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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.

06.07.2022

Rohingya child challenges Croatia and Slovenia over violent pushbacks

Unaccompanied minor files complaints at UN Child Rights Committee

Child refugee U.F. faced repeated beatings by Croatian border officers, had his belongings burnt and his shoes confiscated before numerous forced expulsions, including a “chain” pushback from Slovenia. He has now submitted complaints against Croatia and Slovenia at the UN Child Rights Committee for multiple violations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, with the support of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Blindspots. These are the first complaints of their kind against these two states.  

U.F. was 8 years old when he fled a military attack on his village and became separated from his family. After many years searching for protection, he spent over a year in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) from 2020 to 2021 having to survive without state support or medical care, sleeping rough in forests and squatting in abandoned buildings. During this time, he was pushed back five times from Croatia to BiH and subjected to consistent, choreographed violence. In Slovenia he was subjected to a “chain” pushback, by which he was forcibly returned first to Croatia by Slovenian authorities and then onwards by Croatian authorities to BiH in a coordinated operation.

“The way the officers treated us made me feel like they thought we were made of dirt,” says U.F., recalling Croatian officers’ cruelty. In his complaint he argues that Croatia violated the prohibition on torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment against children in multiple ways.

National, EU, and international law oblige Croatia and Slovenia to act in a child’s best interests and prioritize the identification of their age during their handling by border officers. Instead, Slovenia and Croatia disregarded the applicant’s age - either recording it incorrectly or not bothering to ask for it. At no point was he able to apply for asylum.

“Croatia and Slovenia must be held accountable for intentionally refusing children their basic human rights within an organized system of often violent, covert pushbacks. Routine justifications and denials do not stand up to the overwhelming evidence of their unlawful tactics to deny access to protection,” says Delphine Rodrik, legal advisor at ECCHR.

U.F. has corroborated his accounts with a range of digital evidence. It reveals a clear pattern of pushbacks from Croatia and confirms a designed and systematic state policy, which has also been fully documented by human rights institutions and the media.

Slovenia’s pushbacks have been implemented since 2018 through a readmission agreement which authorizes hasty expulsions with complete disregard for a person’s protection needs, a child’s identity or their best interests. In 2020 and 2021 alone, 13.700 people were pushed back from Slovenia in this manner. 

The applicant is represented by ECCHR partner lawyer, Carsten Gericke. These complaints are the latest in a series of legal steps to address systematic human rights violation at the EU’s external borders.

The litigation forms part of the Advancing Child Rights Strategic Litigation project (ACRiSL), a global research collaboration that focuses on the advancement of child rights strategic litigation. ACRiSL comes under the auspices of the Global Campus of Human Rights – Right Livelihood cooperation.

cases

Croatia/Slovenia

Rohingya child challenges Croatia and Slovenia over violent pushbacks

Pushbacks

A Rohingya child refugee faced repeated beatings by Croatian border officers, had his belongings burnt and his shoes confiscated before numerous forced expulsions, including a “chain” pushback from Slovenia.

Press Contact

Maria Bause
T: +49 30 69819797
M: presse@ecchr.eu

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