On 17 January, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered a second judgment finding that Croatia is violating the human rights of refugees and other migrants. It brought a tiny fragment of justice to the three deceased persons and the seriously injured Abdejalil Daraibou, who were at the time in the police station and under the authority of the border police, and whose right to life Croatia violated.
Namely, in the case of Daraibou v. Croatia, the European Court of Human Rights found a substantive violation of the right to life as a result of a fire outbreak in Bajakovo Border Police Station in 2015, causing serious injuries to a young Moroccan and the death of three of his friends, as well as the failure to take measures to protect the lives of these people. Once again, the Court found that Croatia is not conducting effective investigations. Thus, this judgment also found a procedural violation of the right to life due to an ineffective investigation, that is, due to the failure of the Croatian authorities to assess the shortcomings that led to the incident, correct them and prevent similar life-threatening conduct in the future. Judges reached a unanimous decision in the proceedings in which the Moroccan national Abdeljalil Daraibou is represented by the lawyer Lidija Horvat in cooperation with the Centre for Peace Studies.
Two weeks after the announcement of the verdict, on 31 January, the Centre for Peace Studies and lawyer Lidija Horvat held a press conference where they warned that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Interior Minister Davor Božinović still did not issue any statement or reaction to this extremely important verdict against Croatia, although it refers to an extremely grave and large-scale violation of one of the most fundamental human rights: the right to life.
The treatment of young Abdejalil after that tragedy was an additional shame for the Republic of Croatia and its institutions. Namely, he managed to submit an asylum request only after the fatal fire, he did not receive adequate medical or psychological support after the injuries he suffered and after watching the terrible deaths of three of his friends, the MUP repeatedly denied his asylum request and he was placed in detention where he warned to suffer mental and physical violence from the police. Finally, two years after the accident, without explanation, the Croatian authorities declared him a threat to national security, and in 2018 they deported him to Morocco and banned him from entering Croatia for five years.
This verdict, just like the previous one in the case of little Madina Hussiny and her family, confirms what organizations and institutions have been warning about for years: investigations into crimes committed against refugees and other migrants are ineffective, which shows the systematic violation of the human rights of refugees and other migrants , and the institutions that are supposed to protect the rule of law and human rights are not doing their job.
What emerges from both verdicts is that the police, even after the deaths and injuries of people, after serious violations of their rights occurred while they were in the hands of the police themselves, did not take steps to subsequently provide these people with protection and security. On the contrary, it is evident from the above cases that the actions of the competent institutions were aimed at dissuading them from exercising their rights, putting them in situations that made it impossible for them to stay in Croatia and denying them access to the asylum system, as well as access to legal remedies to protect their rights.
The fact that the European Court established these violations in 2022 and 2023 clearly confirms that Croatia has not corrected the systemic issues that enable the systematic violation of the human rights of refugees and other migrants.
In 2022, the Danish Refugee Council recorded a total of 3,461 pushbacks from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the first month of 2023, No Name Kitchen warns of an increase in violence and pushbacks despite a significant reduction in the number of refugees in the Una-Sana Canton.
Due to the significant reduction in the number of people on the move in Zagreb, the tent that was set up in November so that people could have access to a hot meal was removed. Rijeka continues to record new arrivals. Nowhere in Croatia, however, even more than half a year after the first demands of the activists, the state and local authorities have not found a solution for temporary accommodation for both people on the move and other people who are in a state of homelessness.
KlikAktiv published a new report on the formalization of the forced expulsion of refugees using the Agreement on readmission in the case of forced expulsion on the Serbian-Romanian border. Namely, the Romanian authorities are deporting to Serbia asylum seekers who were previously deported to Romania from another EU member state on the basis of the Dublin Agreement. In this report, they presented the case of S.A. from Syria, who was deported from Austria to Romania based on the Dublin Regulation and was immediately deported from Romania to Serbia based on the Readmission Agreement. They noted the same practice in cases of returns based on the Dublin Agreement from Germany, Belgium and Slovakia, where asylum seekers also did not have effective access to asylum in Romania but were immediately deported to Serbia. However, these asylum-seekers did not have access to the asylum-seeking procedure in Serbia either but were pushed “into the hands” of smuggling networks.
Justice for refugees was won at the European Court of Human Rights against Hungary as well. On 1 June 2016, a 22-year-old Syrian man died as a result of a violent push-back carried out by Hungarian authorities. The Hungarian authorities, just like the Croatian ones, failed to conduct an effective investigation. In the case Alhowais v. Hungary, the Court ruled that the Hungarian authorities failed to do anything to protect the life of a man who was clearly in danger, failed to operate an adequate rescue system along a stretch of river that is known to be dangerous and where they knew that refugees often attempted to cross, and failed to do their best to rescue the man in distress in this particular case. The Court also found it breaching the Convention that the investigating authority did not do its job properly and failed to investigate the circumstances of the case regarding the death and the police assault. The Court also ruled that the question of whether our client and his brother had suffered inhuman or degrading treatment before his death could not be established beyond reasonable doubt precisely because the investigation carried out by the Hungarian authorities was inadequate. The victim’s brother is represented in the proceedings before the Court by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.