The Croatian police rubbed ketchup and mayonnaise into heads wounds of a transit group which they had caused with a rifle butt. The officers beat and traumatised the group for several hours, before driving them to the border and pushing them back to Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The transit group left Bosnia-Herzegovina and walked into Croatia. The group consisted of five Pakistani men. Another 11 or 12 people were transiting close by, but this sub-group chose to walk ahead. The group was travelling close to road number 42, besides the rail track in Croatia. The Croatian police apprehended them on 26th May 2020 at about 23:00.
The respondent said that the police began beating them indiscriminately. The other transit group further behind fled and hid. Because of the darkness and aggression of the assault, the respondent does not recall all the weapons used by the police, but states for certain that they had guns.
“They even fired shots close to our ears for the purpose of intimidating us they did this in spite of our reassurances that we won’t run away. Why would we run away? Once we’d been caught they beat us in such a way that I can’t even… they didn’t ask us anything, just started the beating.”
The officers were wearing black uniforms and balaclavas. The respondent alluded to the Islamic headdress known as a “niqab” to illustrate that they could only see a slit for the officers eyes. He stated that only one officer wasn’t wearing a mask. The police attacked the whole group members:
“There were five of them four of them beaten us each one of us was being beaten by two of them, when one of us passed out (fainted is the word they used) they would start on the other. They beat us like they had the full right to beat us, I don’t know what to say to you, to describe the kind of injustice they dealt us with. I told the highest ranking one that my bones were broken that they had broken my leg that I couldn’t stand, he said not worry as they would proceed to break my other body parts such as chest, feet, head and arms. they kept on beating me”.
From the point of apprehension at 23:00 on 26th May 2020, the respondent says that they were held by the police for six hours (during which most of the time officers were beating at least one of the five transit group members). He states that the officers took turns, and had drinks breaks when they were tired.
“I don’t know if they were drinking water or if they were drinking alcohol and then they would come back and continue beating us.”
Describing the physical cost of this sustained assault, the respondent said that at least two of the men had broken or fractured arms.
“Towards the end I had almost lost consciousness due to pain in my chest which was a result of wounds all over my body including the chest. I had a broken leg and arms. My ears were bleeding.”
One of the biggest injuries came from multiple strikes to the head of the respondent with a rifle butt:
“They struck on my head many times using the pistol butt and in spite of bleeding from my head which had three or four open wounds they continued hitting me even when they saw the blood. I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through.”
The officers then laughed and mocked the man by staunching the wounds with food and condiments found in the mans rucksack:
“We try the border crossing for a better future. We weren’t trying to steal anything we weren’t taking anything with us that could bring harm to anyone we didn’t even have a knife which we could have needed to cut something to eat. We had mayonnaise and ketchup in our bags which they rubbed on our wounds. My head was bleeding and they rubbed it with ketchup and then mayonnaise and I had a bar of chocolate that they also rubbed into my head which had wounds I think they were trying to stop the bleeding by putting things on top of it. I had three or four cuts from being hit by the butt of a pistol on my head.”
The respondent continued to be in sever pain from what he believed to be a break in his arm.
“I don’t speak a lot of English but the little bit of English I did speak I use to try and convince them to listen, but he kept saying I want to beat you I want to kill you. He was getting happy like when you cut a birthday cake and you say happy birthday, little children say happy birthday just like that. My head was bleeding in several places and it showed him my hand is full of blood and he said happy birthday to you, no problem I just thought that they were beating me to kill me they tortured us for 3 to 4 hours”
The respondent said that after the torture, the officers loaded the five injured men into a police vehicle. As they did this, they continued to hit the men with sticks. They were driven for a short time and then the vehicle halted. Each person was beckoned out individually by the Croatian police who were again holding sticks. The officers continued to beat them despite their already severe state of injury.
“At this stage blood was dripping from three or four wounds on my head and when my friends were trying to lift me up to carry me with them they were hit by these policemen”
Commenting on the episode the respondent states:
“I had heard about the atrocities committed by the Croatian security officials but now I have personally experienced their highhandedness and brutal actions. If we had not obeyed them or tried to run away from them then they would have been justified in punishing us. But here we were that in spite of surrendering ourselves on their first command to stop we were meted out the severest torture.”
On return the group were helped by a local Bosnian man who: “witnessing our precarious condition took upon himself to help us by calling an ambulance and took us to his home where we took some rest and were fed.”
The respondent found out the next morning (28th) that the other transit group of 11 men had also been pushed back.
“The rest of the other group (approximately 11 people who had originally evaded the police) hid themselves during the night and I was told that on the subsequent morning they went to a village in Croatia and the villagers called the police and they surrendered themselves to the police who were wearing blue colour uniform.”
Citing his difficult recovery, he said:
“I came back to the camp only yesterday from the hospital where my chest and body wounds were examined and a report handed over to me but they didn’t give me any x-ray. I asked for these but they promised to release them to me in future. They prescribed some medicines, the procurement and availability of which have been promised to me in due course.They have diagnosed two fractures on my leg and one on my arm. They put plaster on my arm. I was administered injections for pain. They put stitches on my wounds in my head. In addition I have a cracked jaw which hurts while eating and a cracked rib which hurts when I breathe.They issued me a medical report to that effect.”