A group of migrants attempting to cross into Croatia gather near the Maljevac border crossing, Bosnia and Herzegovina | Photo: EPA/FEHIM DEMIR
A group of migrants attempting to cross into Croatia gather near the Maljevac border crossing, Bosnia and Herzegovina | Photo: EPA/FEHIM DEMIR

A Croatian NGO working with migrants has filed a complaint against police who it claims used excessive force and violence against migrants, illegally pushing them back at the border with Bosnia.

A human rights organization in Croatia on Wednesday filed a complaint against several Croatian police officers, whose identities are unknown. The organization claims that they are guilty of using excessive force, violence and other illegal behavior against migrants and refugees that were pushed back at the border with Bosnia. 

The complaint by the Center for Peace Studies (CMS), a Zagreb-based NGO, is based on footage published in recent days by Border Violence Monitoring (BVM), an international organization that collects evidence of abuse and illegal push-backs against migrants on the Balkan route. 

Video and witness statements 

BVM received the footage from an anonymous source in November. The organization said that it had verified that the videos were credible. They also argued that the footage was in line with hundreds of witness statements from migrants collected over the past year, according to which Croatian police systematically push back migrants towards Bosnia. 

The footage was reportedly filmed in September and allegedly shows a group of migrants lined up and Croatian police forcing them to return to Bosnia, without giving them the possibility to ask for asylum or international humanitarian protection. BVM said that this was against international law, because the incidents occurred in the so-called "green zone," in the forest between the two countries, not at border crossings, and without the presence of Bosnian border guards. 

The footage also shows some incidents of Croatian police kicking, threatening and insulting migrants. 

Collective forced push-backs 

The Center for Peace Studies said that, for the first time, the footage offers undeniable proof corroborating the many complaints against Croatian police presented in recent months by international organizations including the Council of Europe, UNHCR, and Human Rights Watch. "The footage shows collective forced push-backs and the use of unjustified violence," CMS said. 

The NGO has asked for an investigation by the judiciary as well as the resignation of the interior minister and some high-ranking members of Croatian police. 

Croatian Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said that he had not seen any video in which Croatian police made use of violence and that there was no substantial evidence that showed illegal conduct by the police. Croatia has always rejected accusations that its police engage in illegal behavior against migrants. 
 

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