On October 19, 2020 at around 16:00 a group of 18 people from Bangladesh and Pakistan were apprehended by the Croatian police in an unknown rural area after walking some 9 hours into Croatian interior. The respondent, a 25-year-old Pakistani man, remembered crossing the border from Bosnia over a small mountain and then walking for several hours in the forest until they encountered the police officers, who told them to stop. The men were put into two big police vans, where they found four other men from Algeria who were already detained. In total the detained group was now 22 people.
The people-on-the-move were driven to the border somewhere near the Bosnian city of Velika Kladusa, where a police officer opened the door of the van in which the respondent was sitting. Seven people were then forced to leave the van. The respondent described how the people that stayed inside the van sat listening to the events outside while waiting for their turn to leave.
“We were listening from inside the van how they were shouting and hitting the people. They were making so much noise, and we listen from inside the van.”
When the respondent was forced to leave the van, he described the situation he encountered as follows. There were eight Croatian police officers present, spread out over the patch of woods. Half of them, were wearing black uniforms, ski masks and gloves. The other half were wearing black-and-brown colored uniforms. A group of five officers were standing in a circle, one officer was standing just next to the van and another two were standing off to the side.
The police officer stationed next to the van searched the respondent for money and valuables. The respondent described how he was forced to take of one layer of clothing after another until he was standing fully naked in front of the officer.
“Then he asked me to open my mouth. I opened my mouth and the police officer just slapped me in the face on the open mouth. With the hand.”
Next the respondent was called over to the group of five officers standing in the circle. When he arrived the men encircled him and told him to put his hands on his head. One of the officers ran at him and kicked him with his boot on his chest.
“He kick, kick, kick my chest. And I fall down. I cannot breath. I make noise also. And he say to me: ‘Don’t make noise. Keep quiet.’ How to keep quiet?”
When he was lying on the ground the five police officers started hitting him from all sides with batons and sticks they found in the woods. After he was struck a couple minutes, he was forced to get back up. The officers allowed him to put back on his boxers, a pair of pants and a T-shirt. The respondent described how when he bent over to put on his pants, an officer kicked him strongly from behind so that he once again fell onto the ground.
“I don’t understand. We don’t argue with them. We are so polite. Once they say: “lie down” we are lying down, but they beat us so much.”
Then the respondent was instructed to come the two policemen standing on the side. They made him lay face down on the forest floor and wait there for the remaining members of his group. While he waited for about 20 minutes, he was randomly beaten several times on his back with batons. Additionally he claims that at one point an officer stepped on his head and pressed his face into the rocky ground with his boot.
“We don’t know why they are beating us like this. We are also humans. As humans we should not be beaten like this. We feel pain. As you feel I also feel.”
When all of the seven group members were finished with their beatings, they all had to stand up and file up in line with hands on their heads. The police officers then walked them a few meters over the border into Bosnia, flanking the filed-up men, and hitting them randomly.
The respondent was left with severe bruises on his back and legs, a swollen ankle and bleeding in his eye. Furthermore he described how he and other group members were coughing blood until the next morning because the police struck them on their kidneys.
(Photographs taken of the injured transit group in Bosnia)