EXTERNAL AI Index: EUR 64/02/96
6 February 1996
Further information (1) on EXTRA 147/95 (EUR 64/13/95, 24 November 1995) -
Fear of refoulement / Ill-treatment
CROATIAMuslim refugees in Kuplensko
Amnesty International continues to be concerned about the refoulement of
refugees and the reported ill-treatment by police of some of the Muslim refugees
from Bosnia-Herzegovina who are in a collection centre around Kuplensko, south
of Vojni_ in Croatia.
On 1 February 1995, Croatian police arrested 69 Muslim refugees in the Kuplensko
camp in a crackdown for alleged tax irregularities in the ad hoc businesses
such as vendors, hairdressers, and a telephone centre which have established
themselves in the camp. One man was reportedly handcuffed to a post and beaten
by a special police officer during the operation because weapons were allegedly
found in his possession. International organizations, including the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), were initially excluded from
the camp during the operation although Croatian television was allowed to film.
The police reportedly claimed that the justification for the arrests was the
failure of these businesses to pay tax to which they should have been liable.
Humanitarian organizations involved with the camp have pointed out that the
ad hoc businesses contributed to improving the primitive conditions in the
camp, which may have been the real reason why they were targeted.
Twenty men were reportedly released later the same day and returned to the
camp in Kuplensko while 46 others were forcibly returned to Velika Kladuša
in Bosnia-Herzegovina on 2 February 1995. Two people remain in detention.
Amnesty International opposes the refoulement of refugees to areas where they
are at risk of human rights violations. The organization is particularly
concerned about reports of the ill-treatment or harassment of Kuplensko refugees
returned to the Velika Kladuša area of Bosnia-Herzegovina (see EXTRA 11/96,
EUR 63/05/96, 30 January 1995).
Responses from the Croatian Ministry of the Interior to Amnesty International
members' earlier appeals have failed to answer the organization's concerns
about past reports of refoulement or ill-treatment.
A program of voluntary return of the refugees under UNHCR began several months
ago, and approximately 8,000 refugees remain in the Kuplensko camp. Conditions
in the refugee camp are extremely primitive, with many refugees accommodated
in tents despite winter weather. The humanitarian organization Médecins Sans
Frontières (MSF) has protested that Croatian authorities are applying
continuous but varied pressure to persuade refugees to return to
Bosnia-Herzegovina, including tight security controls, restrictions on
visitors, and a ban on the import of consumer goods into the camp. MSF also
noted that the government has placed restrictions on the types of humanitarian
aid allowed and has prevented materials for protecting the refugees from winter
conditions from being brought into the camp. Such obstacles have apparently
been used to discourage refugees from remaining in Croatia, despite the fact
that conditions may be unsafe for them in Velika Kladuša.