Two weeks of silence from those responsible: The Government must urgently take responsibility for the deaths on our borders!


Exactly two weeks ago, on 17 January, the European Court of Human Rights confirmed in the case of Daraibou v. Croatia that Croatia had violated the right to life of young men who were detained in the premises of a border police station, that is, who were in the hands of the Croatian authorities.

Three young men died after a fire broke out while they were in police custody, and the survivor, Abdeljalil Daraibou, sustained serious injuries and barely made it out of the Bajakovo border police station alive. The court also confirmed a procedural violation of the right to life. By this judgment, the court confirmed for the second time what Centre for Peace Studies has been warning about for years: investigations into crimes committed against refugees and other migrants are ineffective, as demonstrated once again by the systemic nature of violations of the human rights of refugees and others migrants.

Two weeks have passed without any statement or reaction from Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Interior Minister Davor Božinović to this particularly 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. It has been confirmed that these lives would not have been lost if the Croatian authorities had acted in accordance with the law and respected human rights. These people would be alive today and Abdeljalil would be a healthy young man if the Croatian authorities had protected their lives and their safety.

“The Government still, even after two judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, thousands of testimonies, documents, reports, video footage and photographs, does not admit that there is a systemic problem, when this is already clear to everyone. This recognition is the first step towards taking responsibility, and taking responsibility is the first step towards systematically addressing systemic problems. When will the Government take responsibility for the deaths and established violations of the rights of refugees and other migrants?” Antonia Pindulić, a lawyer from Centre for Peace Studies, an organisation who supported bringing the case before the European Court of Human Rights, pointed out at today's press conference.


Centre for Peace Studies, as well as other organisations, institutions and the media, has been warning for years that the police use informal facilities for the detention of refugees and other migrants.
“The state is responsible for protecting people's lives and it placed these people in premises without a use permit, evacuation plan and without observing fire protection measures,” Lidija Horvat, Abdeljalil's lawyer, explained what the court's judgment stated. The judgment also found that the Croatian authorities failed to implement the provisions of domestic law guaranteeing respect for the right to life, and in particular failed to ensure the prevention of similar dangerous situations in the future.


“The Court also pointed to the systemic failure of the Republic of Croatia in this case and set a higher standard. In accordance with the Court's findings, even when state authorities had not known or could not have suspected a specific turn of events, the obligation to protect the health and well-being of persons in detention clearly encompassed the state’s obligation to protect the life of arrested and detained persons,” lawyer Lidija Horvat went on to stress the importance of this judgment.


Unfortunately, the judgment cannot bring back lost lives or health, but it can lead to changes in the system that will ensure that this never happens to anyone again, ever. When and whether these changes will happen depends on when the Government of the Republic of Croatia will take responsibility and stop turning its head away from judgments finding grave violations of human rights.

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