Republic of Croatia is a constitutional parliamentary democracy with a
population of 4.4 million. Legislative authority is vested in the
unicameral Sabor (parliament). The president serves as head of state and
commander of the armed forces, cooperating in the formulation and
execution of foreign policy; he also nominates the prime minister, who
leads the government. Domestic and international observers stated the
2007 parliamentary elections, the May 2009 local elections, and the
first round of the presidential election in December 2009 were in accord
with international standards. Civilian authorities generally maintained
effective control of the security forces.
The judicial system
suffered from a case backlog, although courts somewhat reduced the
number of unresolved cases awaiting trial. Ineffective prosecution of
some domestic war crimes trials remained a problem. The government made
little progress in restituting property nationalized by the former
Yugoslav communist government to non-Roman Catholic religious groups.
Societal violence and discrimination against ethnic minorities,
particularly Serbs and Roma, remained a problem. Violence and
discrimination against women continued. Trafficking in persons, violence
and discrimination against homosexuals, and discrimination against
persons with HIV/AIDS were also reported.RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
September the government reported 1,827 persons remained missing from
the 1991-1995 military conflict, including an estimated 797 ethnic Serbs
who went missing in 1995. During the year the government investigated
64 possible mass and individual gravesites, resulting in the exhumation
of the remains of 76 persons. The government identified the remains of
86 persons found earlier.
The government continued to
cooperate with the International Commission of Missing Persons (ICMP)
with which it exchanged 6,943 blood samples. These exchanges have led to
the identification of the remains of 204 persons since 2004. To date
the government has exhumed 4,543 bodies and identified 3,636 missing
The government handled all exhumations and
identifications, while the International Criminal Tribunal for the
former Yugoslavia (ICTY) monitored only the sites related to cases it
investigated. The ICMP assisted in the identification of remains. The
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and experts from Serbia
and Bosnia and Herzegovina also monitored certain exhumations.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and there were no reports government officials employed them.
2008 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found one violation by
the country of the prohibition against inhuman or degrading treatment as
defined by the European Convention on Human Rights.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
and detention centers continued to be overcrowded. The prison system
has a capacity of approximately 3,500 persons, but there were nearly
5,000 inmates in its prisons, penitentiaries, and juvenile detention
institutions at the end of the year.
The ombudsman for human
rights made regular visits to assess prison conditions throughout the
country. According to the ombudsman, while the treatment of prisoners
was generally humane, the government was unable to fully meet prisoner
needs for healthcare, hygiene, space and fresh air, and access to work
opportunities due to the problem of overcrowding.
In March the
Constitutional Court handed down a verdict instructing the government
to adjust prison capacity in Zagreb's main prison to meet present needs
within five years.
During the year the government began
construction on a new prison facility in Glina; the facility is designed
to provide room for an additional 420 prisoners.
the issue of overcrowding, the Ministry of Justice in July drafted an
action plan for improving the prison system, which contained plans to
construct new premises in the coming years and, most important,
introduced a probation system. The Probation Law, passed by parliament
on December 17, provides the possibility for house arrest, release on
probation with close supervision, community work, and measures aimed at
The government permitted visits by independent human rights observers, including the ICRC.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution and the law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
national police have primary responsibility for national security; in
times of disorder, the prime minister and the president may call upon
the military to provide security. The intelligence service is under the
authority of the prime minister and the president. An independent
oversight board monitors intelligence service performance.
reforms begun after two high-profile killings at the end of 2008
continued through the year. On June 19, the general police director
appointed at the end of 2008 was removed from his position and appointed
as a state secretary in the Ministry of Interior. While the move was
technically a promotion, it was widely criticized in the press as
politically motivated because the new position gives no control over
daily police work. His replacement continued many of the reforms started
by his predecessor, including the creation of a separate police unit to
deal with organized crime and corruption cases, the National Police
Office for Suppression of Organized Crime and Corruption (PN-USKOK). In
September all four planned offices in Zagreb, Rijeka, Split, and Osijek
were formally opened and operations continued to expand at year's end.
police reported good cooperation with Bosnian and Serbian law
enforcement officials regarding investigations into the high-profile
killings of Ivo Pukanic, a publisher and co-owner of the NCL Media Group
and a colleague in Zagreb in 2008. The alleged perpetrator of the
crime, Joca Amsterdam, was arrested in Serbia and was awaiting trial at
year's end. Due to Serbian restrictions on the extradition of its
nationals, Joca Amsterdam's trial was scheduled to take place in Serbia
while his accomplices were arrested and were being prosecuted in
Arrest Procedure and Treatment While in Detention
obtained arrest warrants by presenting probable cause to an
investigative magistrate; however, police can make arrests without a
warrant if they believe a suspect might flee, destroy evidence, or
commit other crimes. The police have 24 hours to justify an arrest to a
Police must provide those arrested with access to
an attorney of their choice within 24 hours of arrest. The magistrate
appoints an attorney to represent an indigent detainee if the case could
carry a long sentence. The government generally enforced these
provisions. The investigative judge must decide within 48 hours of an
arrest whether to extend detention for further investigation.
