Regional Administrative Court of Styria confirmed the practice of chain puchbacks and found the Austrian police guilty of violating the right to human dignity and the right of documentation
On 28th of September 2020 eight people were pushed back after being chased and humiliated by Austrian police. Their repeated verbal demand for asylum had been ignored, and no interpreter was involved, as our friends from the initiative „Push Back Alarm Austria“ documented, as we reported earlier on, and later pressed charges in the one case of Ayoub N.
Now, the court confirmed the methodical practice of chain pushbacks and for the first time the existence of a chain pushback route from Austria or Italy crossing Slovenia and Croatia to Bosnia, including the collaboration of the police in different countries.
The actions of the police officers who intervened were purposefully aimed at the rejection of the complainant and there is no room for any other interpretation
In synopsis of the entire official act, the court concludes that there was an obvious bias of the officers against the complainant, since the physical search was disproportionate, no food was provided, and the involvement of an interpreter was omitted despite obvious language difficulties and the use of the word “asylum”, the verdict states (asyl.at/de/info/presseaussendungen/push-back-routevonoesterreichbisbosnien/?s=pushbacks).
The joint press release of Push-Alarm Austria & Asylkoordination notes that, despite a court finding that his rights were disregarded, due to a legal loophole, the complainant Ayoub N. will not be allowed to enter the country. “I was confident that we would win the case. After returning to Bosnia, I felt like shattered glass. At the moment, I am trying to sort out my life and move forward,” he said.
“We are talking about systematic human rights violations, inhumane treatment and ignoring the principles of the rule of law by police in Austria. It is completely unimaginable that this is happening without the knowledge and against the expressed will of the Minister of the Interior and his officials. If someone questions the Geneva Refugee Convention, one of the greatest lessons of the Shoah, and at the same time does not take consistent action against systematic human rights violations by the police, the only thing left to do is to resign!”
Lawyer Clemens Lahner sees the finding as a clear warning to the Ministry of the Interior to put an end to the systematic disregard for the rule of law as soon as possible: “Not everyone who applies for asylum in Austria automatically will receive a substantive asylum procedure or be granted protection. But these questions are to be examined and decided by the competent authorities or courts,” the lawyer clarifies. “If the police presume to decide who will get an asylum procedure at all, this is clearly illegal. The Ministry of the Interior has now been put on written notice, in the name of the Republic.”
Klaudia Wieser of Push-Back Alarm Austria said. “This case shows the necessity of our initiative to prevent systematic breaches of the law at Austrian borders. Austrian push-backs frequently constitute the first step of chain push-backs beyond the EU’s external borders. Sebastian Kurz is the spiritus rector of systematic human rights violations along the push-back route to Bosnia.”
The finding from Graz also puts the Slovenian government which has just taken over the EU Presidency under considerable pressure. For the first time, it is possible to prove in a court case what human rights organisations such as ours and particularly everyone within the Border Violence Monitoring Network have been documenting since 2016: a continuous pushback route via Austria or Italy via Slovenia and Croatia to Bosnia.
“If someone questions the Geneva Refugee Convention, one of the greatest lessons of the Shoah, and at the same time does not take consistent action against systematic human rights violations by the police, the only thing left to do is to resign!” — University Professor Dr. Benedek of the Institute of International Law and International Relations from the University of Graz said.
However, as in other such cases in countries along the so called Balkan Route, no higher responsibility has so far been established by a court or other instance deemed valid by the states, so we expect to see more tacit acceptance of the anti-people and anti-human rights commands by those on the top.