The respondent is a 43-year-old man from Iraq who was pushed back from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina on February 9th 2022.
The respondent explained that he was initially part of a transit group consisting of three other men from Morocco, aged 17, 24 and 34. He left Velika Kladuša on February 9th at approximately 9 am on foot with his fellow transit group members but they split up a few hours after.
As the respondent felt that his leg was in critical condition after an estimated three hours of walking and also that he had less energy than the other men, he decided not to stay with the transit group. He reported that from 1 pm he continued on his own very slowly and took several breaks.
He reported that at roughly 2 pm he was approximately four kilometres from the bus station in Karlovac when five men in dark blue uniforms in a smaller car and a large van stopped and apprehended him (location of apprehension: 45.640027, 15.584321).
The respondent remembered badges on the dark blue uniforms and that the men had small firearms. The description of their uniforms corresponds to that of the uniforms worn by Croatian border police. It is probable that the vehicles are a patrol car and a prisoner transport van but this could not be verified. The respondent stated that he was first patted down and had to hand over all his personal belongings (phone, power bank and backpack). He was also asked to take off his jacket and shoes. His money, which he had previously sewn into his waistband, was not found. He was then asked where his friends were. He answered that he was now traveling alone and did not know where the other men were. The respondent added, that upon this reply, he was kicked in the thigh, knee, and lower leg.
He reported that the uniformed men were wearing steel-toed shoes. He further added that he was beaten on his shoulders, arms, and upper body with fists. One of the men reportedly used a large branch as a baton.
The respondent described being asked again and again about the location of his friends, and being beaten again after each of his answers: “Sir, I’m alone” and shouted at: “You are a liar, where are your friends?”. He emphasized that none of the blows, neither with a branch nor with fists, were aimed at his face. He reported that the men took turns.
The respondent estimated that he was asked to go into the van after about 10 minutes. There he was put in a cube-shaped box with bars “like prison”, while the other officers searched the nearby area and communicated via radios. The respondent did not understand what was being said. After what felt to the respondent like 40 minutes in total, they left the location of apprehension. The following car ride took an estimated 5 minutes according to the respondent. He stated that the van stopped again and one of the officers came into the back of the car with the branch used as a baton. He asked the respondent again where the friends were and then hit him with the branch through the bars. The respondent estimated that 20 minutes passed before the car ride continued.
The respondent stated that the following car ride felt like 10 minutes. When the van reached the pushback location, a patrol car was already on the scene. He reported that it was still daylight. According to his time information, he reached the pushback location between approximately 3.30 and 4 PM.
The respondent stated that there were about four or five men also in dark blue uniforms present at the pushback site. They opened the back doors of the van and the cage-like interior and told him to go back to Bosnia: “Go fast, go there, this is Bosnia!” pointing out a direction. The respondent was reluctant to leave the van because he was very afraid of being beaten again, he stated that he feared for his life:
“I’m scared for this, for the wood, maybe they will kill me”.
One of the men then reportedly shouted at him to return to Bosnia immediately. He jumped out of the van and ran on his socks as fast as he could in the direction indicated. He reported that while he was running he was hit again from behind with the branch. The following photo shows traces of this blow.
The respondent stated that he walked for several hours without orientation through wooded areas, looking for landmarks:
“I go, go, go, no maps, no phone, no understand, where I go”.
After what felt like 5 hours to him, he reached a village about 10 kilometers from Vrnograč. He described being very hungry and that he was shivering. He reported that he rang the bell at a house where he had seen a family through the window pane. At that point, he asked what time it was, and was informed that it was 8 pm. This family provided him with water, some food, a jacket, and shoes. They also provided him with a contact who drove him to his starting point Velika Kladuša by car for 13 Euros, which he had managed to keep hidden.
At approximately 10 pm, he returned back to Velika Kladuša.