The group of six Algerian men, aged between 30 and 40 years old, were apprehended by Croatian authorities after they had walked for four days through the Croatian interior from Bosnia-Herzegovina. The men described that in shortly after midnight on October 23rd, they were close to reaching the city Karlovac, only needing to cross a bridge over a river next to the city center. The group of people-on-the-move waited in a wooded area about 900 meters away from the bridge, waiting for the situation to be safe so they could pass the bridge. At approximately 2:00 am, while they were still hiding in the woods, several police officers approached the men.
The respondent estimated that there were somewhere between 7 and 10 officers present that wore dark uniforms. They were described as having encircled the group of men, so that there was no chance for them to escape. In the forested area, the men were described as being forced to undress completely during which time one after the other their belongings were searched thoroughly for money. The men also had to hand over their mobile phones and power-banks. Completely naked, they sat on the wet forest floor for about an hour while the policemen called for another crew to come and pick them up in a large police van.
While they waited, the men were not allowed to look up. If they did, they were struck with batons. During this time, the officers were described as insulting the people-on-the-move. These insults left a special impression on the respondent:
“They leave nobody out of your family. They insulted my mother, my father, my sister, my brother. All of them. They called me a son of a bitch, my sister a whore. They play with your mind; they try to deeply demoralize you.”
When the van arrived to the forest, the men were allowed to put on a t-shirt and their boxers and were then forced into the vehicle with which they were driven back to the Bosnian border near Velika Kladusa. The drive took about an hour, and accordingly the men arrived at the border at about 4:00 or 5:00 am.
At the pushback site, they were forced to leave the van again, one at a time. Upon exiting the van, they encountered about 12 policemen that were covering their faces with black ski-masks. The respondent described that once again the men had to strip completely naked and then lie down to the ground. They then were struck from several police officers at the same time. The respondent claims that they were not only using their fists and batons, but also massive branches, which they took out of the forest and which were up to two meters long.
“It was a massacre.”
The respondent estimated that each man was beaten for about 15 minutes. After the beating was over, their bodies were taken and carried to the side. There, the officers piled the naked men on top of each other.
“Never in my life will I be able to forget this. This humiliation, how they piled us up like dead animals”
After all the men were struck, they were then forced to line up in a file and cross the border, back to Bosnia together. As they walked away one police officer fired several shots in their direction.
The indicated location refers to the initial apprehension, not to the pushback.