The group of eight had been walking for nine days through Croatia and eventually were crossing a stretch of uninhabited countryside, with no nearby villages. The men were walking alongside the E65 motorway, following it towards the town of Rijeka (HRV), when they were approached by around five officers from a side-track. All officers were dressed in black Croatian uniforms and stopped the group by shouting and surrounding them. Then, they ordered them to hand over their personal belongings and searched each of them. Along with the frisk, their bags and mobiles were removed.
Afterwards, they had to walk a short distance to two police vans and were driven to a nearby police station where they arrived around midnight. The group of eight was not processed, photographed, or made to sign any papers. Two officers in blue Croatian uniforms just brought them in a group cell and after about an hour, around 1 pm, the eight individuals were taken outside and loaded into an estate vehicle. There were already 14 other people on the move sitting inside the vehicle’s backspace. The vehicle left the police station with the group of now 24 people and due to it being very cramped, some got sick:
“One person was vomiting.”
“First time in AC, more in heater and one perfume, red color.”
The officers raised the temperature in the backspace and heated it for around 30 minutes and more individuals became sick. When they heard them throwing up, they stopped and sprayed pepper spray inside the backspace.
“Perfume [makes] big problem in body.“
The journey lasted around three hours, and by the end all passengers were suffering from the combination of heat, pepper spray and motion. The vehicle finally stopped, and they found themselves at a rural border area where a track led down to a steep ravine with a small river.
They were told to exit in pairs and were immediately beaten by the six officers dressed in black Croatian uniforms who had arrived with a van. The respondent was punched and kicked and beaten with batons. One individual was assaulted with an electronic baton which was put to the back of the young man’s knees, causing him to shout and jump away in pain. Meanwhile, another individual was handed out a bag containing their broken phones, all irreparably damaged.
The officers stood in the form of a corridor around the back of the van and beat all 24 individuals to then chase them down into the steep river valley, shouting at them and raising their batons. The group of 24 fled and entered Bosnia again.
In was just dawn, when they started walking back for half the day to the camp in Velika Kladuša (BIH). They were sick and exhausted. From Velika Kladusa, the group quickly returned to Bihac, as they had no money or space to stay. Once in Bihac, two of the individuals went to the camp in Borici to access medical assistance at the field clinic.
The men sustained bruising and skin trauma from the assault at the border. They also suffered from motion sickness induced by the cramped transport and use of pepper spray. The interview was conducted with one individual as the others had already left to the Borici camp to access medical care.