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Croatia: further information on fear of refoulement / ill-treatment: Muslim refugees in Kuplensko

, Index number: EUR 64/002/1996

AI continues to be concerned about the refoulement of refugees and the reported ill-treatment by police of some of the Muslim refugees from Bosnia-Herzogovina who are in a collection centre around Kuplensko.

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.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
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.
2
FURTHER RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send urgent appeals in English, German,
French or in your own language:
- stating that you are aware that the Croatian authorities are still forcibly
returning Muslim refugees from the Velika Kladuša area currently in the
Kuplensko area to Bosnia-Herzegovina and that there are reports that some of
the detainees were beaten by Croatian Special Police officers;
- noting that some refugees returned to Bosnia-Herzegovina from Croatia have
recently suffered serious human rights violations including ill-treatment;
- stating that Amnesty International takes no position on whether any of those
recently arrested and/or forcibly returned may have committed criminal
offences;
- stressing that the refoulement of any individuals to countries where they
may be at risk of serious human rights abuses on the basis of alleged
misdemeanours is contrary to the spirit and intention of the 1951 Convention
Relating to the Status of Refugees, to which Croatia is a party;
- expressing fears that the authorities are preparing to put more pressure
on the refugees to return to Bosnia-Herzegovina or forcibly return individuals;
- demanding assurances that no individuals will be forcibly returned to
Bosnia-Herzegovina without an individual procedure to determine the risk of
human rights abuses which each person may face if returned;
- calling for the full cooperation of the Croatian authorities with
international agencies seeking to improve conditions for refugees around
Kuplensko so as to help to ensure that all returns are voluntary;
- calling for action to be taken to ensure that refugees are not ill-treated
by Special Police or other officers.
APPEALS TO:
Minister of Internal Affairs
Mr Ivan Jarnjak
Ministar
Ministarstvo za unutrašnje poslove Republike Hrvatske
Savska cesta 39
11000 Zagreb, CROATIA
Telegrams: Ministar za unutrašnje poslove, Zagreb, Croatia
Faxes: +385 1 443 715
Salutation: Dear Minister
Deputy-Premier - Responsible for humanitarian affairs
Dr Ivica Kostovi_
Zamjenik Predsjednika vlade Republike Hrvatske
Trg Stjepana Radi_a 7
10000 Zagreb, CROATIA
Faxes: +385 1 4550 284
Salutation: Dear Minister
Government Office for Refugees and Displaced Persons [ODPR]
Dr Adalbert Rebi_
Ured za prognanike i izbjeglice pri vladi RH
Ul. Republike Austrije 14
10000 Zagreb, CROATIA
Faxes: +385 1 172 109
Salutation: Dear Dr Rebi_
Adviser to the President on humanitarian affairs
Dr Slobodan Lang
3
Savjetnik Predsednika
Pantov_ak 241
10000 Zagreb, CROATIA
Faxes: +385 1 444 666
Salutation: Dear Dr Lang
COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of Croatia accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 6 March 1996.

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