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Annual Torture Report 2020

Date 4 May, 2021
Category Special Report
Torture and pushbacks – an in depth analysis of practices in Greece and Croatia, and states participating in violent chain-pushbacks

This special report analyses data from 286 first hand testimonies of violent pushbacks carried out by authorities in the Balkans, looking at the way practices of torture have become an established part of contemporary border policing. The report examines six typologies of violence and torture that have been identified during pushbacks from Croatia and Greece, and also during chain-pushbacks initiated by North Macedonia, Slovenia and Italy. Across the report, 30 victim testimonies of torture and inhuman treatment are presented which is further supplemented by a comprehensive legal analysis and overview of the States response to these allegations.

As a network comprised of grassroots organisations active in Greece and the Western Balkans, the testimonies and information analysed in this report were gathered via a joint-effort between Are You Syrious, Mobile Info Team, No Name Kitchen, Rigardu, Josoor, IPSIA, Disinfaux Collective, InfoKolpa, Centre for Peace Studies, Re:ports Sarajevo, Mare Liberum, Collective Aid and Fresh Response.

The violations profiled include:

  • Excessive and disproportionate force
  • Electric discharge weapons
  • Forced undressing
  • Threats or violence with a firearm
  • Inhuman treatment inside a police vehicle
  • Inhuman treatment inside a detention facility

Key Findings from Croatia: 
  • In 2020, BVMN collected 124 pushback testimonies from Croatia, exposing the treatment of 1827 people
  • 87% of pushbacks carried out by Croatia authorities contained one or more forms of violence and abuse that we assert amounts to torture or inhuman treatment
  • Violent attacks by police officers against people-on-the-move lasting up to six hours
  • Unmuzzled police dogs being encouraged by officers to attack people who have been detained.
  • Food being rubbed into the open wounds of pushback victims  
  • Forcing people naked, setting fire to their clothes and then pushing them back across borders in a complete state of undress 

In 2020, BVMN collected 124 pushback testimonies from Croatia, highlighting the treatment of 1827 people.


Key Findings from Greece: 
  • 89% of pushbacks carried out by Greek authorities contained one or more forms of violence and abuse that we assert amounts to torture or inhuman treatment
  • 52% of pushback groups subjected to torture or inhuman treatment by Greek authorities contained children and minors
  • Groups of up to 80 men, women and children all being forcibly stripped naked and detained within one room
  • People being detained and transported in freezer trucks
  • Brutal attacks by groups of Greek officers including incidents where they pin down and cut open the hands of people on the move or tied them to the bars of their detention cells and beat them. 
  • Multiple cases where Greek officers beat and then threw people into the Evros with many incidents leading to people going missing, presumingly having drowned and died.

In 2020, BVMN collected 86 pushback testimonies from Greece, exposing the treatment of over 4583 people.

Reporting in the media

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