CMS Files Criminal Complaint Against Police Over Degrading Treatment of Refugees

By 5 June 2020

ZAGREB, June 5, 2020 - The Centre for Peace Studies (CMS) on Friday filed a criminal complaint against unidentified police officers on the suspicion of degrading treatment and torture of 33 people, including two children, and their violent and unlawful expulsion from Croatia.

All the victims suffered torture and degrading treatment at the hands of the police, and according to their testimonies, police even marked them by spraying the top of their heads with orange paint.

"The lives of women, men, children, and families are threatened in this country on a daily basis. Refugees, by coming here to seek protection, as a rule, expose themselves to even greater risk. This risk is posed by the practice of police officers who illegally and violently expel people who are fleeing persecution," Antonia Pindulic, a lawyer for the CMS, warned at a press conference.

"In doing so, police use batons and guns, strip them naked in the middle of woods, taking away even their shoes, and this has been going on for nearly four years now," Pindulic said, adding that a new degrading practice was added in May as the police started marking refugees and other migrants.

"She said that in addition to the criminal complaint the CMS was ready to take other legal steps to protect the lives and dignity of those people.

The criminal complaint provides a detailed description of injuries inflicted, photographs and testimonies, and names many of the victims and witnesses.

The CMS demands that the State Attorney's Office (DORH) investigates the cases and punishes the perpetrators. It also wants the new leadership of the DORH to recognize the gravity of the alleged crimes and act in accordance with the law, thus breaking the practice of the previous leadership. 

"The police and the victims agree on one point, that there are no police records of these cases, which is not surprising because these are deliberate violations of rights and police officers are suspected of committing a series of crimes," Pindulic said.

After the tens of thousands of cases documented by video recordings, photographs, and testimonies, including testimonies by police officers themselves, the lawyer believes that such cases are not an exception but a rule.

"It is clear that this is a political decision and systematic violence and it must be brought to an end," Pindulic said, adding that she expected the police to abide by the law and the DORH to investigate the allegations of serious violations of the law.