Germany criticised for mistreatment of Afghan asylum seeker

A watchdog accuses German police of 'choking and squeezing genitals' of Afghan man while he was being expelled.

    In 2016, Germany and Afghanistan signed an accord concerning the expulsion of Afghans whose asylum requests have been rejected [Boris Roessler/AP]
    In 2016, Germany and Afghanistan signed an accord concerning the expulsion of Afghans whose asylum requests have been rejected [Boris Roessler/AP]

    A European Council watchdog committee has accused German police of mistreating an Afghan man who was being expelled by choking him and squeezing his genitals.

    "To ill-treat a person by squeezing the genitals, a technique which is clearly aimed at inflicting severe pain to gain compliance, is both excessive and inappropriate," the council's Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) said in a report on Thursday.

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    It focused on an August 14, 2018 charter flight that carried 46 Afghans from Munich to Kabul on behalf of the European Union's border agency Frontex after their asylum requests had been denied.

    Three CPT representatives were also on the flight, along with about 100 German police officers, six of whom had restrained the Afghan in question.

    The mass expulsion took place for the most part in a professional manner, the report said, but one unruly Afghan man was subdued using two controversial techniques, the second being the use of an arm around his neck to temporarily cut off his air supply.

    "The CPT considers that any use of force must avoid inducing a sensation of asphyxia on the person concerned," the report said.

    "The CPT recommends that the German authorities take immediate action to end the application of these two techniques by Federal Police escort officers."

    In 2016, Germany and Afghanistan signed an accord concerning the expulsion of Afghans whose asylum requests have been rejected, and the CPT is charged with ensuring that the process is not accompanied by acts of torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment.

    The expulsions are controversial in Germany owing to the levels of violence and unrest in Afghanistan.

    Hungary forces Afghans to cross into Serbia

    Elsewhere, Hungary forced 11 Afghan nationals to cross into Serbia after rejecting their asylum requests, a rights advocate said on Wednesday, and deported a 12th convicted of people smuggling back to Kabul.

    The deportation of a further five Afghans, all members of the same family, was temporarily suspended following an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a human rights group.

    The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said Hungary's action to force the two families to leave the country was "a flagrant violation of international and EU law".

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    Under Hungarian law, the claims of asylum seekers arriving from a country that Hungary deems safe are rejected, the agency said in a statement, adding that the case highlighted "deep concerns" over that practice.

    The Hungarian Immigration and Asylum Office (IAO) said the measures were part of a joint operation with European border and coastguard agency Frontex, in which 39 people were flown to Afghanistan altogether.

    The Helsinki Committee said the Hungarian operation targeted three Afghan families. Two families, including a pregnant woman, were moved to Serbia overnight.

    "These people were put in an impossible situation," said Andras Lederer, a Helsinki information and advocacy officer... Either (to) return to Kabul or cross over into Serbia in the middle of nowhere late at night."

    The IAO said 11 people chose to go to Serbia. The Serbian authorities had given the families accommodation in a reception centre, the UNHCR said.

    An interior ministry media officer said the single Afghan deportee had been convicted of people smuggling.

    Lederer said the family of five was being held at a border transit zone while their case was pending. The European Court of Human Rights did not immediately respond to emailed questions for comment.

    The IAO said before arriving in Hungary, the asylum seekers had passed through several countries, including an EU member state, where they had access to medical and other assistance.

    Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban leads a nationalist government with a strongly anti-immigrant platform, which is a key plank of the ruling Fidesz party's campaign for the European Parliament elections from May 23 to 26.

    The UNHCR has advised Frontex to refrain from supporting Hungary in the enforcement of return decisions which are not in line with international and EU law, the refugee agency said.

    SOURCE: AFP news agency