Investigative detention generally lasted up to 30 days; however, trial
courts could extend the period up to 12 months in certain cases. The law
allows six months' pretrial detention, but a court can extend it to 12
months in certain cases, primarily war crimes and organized crime cases,
at the state prosecutor's request. The courts may release detainees on
their own recognizance, but most criminal suspects were held in custody
until trial. The option of posting bail after an indictment is
available, but detainees did not commonly exercise the right. Detention
centers allowed visits by family members.
A new Criminal
Procedure Act came into force on January 1. Due to an extensive revision
of procedures in criminal investigations and prosecutions, the act is
being implemented in phases. The Office for Suppression of Organized
Crime and Corruption (USKOK), operating out of the State Prosecutor's
Office, began operating according to the new procedures on July 1, with
regular prosecutors scheduled to implement the changes by September
2011. Under the new law, primary investigative responsibilities are to
be transferred from investigative judges to state attorneys. The role of
the investigative judge under the new law is to be limited to
monitoring human rights issues and protecting the legal process during
proceedings. They also are to supervise relations between prosecutors
and defendants, judge appeals regarding detention, and rule on the use
of such special investigative techniques as surveillance, wiretapping,
and raids. The new law also provides for the establishment of a
"supervisor for detention," who will be responsible for ensuring the
constitutional rights of defendants have not been violated.
April the Supreme Court overturned the June 2008 conviction of Mitar
Arambasic, a U.S. citizen and former Serb police officer found guilty of
war crimes against civilians and prisoners. The Supreme Court ordered
Arambasic released from detention and remanded his case for retrial.
Arambasic had already spent six years and eight months in detention,
including incarceration during his extradition proceedings. The Supreme
Court found based on the available evidence, further detention would not
be proportional to the expected sentence.
law permits amnesty except in cases of war crimes. In practice, when
investigations failed to substantiate original charges of war crimes,
courts often convicted the defendants on reduced charges, thereby making
them eligible for amnesty. This practice enabled the court to resolve
such cases without further investigation and allowed the defendants to
go free, but it disregarded the future repercussions a criminal record
could have on possibly innocent defendants, particularly with regard to
their future prospects for employment.
During the year
prosecutors reviewed all war crimes cases in which there were
indictments or ongoing investigations. For 254 of the 1,242 individuals
involved in these cases, prosecutors either downgraded the charges from
war crimes to armed rebellion, for which amnesty would apply, or
cancelled proceedings for other reasons, such as insufficient evidence.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary and the
government generally respected judicial independence. The judiciary
continued to suffer from a heavy backlog of cases. In June the Ministry
of Justice reported 870,538 unresolved cases, both civil and criminal,
remaining before courts.
The judicial system consists of
municipal and county courts, commercial and misdemeanor courts, an
administrative court, and the Supreme Court. The Constitutional Court
determines the constitutionality of laws, governmental acts, and
elections. A parallel commercial court system adjudicates commercial and
contractual disputes. A State Judicial Council appoints, disciplines,
and, if necessary, removes judges. The parliament appoints the chief
state prosecutor, who appoints chief state attorneys at the county and
municipal level; the State Prosecutorial Council, a disciplinary body
appointed by the parliament, appoints and disciplines deputy
In 2008 the ECHR issued judgments in which it
found two violations by the country of the right to a fair trial as
provided in the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECHR also found
11 violations of the convention's provisions concerning the length of
constitution and law provide for the right to a public trial, and an
independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The legal system
uses panels of judges, which in some cases include lay judges, rather
than juries, to hear cases. Defendants have the right to counsel, to be
present at trial, to confront or question witnesses against them, and to
present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. Defendants have access
to evidence relevant to their cases and enjoy the presumption of
innocence and right to appeal.
During the year prosecutors
continued to implement the October 2008 order of the chief state
prosecutor to review all pending war crimes cases and in absentia
convictions, and apply standard measures to ensure uniform practices
without regard to the defendant's national origin.
provision in the new Criminal Procedure Act, which became effective in
January, provided for reopening of war crimes cases tried in absentia,
upon the presentation of new evidence by either the defendant or
prosecutor, whether or not the defendant is present in the country.
