Group of asylum seekers including minors states that they were beaten and tortured by the Croatian Police while crossing the border. Amnesty International, the International rights watchdog accuses Croatian Border Police of ‘horrifying violence’, while also accusing the European Union of complicity in such abuses.

© Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

Amnesty International has spoken to six men among a group of 16 Pakistani and Afghan asylum-seekers who were stopped by Croatian police. “Between eight and ten people wearing black uniforms and balaclavas identical to those used by Croatia’s Special Police fired their weapons in the air, kicked and repeatedly hit the restrained men with metal sticks, batons, and pistol grips. They then rubbed ketchup, mayonnaise, and sugar that they found in one of the backpacks on migrants’ bleeding heads and hair and their trousers,” Amnesty claimed in a press release. The men suffered serious injuries that night, it said. One of them was a 30-year-old named Tariq, who now has both arms and a leg in a cast. Cuts and bruises were visible on his head and face while also suffering chest pain.

The men told Amnesty International that they felt humiliated as police rubbed mayonnaise and ketchup on to their bleeding heads and faces. Amnesty has also stated that they have talked to the doctors and the organizations who have observed these situations.

© Dragan Petrovic

According to The Guardian, a British daily newspaper, the asylum seekers were robbed, beaten, and spray-painted red marks on their heads by the Croatian police. The police said this spray paint was a treatment that cures against coronavirus.

Danish Refugee Council (DRC) has taken the testimonies of the alleged victims who were tortured by the Croatian Police. DRC has also taken interviews of them. All of the refugees interviewed by the DRC reported having crosses sprayed on their heads with orange or red paint by Croatian police before being forced across the border to Bosnia-Herzegovina. “One group of 11 persons (including an unaccompanied minor) reported that police were drinking beer while ‘marking’ and beating them,” DRC stated.

In April alone, DRC teams in Bosnia-Herzegovina recorded 1,641 cases of refugees and migrants forced back to Bosnia from Croatia.  891 of these refugees reported being subjected to violence or physical assault; 1,253 reported having their belongings confiscated or destroyed; 871 people said they’d had identity documents impounded or destroyed by Croatian police; 445 people said they had been denied access to asylum procedures in Croatia, despite having explicitly requested it.

© DW/A. Kamber

Article 18 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union stipulates that “The right to asylum shall be guaranteed with due respect for the rules of the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 and the Protocol of 31 January 1967 relating to the status of refugees and in accordance with the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union”. While the 1951 Geneva Convention states in Article 3 the principle of non-discrimination “as to race, religion or country of origin.” It also prohibits in Articles 31, 32, and 33 the imposition of penalties against refugees and asylum seekers or their expulsion on grounds of national security or public order.

For more than two years, human rights groups have documented the physical abuse of migrants at the hands of Croatian police. Zagreb denies being oppressive. The details of this incident have been shared with the Croatian Ministry of Interior, but an official response is yet to be received.

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