M.H. and Others v. Croatia involves the tragic death of six-year-old Madina Hussiny during the return of a family of 14 Afghan individuals from Croatia to Serbia. The case highlights the issue of institutionalized pushbacks at the EU’s external borders, lacking legislative basis. The applicants initially crossed into Croatia, were returned to Serbia, then re-entered Croatia seeking international protection. Despite legal proceedings at the domestic level, including scrutiny by the Croatian Constitutional Court, violations of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) were found.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled on several aspects including compliance with the procedural right to life (Article 2), reception conditions (Article 3), and right to liberty (Article 5). Violations were found across the board, particularly regarding the procedural limb of Article 2 and the prohibition of collective expulsion (Article 4 Protocol 4).
On the prohibition of collective expulsion, the Court clarified the burden of proof, shifting to the respondent state if there is evidence of collective expulsion and culpable conduct by the applicants. In this case, the lack of evidence refuting the applicants’ claims, along with reports of pushbacks, indicated a violation of Article 4 Protocol 4.
In essence, M.H. and Others v. Croatia highlights systemic issues concerning border practices and the protection of human rights, particularly for vulnerable individuals like asylum seekers.