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Civic Nation Unity in Deversity

Application of Legislation, Criminal Cases, Court Rulings

Application of Legislation, Criminal Cases, Court Rulings Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia

In April 2011, Croatia adopted an Action Plan to implement the Constitutional Law on National Minorities. As of July 2014, most objectives have been achieved – 77 out of 88 (or 87.5%). However, in some areas, such as the official use of minority languages and representation of minorities in administrative bodies and media, the results are unsatisfactory.

Efforts of Croatian government to combat xenophobia and support minorities are influenced by the desire to enter the European Union. Office of the Ombudsman and several international organisations noted that legislation on protecting minorities and combatting xenophobia is not enforced with sufficient consistency. In many cases, attacks on Roma and Serbs are not investigated or do not reach trial and victims are not adequately compensated.

In 2013, Croatia reached an agreement with Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina to exchange information and evidence regarding war crimes. However, cases regarding war crimes committed against Serbs in the 1990s and considered by four specialised courts (in Zagreb, Split, Osijek and Rijeka) are investigated very slowly. At the end of 2014 there were 220 postponed war crime cases. In some cases, investigations have been hampered by the reluctance of witnesses to give themselves in; some of the accused reside abroad. To solve these problems, courts must improve witness support and encourage witnesses to come forward.

In 2014, Croatia signed an agreement with the Protestant Church. However, unlike similar agreements with other religious organisations, this agreement only regulated issues mentioned in the 2010 ECHR ruling.

In April 2013 the Minister of Internal Affairs issued a new Regulation regarding driving licenses, allowing citizens to be photographed in the headgear worn for religious or medical reasons. This removed the problem of discrimination against Muslim women who made photos wearing the hijab.

In 2013 there was an increase in the number of passports issued to minorities in their native language (a total of 726 documents have been issued).

In December 2013 EU recommendations for the integration of Roma have been adopted.

Center-left government and the country's president Ivo Josipovic opposed holding a referendum on same-sex marriages It is known that December 2nd 2013 65% of the citizens spoke in favor of marriage being defined in the Constitution as a union between a man and a woman.

One can note the activity the Human Rights Commissioner. In January, at the House of the Human Rights Commissioner in Zagreb a lecture was held on the legal framework for protection against discrimination and the role of the Commissioner. Commissioner for Human Rights in the framework of the project “Establishment of a comprehensive system for protection against discrimination” organized four regional roundtables at the regional and local level, where local authorities, NGOs, members of minority groups could get information about the activities of the Commissioner and to exchange experience. Roundtables were held in Pula (May 8th), Rijeka (May 10th), Split (June 3rd), Osijek (June 4th). The Human Rights Council was established in November under the Commissioner, including representatives of NGOs, the media and minorities. The Council is an advisory body providing cooperation between the Commissioner and the society.

In June, the Commissioner for Human Rights gave a lecture at the Police Academy on “the importance and role of the Commissioner in the promotion of human rights and the protection of vulnerable groups”.

Since 2012, Croatia also participates in the program “Integration of Roma 2005-2015”, which can have a positive impact on its status in the EU In June 2013 it became the host of the annual meeting of its members.

On September 5, the first same-sex civil partnership in Croatia has been registered. The ceremony took place in Zagreb and was attended by a member of the ruling Social Democratic Party and Minister of Public Administration Arsen Bauk.

On December 4, the government of Croatia decided to provide the Jewish community with land and office building in Zagreb city centre as a compensation for the confiscated property during the Holocaust.

The inflow of refugees has led to the fact that the reception centers were overcrowded. In Zagreb a refugee reception center instead of 100 people whom it should have accommodate, in December 2012, turned out to contain 300 refugees with illegal migrants in detention centers for illegal immigrants. As noted in the report of Human Rights Watch specialized systems for the protection of unaccompanied migrant children (children traveling without a parent or guardian) remain inadequate. Guardians assigned to such migrant children do not have the necessary training. The criteria for the appointment of such guardians are unclear, but appointed guardians often are employed in social assistance centers that are located in the southern and eastern Croatia. Street children - migrants, however, are allocated to Zagreb and their appointed guardians have limited contact with the children. Children under 16 are either placed in with older refugees or in Zagreb boarding schools for children with behavioral problems.

In 2013 not a single course of Croation language was organized for refugees.

In 2013, Croatia reached an agreement with Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina to exchange information and evidence regarding war crimes. However, cases regarding war crimes committed against Serbs in the 1990s and considered by four specialised courts (in Zagreb, Split, Osijek and Rijeka) are investigated very slowly. At the end of 2014 there were 220 postponed war crime cases. In some cases, investigations have been hampered by the reluctance of witnesses to give themselves in; some of the accused reside abroad. To solve these problems, courts must improve witness support and encourage witnesses to come forward.

In 2013, Croatia has intensified its fight against hate crimes. 14 cases of crimes motivated by xenophobia were brought before the courts in 2013. 9 convictions and 5 acquittals were delivered. Courts have also been examined 63 cases of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, color or national background, 16 - discrimination based on sexual orientation, 3 - based on religious beliefs, 9 – based on political beliefs. In 2012 there were 55, 15, 3 and 3 such cases respectively. An increase in the number of cases may be due to increased incidents of discrimination, which become known.

Croatian law enforcement practices concern such issues as “sports related racism”. On November 22nd famous Croatian footballer who currently plays for the team “Dinamo” (Zagreb) Josip Simunic was fined by the prosecutor's office of the Republic for 25 thousand kuna ($ 4,400) for inciting ethnic hatred.

It is important that Croatian courts have adopted the practice of protecting the rights of victims from among the representatives of national minorities who suffered during the military conflict in mid-90s. In January a local court ordered the state to pay compensation to child victims of Serbian attacks on Varivode during operation “Storm” in 1995.

It is also extremely important that in November 2013 the court ruled the changes in Vukovar’s statute that forbode bilingualism as unconstitutional. On November 29th bilingual inscriptions have been reinstated.

In 2014, 170 court cases were related to discrimination (compared to 100 in 2013). Of those, 60 were related to racial discrimination (35 in 2013); 13 were related to discrimination based on sexual orientation (15 in 2013); 4 were related to gender identity (0 in 2013); 6 were related to religious beliefs (3 in 2013); 17 were related to political or other beliefs (3 in 2013); 70 – country of origin (44 in 2013). Although, 60% of those cases remained without a verdict.

29 cases were filed under hate speech and abuse, of which 20 were related to hatred towards national minorities.

Magistrates’ courts often practice leniency. For example, a fine for committing a hate crime is reduced to a 1/3 if the accused pays it within a certain time. Court leniency often depends on defendant’s financial abilities, their behaviour in court, apologies and confession. Cases where the crime was verbal abuse and no physical damage had been inflicted serve as mitigating circumstances, which ignores possible moral damages. Furthermore, such measures of leniency are sometimes applied to persons who have committed such offences previously.

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