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Legislation Impacting Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Radicalisation Efforts

Legislation Impacting Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Radicalisation Efforts Croatian passport is an unattainable dream for many residents of the Republic

Croatian legislation contains three main laws that contain elements of discrimination: the Citizenship Act, the Penal Code and the Anti-Discrimination Act.

On 28 October 2011, Croatia adopted amendments to the Citizenship Act, which came into force in January 2012. Compared to the previous version, the new law tightens the requirements for citizenship application, creating conditions for discrimination of certain groups of permanent residents, namely ethnic minorities and those non-Croatians who were forced to emigrate during the war in the 90s.

Article 8 of the new Act requires citizenship applicants to have continuously lived at their registered place of residence for at least eight years (five years in the previous version). Other requirements include a permanent residence permit, Croatian language proficiency in Latin script (as opposed to the Cyrillic alphabet, which had been used in Croatia previously), as well as knowledge of the Croatian culture and “social structure” – tested using a special examination. Additionally, the Act contains a requirement to give up second citizenship, which many IDPs have already acquired. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance has conducted a research, which revealed that innovations that were adopted into the Law on Citizenship violate the rights of the Roma, many of who are illiterate and do not speak the Croatian language. In addition, many families among the Roma ignore the state registration of new-borns and today a lot of them do not have Croatian documents. Some only have the old Yugoslavian passports.

Article 16 of the Citizenship Act provides advantages to ethnic Croats in regard to obtaining Croatian citizenship compared to representatives of national minorities: ethnic Croats-foreigners or persons without a citizenship must comply with only one of the five conditions that are mandatory for everybody else, more specifically - “to respect the legal order and customs of Croatia, as well as to have a connection to the Croatian culture”. These requirements are discriminatory towards the representatives of national minorities, although many of them have been living in the country for a long time, some even for generations. This is especially true for Roma, some of which are simply not literate and have poor command of the Croatian language, which can be regarded as a weak link and even disrespect to Croatian culture. Many applicants for citizenship, especially older ones are accustomed to using the Cyrillic alphabet for writing and for them the transition to the Latin alphabet is a problem.

On October 21, 2011, the country adopted a new Penal Code, which came into force on January 1, 2013. Article 87 of the new Penal Code defines a hate crime as “a criminal offense committed on the basis of race, colour, religion, national or ethnic background, disability, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity of another person”. Thus, compared to the previous (2006-2012) Penal Code the list of grounds of discrimination is more limited: some relevant qualifications of hate crime had been excluded, such as those concerning the language (re-introduced in 2016), political beliefs, as well as social status and age.

The same problem is present in the Anti-Discrimination Act of 2008 (came into force on 01.01.2009), which also excluded citizenship from the list of characteristics that classify a crime as committed on the basis of hatred.

Additionally, as pointed out by ECRI in its report, the Penal Code of Croatia also includes Article 328, which stipulates liability for the organization of a criminal association, but does not include racism in the list of objectives of such associations. An important moment in the discriminatory legislation of Croatia is that the country, similar to Latvia and Estonia, recognizes citizens of the country as its ethnic minorities. This directly affects the Roma, many of whom do not have Croatian citizenship. In Croatia, there is no legislation prohibiting history revisionism and denial of war crimes, including the Holocaust, which allows all sorts of nationalist historians to promote policies and practices of the Ustashe - Croatian Nazis during the Second World War who were Hitler's allies.

Since 2005, religious organisations pay tax on the purchase of real estate, unless it is not a house of worship. It discriminates against minority confessions, which have no houses of worship and are forced to acquire office or residential premises for the performance of religious rites.

Also, by 2022, there was no clear legislation in the country providing for an obligation to stop public funding of organizations or political parties that promote racism, and there is no clear reference to discriminatory offenses in the Criminal Code.

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