ZAGREB, Oct 21, 2020 – The Croatian Interior Ministry on Wednesday dismissed new allegations of violence against migrants after The Guardian, citing the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), said that Croatian police beat and robbed migrants and mentioned a case of sexual abuse.
Alongside photos and medical reports, the newspaper carried DRC claims about numerous instances of brutality on the Bosnian-Croatian border on October 12-16.
“The testimonies collected from victims of pushbacks are horrifying,” said Charlotte Slente, DRC secretary-general. “More than 75 persons in one week have all independently reported inhumane treatment, savage beatings and even sexual abuse.”
The ministry said this was not the first time The Guardian and the journalist in question wrote about the alleged conduct of the Croatian police, “accusing them of various types of inhumane treatment of persons who illegally crossed the border, without providing any facts or evidence, or even basic verifiable information.”
On the other hand, the ministry said, they never wrote about even one case in which Croatian police saved lives, including women and children, on inaccessible terrain in harsh winter.
The ministry said that following the latest accusations, it launched an investigation into them as its interest and goal was to remove any doubt about the conduct of Croatian police and to punish and remove possible irregularities.
Pushbacks near Siljkovaca tented settlement
According to migrants’ accounts, The Guardian said, the pushbacks occurred in Croatian territory over the border from Velika Kladusa in Bosnia, close to Siljkovaca, “a tented forest settlement of around 700 refugees and migrants.”
“All of the persons interviewed by DRC bore visible injuries from beatings (bruises and cuts), as a result of alleged Croatian police violence,” reads the DRC report.
According to The Guardian, “On 12 October, five Afghans, including two minors, crossed the Croatian border near the Sturlic settlement. On the same day, near Novo Selo, a uniformed police officer stopped them and then called two more officers. One of the migrants ran, and the other four were detained at a police station. Two days later they were taken to court, where they say they were to ‘appear as witnesses in the case launched against the fifth member of the group – the one who escaped’, who had been accused of violent behavior towards police.”
“The asylum seekers told the DRC that the original officers then took them ‘to some unknown location, where they were put in a van in the charge of 10 armed people,” The Guardian said. “Their money was taken, their belongings torched and they were ordered to strip to their underwear. The migrants allege that they were forced to lie face down on the ground.”
“One man in black was standing on the victim’s hands, preventing any movements,” reads the report, adding that they “were punched, kicked, whipped and beaten” and that medical reports “confirm that migrants’ injuries are consistent with the use of a whip.”
One migrant says that he was sexually assaulted by a man using a branch, The Guardian said, adding that the DRC shared its report with the European Commission, which has yet to investigate.