“The officers had clearly been drinking alcohol”

  • Date and time: May 28, 2020 13:00
  • Location: Near Vorkapić, Croatia
  • Coordinates: 45.272667, 15.94575
  • Pushback from: Croatia
  • Pushback to: Bosnia
  • Demographics: 3 person(s), age: 19 - 21 , from: Morocco
  • Minors involved? No
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, pushing people to the ground, Exposure to fire, Exposure to glass
  • Taken to a police station?: unknown
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention:
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: No Name Kitchen, Independent person

Original Report

On May 25th, a group of three males from Morocco set out across the border between Bosnia Herzegovina and Croatia, north of Vrnograc. They started from the border and entered Croatia, after which point they walked for three days. On their third day in the woods, May 28th, they were approached by a Croatian policeman who told them firmly “Stop, you will not run away”. The boys described this location where they were apprehended as being near a road close to the village of Vorkapić, Croatia (Approximate location: 45.272669, 15.945752). This area is under the jurisdiction of the Gvozd police station – whose chief is Mijo Rapić . Moreover, is is nearby the town of Topusko where the Croatian Ministry of the Interior’s notorious Koridor action unit is based.

The area outside the village of Vorkapić, Croatia where the group was initially apprehended by Croatian authorities (Approximate location: 45.272669, 15.945752)

The group of three stopped accordingly and calmly told the officer: “We won’t run away, brother.”

Afterwards the officer approached them further and began a thorough search of their belongings. He confiscated their mobile phones and backpacks, and told the boys to take off their shoes, clothes, jacket and everything else. The officer was described as being angry towards the boys and swore at them in the local language.

Sometime after this, the officer called for backup and for them to bring a “marica”, or prisoner-transport van, to a road nearby. At some point after their apprehension, one of the group told an officer that his friends were quite young, and the police officer laughed and made a joke that they would still have to try to cross the border many times. 

When the van arrived, the respondents described it as being all black and having no glass in the back half. The group were loaded into this van and driven back to the Bosnian/Croatian border. When they exited the van, the respondents saw the Glina river marking the border between the two countries and several additional police officers. Including the officers who drove them to the border, there were five Croatian police officers at this location, who were clad in black ski masks. 

The officers took them out of the van and started hitting them in the face and on the body with a baton, knocking them to the ground and kicking them until they got up again. The boys remarked that the officers who were engaging in this violence towards them had clearly been drinking alcohol. First they hit one of the group who then ran away and first crossed to the other side of the river. The two remaining group members were still on the other side of the river with the police. The officers started hitting them with even more force. The two people stuck on the other side of the river were 19 and 20 years old respectively. 

According to the respondents, the officers also took the glass bottles which they had been drinking from, smashed them, and pushed the boys towards the broken glass. It was also reported that there was a fire at the push-back location, which the group described as being exposed to.  

Stitches on one of the boy’s legs on injury sustained during the push-back
The back of one of the boys, three days after being pushed back. Bruises are still visible

According to the boys, one of the Croatian police officers who engaged in this behavior was quite young. In his estimation he was around 23 years old and was in an alcoholic state, beating them as much as he could.

They went back to Bosnia and saw houses, the group approached one house and a sympathetic local person showed the boys which direction to head back towards. Eventually, they made their way back to Sarajevo to recover from their wounds.