To counter injustice with legal interventions – this is the aim and daily work of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.
ECCHR is an independent, non-profit legal and educational organization dedicated to enforcing civil and human rights worldwide. It was founded in 2007 by Wolfgang Kaleck and other international human rights lawyers to protect and enforce the rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other human rights declarations and national constitutions, through legal means.
Together with those affected and partners worldwide, ECCHR uses legal means to end impunity for those responsible for torture, war crimes, sexual and gender-based violence, corporate exploitation and fortressed borders.
Syrian refugees pushed back at European borders
For the first time, the Croatian government must answer in court for its practice of pushing back refugees and migrants to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). On 25 May, the European Court of Human Rights published a communication on the individual complaints brought by three Syrian refugees. The applicants – one of whom was an unaccompanied minor at the time – were denied an individual assessment of their case as they were summarily and collectively expelled from Croatia to BiH in October 2018.
ECCHR has been working with the applicants and their communities since 2018. The individual complaints against Croatia before the ECtHR follow a series of similar legal actions by ECCHR against push-backs at European borders.
The applicants are represented by ECCHR partner lawyer Carsten Gericke, and supported by the German organization Pro Asyl. Gericke welcomed the court’s decision, saying, “Croatia’s EU presidency is overshadowed by its practice of illegal push-backs in flagrant violation of fundamental human rights and refugee laws.”
The push-backs of SB, AA and AB* are not isolated incidents, but standard practice for Croatian border officials. As first addressed by the Council of Europe’s Commissioner of Human Rights, Croatia has used weapons and excessive violence to collectively and summarily push back migrants and refugees to BiH since early 2018; until now, with complete impunity.
“Despite wide-ranging reports on this practice, Croatia continues to deny all allegations of unlawfulness, and has the EU’s tacit support,” said Gericke.
The three applicants assert that their collective expulsions from Croatia to BiH breach European Convention on Human Rights Article 4 Protocol 4 (prohibition of collective expulsions) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy). Furthermore, given asylum-seekers’ inhumane living conditions and the dysfunctional asylum system in BiH, the applicants claim that their push-backs also violate Article 3 (inhuman or degrading treatment) of the convention.
*Full names withheld for the applicants’ protection.
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