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Leaked emails confirm pushbacks as a standard practice at the Croatian - Bosnian border

This Sunday, emails circulated by the #Croatian#police were leaked to the public, confirming the long suspected illegal #pushbacks being an encouraged practice among the officers.

To recap, in Oct last year, a #media team comprised of the Croatian Novosti, RTL, Lighthouse Reports, SRF Rundschau, ARD Studio, ARD Monitor, Liberation, Pointer and Der Spiegel uncovered evidence of violent pushbacks along the CRO-BIH #border in a 9-month long #investigation. During that time, they used satellite imagery, social media and even disguised themselves as fishermen in order to uncover the violence against #refugees and #asylumseekers.

The investigation resulted in obtaining a #video of masked, uniformed men, actively pushing back refugees to the #Bosnian side near the village of #Šturlić. One of the men in the recording is seen hitting refugees with a baton while yelling „Go back to Bosnia.“

Lighthouse Reports later revealed that the forensic examination of the video confirmed that the men had equipment and uniforms consistent with a branch of the Croatian police called Intervention Police.

However, the Head of the #BorderAdministration, Zoran Ničeno, denied the allegations, claiming that „beatings or violent pushbacks aren't a part of the normal procedure, nor is there an order to expel refugees“. He added that it is „absolutely impossible that the police would support violent conduct towards refugees.“, reported RTL.

Contrary to Ničeno's claims, the CPT reported on numerous refugees sharing accounts of #abuse at the CRO-BIH border. While some were stripped and forced to walk to Bosnia naked, others report being beaten, shot at and even having their hands tied up behind their back before being thrown into the Korana river.

The emails revealed this Sunday seem to support the CPT's report, as well as disprove the claims that border pushbacks were an isolated incident, and not a regular procedure.

The pushback-confirming #emails belonging to the #Croatian#police were submitted to by a whistleblower on Sunday and contained the following controversial message:

"The recordings published by NGOs drew attention to the treatment of migrants. (…) In order to protect the officers, (…) the leader of the group is required to submit a shift report, detailing the pushbacks from deep-in and the officers that conducted them. If you notice migrants are physically abused unnecessarily, give a warning. The pushback needs to be dispersed in several places and the surroundings should be thoroughly searched for possible persons recording the actions or hidden cameras. (…)”

The content circulated by Zlatko Čačić, Deputy Commander of the #Bajakovo Border Police Station, dates back to October 15th and contained a set of „obligations and guidelines for police officers“ in regards to conduct towards #refugees, Index reports.

Even though said emails clearly encourage illegal #pushbacks, the Croatian Police claims that such reading of the aforementioned text represents a misunderstanding, which is a rather unconvincing argument.

Last year, the CPT concluded that „Croatia must meet its human rights obligations and treat refugees entering the country across the border in a humane and dignified manner.“ Clearly, Croatia has failed to do so. It is evident that pushbacks are acceptable as long as they are unseen. Such conduct is a clear betrayal of the #EU's founding values of human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

Everyone has a right to safety. Failure to respect that right represents not only a fundamental human rights violation, but an indirect contribution to the death toll at the borders of Fortress Europe by forcing refugees to take more dangerous routes in their attempts to seek #asylum.

Stop the pushbacks! Asylum is a human right!

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