A transit group of five Algerian men travelled from Velika Kladuša (BiH) into Croatia, with the intention of reaching Zagreb (HR). At approximately 18:00 on 27th September 2019, the group were apprehended in the town of Grabovac (HR) by ten Croatian Interventna police officers.
The men were stopped by police as they were walking through the urban area of Grabovac. Eight Croatian Interventna police officers were stood outside of a marked police vehicle and two were waiting inside the van. The authorities were dressed in black shirts with the Croatian flag stitched to the uniform, and wearing black trousers.
The respondent asked for asylum and in response an officer asked to see his documents. The respondent displayed his Bosnian issued documents, but the officer responded, “This is Croatia” and punched the respondent in the right eye, breaking his glasses.The respondent expressed his request for protection again, stating: “I need asylum”. But the officer responded:
“Come back to Bosnia. There is no asylum for you.”
The group were told to board the rear part of the police van, meanwhile they were hit with batons by the officers as they entered the vehicle. The group recalls the van as a white vehicle without windows. The men sat on either side of the van on benches without seat belts. Inside the rear there was a sunroof which was closed.
Respondents were unsure of the amount of time they spent in the van because they vomited several times and began to feel dizzy and weak because of the heat and the winding journey. The temperature inside the van was exceptionally hot and there was no light inside the vehicle. The driver was reported to have maneuvered the vehicle with additional turns and at a very high speed. The respondent banged his hands on the partition of the van (seperating compartment and cabin). He shouted to the driver, “stop, please stop!”
When the vehicle finally stopped and the respondents were allowed to exit, there were eight Croatian Interventna police standing in two lines outside of the exiting doors of the van. The authorities were wearing the same black uniforms, but this time equiped with black ski masks and headlamps. The respondent reported the authorities were also wearing what appeared to be boxing gloves. As the men were told to exit the vehicle, the authorities used batons about half a meter long to beat the individuals as they exited. Officers used their fists and gloves to punch individuals on the face, shoulders, and backs one by one and then demanded the next person exit the van in order to receive the same treatment.
Once outside of the van the authorities took personal belongings from the individuals. First they cut the straps of all five backpacks, then emptied the objects out of each backpack. The respondents were permitted to keep perishable food, but all food containers were confiscated. One Eurocream (chocolate spread) container was confiscated and burned because, according to the respondent, the officers suspected that the men were hiding valuable items inside food containers. Officers confiscated four phones, four power banks, five pairs of shoes, five pairs of trousers, five shirts, four sleeping bags, and seven jackets. The confiscated items were burned in a fire, except for one phone and a total of 150 euros, which were taken and put in one officer’s pockets.
After the individuals were left with only their boxers and the remnants of their bags, they were lined up horizontally along the river and told to look down. The respondent states he was shivering.
“As I was shaking a police officer threw water from a bottle on me and said ‘I help you, I help you!’ I was so cold and I told him “my heart, my heart please stop”
The individuals were then told to lay face down on the ground and authorities proceeded to stomp on their backs and use their feet to kick their torso and ribs. The respondents were told to keep their heads down or they would be beaten for looking up. Then one officer commanded, “When I say ‘go’, you go.” The same officer yelled,”Go!” and as the individuals attempted to stand up they were beaten with batons again. The only direction to run was into the river. The ones who did not run immediately were beaten harder on their backs with the batons. The respondent reports that the baton being used on him by the closest officer broke in half because of the force used to wield it against his back.
After crossing the river and out of Croatian territory, the respondent walked in the dark and in only boxers, heading through the forest from Šturlić to Velika Kladuša (BiH) with no shoes.