camp in the area. The others had to wait for an ambulance to be sent in order to bring them back.