Croatian President Confirms Push-Backs in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The president of the Republic of Croatia has confirmed that Croatian police are conducting push-backs from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

During her visit to Switzerland, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović confirmed in a statement to Swiss television station SFR that Croatian police conduct push-backs and use force at the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. She said the information came from the Ministry of Interior, the police director and officers in the field.

The Centre for Peace Studies (CMS) requested an explanation of the statement from the Ministry of Interior and an explanation of the type of force that was used and the specific situations in which it was applied during the push-backs. The ministry still has not replied to CMS's request, even though a week has passed from the time the report was published on Swiss television.

After Kitarović confirmed the push-backs at the Croatian border, Human Rights Watch responded with an open letter to the Croatian president. Human Rights Watch Director for Europe and East Asia Hugh Williamson wrote a letter asking for an adequate investigation to be carried out and for necessary steps to be taken to stop illegal push-backs on Croatia's borders.

Systematic human rights violations go unanswered

Furthermore, in his letter, Williamson addressed the allegations of State Secretary for European and International Affairs Theresa Gras, who has, on several occasions, stated that Croatian police acted in accordance with the law and that there is no evidence of violence or push-backs, and that the reports about them are founded on lies. According to HRW, the state secretary accused Croatian activists of disguising themselves as policemen and intentionally causing injuries to refugees, and subsequently accusing Croatian police of causing the injuries.

A number of non-governmental organizations have written about the practice of violent push-backs, among others, Centre for Peace Studies, Are You Syrious, No Name Kitchen, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. However, the Interior Ministry is systematically ignoring the warnings and reports and repeatedly rejects them by stating that there is no concrete evidence of enforced push-backs. It is instructive that the ministry currently does not respond to inquiries from the Centre for Peace Studies despite the fact that the president of the Republic of Croatia has confirmed that police officers conduct illegal acts and systematic violations of human rights.