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"The policeman put the torch on our eyes, we couldn't see anything, we couldn't see where we were going"

Date & Time 2020-08-18
Location Stari Laz, Croatia - Korana River, Croatia (Sturlić border)
Reported by Border Violence Monitoring Network
Coordinates 45.02134426, 15.76404248
Pushback from Croatia
Pushback to Bosnia
Taken to a police station yes
Minors involved yes
WLTI* involved no
Men involved yes
Age 16 - 27
Group size 8
Countries of origin Afghanistan, Pakistan, Morocco
Treatment at police station or other place of detention no translator present, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 10
Violence used beating (with batons/hands/other), kicking, pushing people to the ground, insulting, destruction of personal belongings, reckless driving
Police involved 3 Croatian police officers (wearing blue t-shirts), 7 Croatian officers wearing black balaclava masks (possibly special forces), 2 police vans and one car

On August 18th, at around 11:00 pm, a group of eight men (six from Afghanistan, one from Morocco and one from Pakistan) were pushed back from Croatia to Bosnia by Croatian officers.

The respondent of this report claimed that he was with a group of five friends when, around 6:00 pm in a forest in Stari Laz (50 kilometres from the city of Rijeka), three Croatian officers (wearing blue t-shirts and black trousers) approached, stopped them and took them to the police station in Rijeka. The respondent states that there were two other people on the move at the police station (one from Morocco and the other one from Pakistan), who had also been apprehended by Croatian police officers shortly before.

After spending about two hours at the police station, where neither food or water was provided to them, the eight people on the move were transferred into a van by seven police authorities (wearing black balaclava masks and dark uniforms) and moved a few kilometres before Bosnian border, next to Korana river (near the area of Sturlić). The respondent states that, during the two-hour journey from the police station to the border, the officers were driving fast, braking suddenly several times and that they could not breathe inside the van.

Once they arrived to the Bosnian border, the police authorities (wearing black balaclava masks consistent with those often worn by the Ministry of the Interior Intervention and Special Police Units) ordered them to get out of the van and sit down on the ground. People on the move were checked one by one by the officers and deprived of all their personal belongings, including shoes, socks and jackets. After that, one of the officers shouted “Go to Bosnia!”, making them pass one by one and beating them with batons, kicks and forcing them too jump into the river.

The respondent claimed that he was the last of the line and was beaten first by a single agent and then by the others: “After him, I thought they had finished beating me”. The respondent started walking towards Bosnia when, ten metres later, he was beaten again by another agent: “he beat me again, with too much power and I fell down”. The respondent could not longer move his arm, he tried to get up but was forced by the Croatian authorities to jump into the river. He stated that the water was so high that he could not touch the ground. He grabbed the branch of a tree inside the river and he spent more that ten hours in the water, waiting for his friends to return back and help him.

The respondent says that after few hours, at first light in the morning, Croatian police officers returned to the site and, seeing him still in the river, shouted “go to Bosnia, we don’t want you here!”.

Another man that was in the group claimed that he went to the village of Sturlić to ask for help, but that he was taken away by residents. Then he found a rope and he went back along the river to pulled the respondent out of the water. The respondent has several fractures in his right arm and has to wear a plaster for three weeks.