Croatia accused of brutality, sexual abuse against migrants

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In this undated image provided by the Danish Refugee Council, a migrant alleging he was brutalized and summarily expelled back to Bosnia by Croatian law-enforcement officers when they tried to cross into the European Union-member country, poses for photographs documenting his injuries in Velika Kladusa, Bosnia. The Danish Refugee Council's officials told The Associated Press Friday, Oct. 23, 2020 that dozens of migrants interviewed by the organization's staff in Bosnia over the past 10 days reported "horrifying" experiences with Croatian police, including "savage beatings and even sexual abuse." ( Danish Refugee Council via AP )

SARAJEVO – SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Danish aid workers stationed in the Balkans say dozens of migrants have alleged they were brutalized by Croatian law-enforcement officers when they tried to cross into the European Union nation, before being summarily expelled back to Bosnia.

Nicola Bay, the head of the Danish Refugee Council in Bosnia, told The Associated Press Friday that 149 migrants of varying nationalities, independently interviewed by his staff in the country over the past 10 days, reported being exposed to “extremely abusive” treatment by Croatian police.

The testimonies include allegations of brutal and prolonged beatings, of people being stripped naked and being forced to lie like logs stacked on top of each other, Bay said, adding: “In two cases, we have reports of severe sexual abuse.”

Bosnia, which has never truly recovered from its brutal 1992-95 war, became a bottleneck for thousands of Europe-bound migrants from the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa three years ago when other nations closed their borders and disrupted migration paths through the Balkans.

Upon entering Bosnia, most migrants walk northwest to the country’s highly porous 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) border with Croatia, one of the last gateways to northern Europe.

Bay said that testimonies collected from groups who had not been in contact with each other included the same descriptions of violence.

“The similarities between these accounts are really chilling in that they point to systematic patterns of abuse…(by) men in black uniforms and with black balaclavas” hiding their faces, he added.

Describing the testimonies as “horrifying,” the DRC’s secretary general, Charlotte Slente, urged in a written statement for immediate action "to put a stop to the systematic use of violence.”