On the night of September 3, 2020, two men, cousins aged between seventeen and thirty-four years old – both from Morocco – were sleeping in an abandoned house in the city center of Zagreb when Croatian officers entered and subsequently detained them. These men were dressed in plainclothes, described as a plain T-shirt and pants, as opposed to the uniforms of the Croatian civil police. They drove the men to a police station about five minutes away.
After being fingerprinted, photographed, and asked to sign documents without a translation, the seventeen year old boy asked for asylum several times while detained at the station, attempting to show them his camp ID in Bosnia and proof of his age. The first few times he asked for asylum, he was merely denied further procedure, but at one point the police officer told him “ Look, if you keep asking for asylum I will fight you.” They spent the night and through the next day until the following evening in a room without light or windows. The two men asked several times to use the toilet and at first were denied, but after the third or fourth time they asked they were finally granted use. This was the only time that they could drink water, from the sink next to the toilet; they were not given food during their time at the station.
The following evening, the two men were taken in a blue and white van driven by five Croatian officers in blue uniforms to the Bosnian-Croatian border. About halfway through the drive, they picked up around eight men from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The men described how the drivers of the van would alternate between driving at a high speed, and then suddenly and forcefully hit the brakes, creating an effect of the van moving “up, down, up, down”. They also turned up the air conditioning to an abnormally high degree.
It took about three hours total to drive from Zagreb to the Bosnian-Croatian border. At 8:00 pm, they arrived at a stretch of the border near to Šturlić, next to the Korana river. Two officers, one male and one female wearing black uniforms and black masks, waited at the border and proceeded to take the group out one by one from the van, the first being the elder cousin. When they took out the seventeen-year-old primary respondent from the vehicle, they took his jacket and shoes, poured gasoline on them, and set them on fire. While they did not burn his phone, they confiscated it in a plastic bag that presumably also held telephones taken from the rest of the group. He said that the male officer then began to beat him with a baton for several minutes, and after this the female officer administered a baton with electric shocks to his hip and thigh area.
The male officer then pushed him to the river and told him to go to the other side. This respondent could not say precisely how deep the water was, but said that it was deep enough that “maybe if I did not understand swimming, I am dead”. He then swam to the other side of the river. When he did not immediately begin to run away after emerging out of the river on the other side because he was cold and wanted to rest, the officer fired three shots in the air and screamed “Go, go, go!”. He then proceeded to run away to reunite with his cousin a short distance away, and they walked back to Velika Kladuša.