Croatia: Shocking evidence of police torture of immigrants

In a terrifying escalation of human rights abuses by police on the Croatian border with Bosnia, a group of migrants and asylum seekers have recently been tied up and tortured by officers who laughed at injuries and smeared food on their bleeding heads to humiliate them, Amnesty International UK disclosed today.  In a new investigation, Amnesty spoke to six men in a group of 16 Pakistani and Afghan detained by Croatian police on the night of May 26-27 near Lake Plitvice. Eight to ten people in black uniforms and balaclavas identical to those used by the Croatian special police fired their weapons into the air, then kicked and hit restrained men with metal sticks, batons and pistol grips. Then they rubbed ketchup, mayonnaise and sugar belonging to one of them into the bleeding heads and hair of migrants. Amnesty also spoke to doctors who treated men and NGOs who witnessed their injuries

Ten men were seriously injured as a result of a prolonged attack. 30-year-old Tariq now has both arms and leg in a cast (he must now use a wheelchair), visible wounds and bruises on the head and face, and suffers from severe chest pain. Said Amnesty: “They didn’t give us a chance to say anything when they caught us. They just started beating us. When I was lying on the ground, they hit me in the back with a pistol and I started to bleed. I tried to protect my head from blows, but they started kicking me and hitting me with metal clubs. I passed the rest of the night and lost consciousness. Pakistani Amir had a broken arm and nose, staples on the back of the head, and visible bruising all over his face and shoulders. He told Amnesty:

“We begged them to stop and show pity. We were already bound, unable to move and humiliated; there was no reason to beat and torture us. They took pictures of us with phones, sang and laughed. ” Amnesty shared the details of this incident with the Croatian Ministry of theInterior, but did not receive an official response. Massimo Moratti, deputy director of Amnesty International’s European office, said: “The European Union can no longer remain silent and deliberately ignores the violence and abuse of the Croatian police at its external borders. Their silence allows and even encourages the perpetrators of this abuse to continue without consequences.

“We only expect the condemnation of these acts and independent investigation of reported abuses, as well as the establishment of an effective mechanism to ensure that EU funds are not used for torture and illegal returns. “In the absence of urgent action, inhumane migration practices of Croatia will turn the EU into a partner in the event of serious human rights violations that are just around the threshold.”

The men told Amnesty how they felt humiliated as the attackers rubbed their mayonnaise and ketchup on their bloody heads and faces. One masked man poured mayonnaise on one of the men’s pants between his legs, while others laughed and sang “Happy Birthday” around them.
After almost five hours of bullying, migrants were handed over to the Croatian border police, who transported them to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina in two vans and ordered them to walk. Some men eventually reached Miral, the admission center run by the International Organization for Migration in Velika Kladusa in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Five who were too weak to walk were left behind and eventually received the help of an NGO. An ambulance doctor at a medical clinic in Velik Kladusa, who was treating men, told Amnesty that everyone had head wounds that were consistent with blunt object blows. Their head wounds required suturing, and most men had multiple fractures, joint injuries, sunken lungs, cuts and bruises, and several were severely traumatic. It may take months to recover.

Attacks pattern
The shocking incident points to a new level of brutality and abuse by the Croatian police. In early May, the Guardian reported that a group of men had been forced to cross the Croatian border after beating them and painting them with orange crosses on their heads. The Croatian Ministry of the Interior rejected these reports. Numerous reports from the last three years indicate that Croatian border police routinely attacks men, women and teenagers in an attempt to get into the country, destroying their belongings before driving them to Bosnia. Sometimes people were undressed from clothes and shoes and forced to walk for an hour through snow and frosty rivers. A doctor at the Velik Kladus clinic told Amnesty that about 60% of migrants and asylum seekers who needed treatment reported that their injuries had been caused by the Croatian police while attempting to cross the border.

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