While no defendants petitioned to have their cases reopened, prosecutors
asked courts to reopen approximately 20 percent of cases tried in
absentia and reported receiving good cooperation in most instances from
the courts. During the year, according to the Office of the Chief State
Prosecutor, prosecutors requested trials be reopened for 93 of the 464
individuals convicted in absentia and courts of original jurisdiction
granted requests on behalf of 48 defendants and rejected cases involving
24. On appeal the Supreme Court approved reopening of cases involving
21 defendants. The OSCE reported almost half of defendants on trial for
war crimes during the year were not present at their trials.
OSCE reported during the year on the Supreme Court issuing decisions on
appeal in 10 war crimes cases involving 23 individuals (16 ethnic
Serbs, seven ethnic Croats). It confirmed 19 of the 23 individual
decisions and reversed four, a reversal rate of 17 percent.
2008 the Ministry of Justice, together with the UN Development Program
(UNDP), implemented a program to provide support to witnesses and
victims who testify in war crimes and complex criminal cases. Between
May 1, 2008 and October 20, 2009, offices to assist witness and victims
helped more than 2,200 persons. The Law on Courts, adopted in October
2008, allows county courts, on a pilot basis, to form specialized
departments for victim and witness support in criminal proceedings. The
judges working at the pilot courts reported witnesses and victims
provided more coherent testimony than in the past. During the year an
additional six courts joined the initial four pilot courts. The new
criminal procedure law, which went into effect during the year, provides
for witness/victim protection from unlawful and unauthorized pressure
from other participants in the criminal procedure, and provides them
with psychological and other expert support.
On May 8, a
court convicted parliamentarian Branimir Glavas for war crimes committed
in Osijek in 1991 and sentenced him to a total of 10 years in prison.
Glavas' 10-year sentence resulted from combined convictions from several
cases. In one case the court found Glavas issued orders to five
codefendants who killed five Serb civilians and attempted to kill an
additional person. In a second case, the court found Glavas guilty
because he had command responsibility and failed to prevent subordinates
from torturing and murdering two civilians.
Glavas fled to
Bosnia and Herzegovina on May 8, the day of the verdict, where he had
recently acquired citizenship. On May 13, a parliamentary committee
lifted Glavas' immunity from detention, and the full parliament
confirmed this decision on May 20. On May 13, Glavas was arrested on
international arrest warrant in Kupres and a Bosnian court subsequently
ordered him detained for a maximum of 40 days due to the risk he would
flee to avoid extradition. After a day and a half in detention, a
Bosnian appellate court reversed the order and lifted Glavas' detention.
The appellate court found, since Glavas had a registered residence in
Bosnia and Herzegovina, there were no grounds for assuming he was a
flight risk. Glavas has been at liberty in Bosnia and Herzegovina since
then. Glavas' five codefendants were taken into custody after the
verdict. For all six defendants, the court took into account the
participation of all six defendants in the Balkan wars in the early
1990s as a mitigating factor. Glavas officially remains a member of
parliament, receiving salary and other benefits until his verdict is
made final, although he cannot attend any parliamentary sessions without
risk of arrest and detention.
In May the Supreme Court
confirmed the 2008 lower court verdict against Antun Gudelj, who was
sentenced to 20 years for killing a police officer and two local
An appeal in the Olujic case, reported in 2008, was
decided by the Supreme Court in July. The Supreme Court confirmed the
sentences of two defendants, and slightly reduced the sentences for the
three other defendants.
On February 5, the Vukovar County
Court announced a verdict in the case of genocide in the village of
Miklusevci in late 1991 and 1992. Sentences ranging from four to 12
years' imprisonment were given to the 12 defendants convicted. Two
defendants were acquitted. While 22 Serbs and Ruthenians were originally
charged, prosecutors dropped charges against eight defendants during
Since the constitutions of most of the
Southeast European countries involved in the 1991-1995 conflict prohibit
their citizens to be extradited, Croatia's chief state prosecutor has
signed agreements with counterparts in Montenegro and Serbia to enable
the transfer of evidence in such cases, allowing suspects to be tried
where they live rather than where the alleged crime was committed.
Croatia transferred evidence in six cases covering 15 defendants to
Serbia during the year. There were no transfers of evidence to
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, although
continuing case backlogs raised concerns about judicial effectiveness
and efficiency. In April the human rights ombudsman reported long
administrative and court proceedings were the most frequent reason for
citizens to address his office in 2008. In 2008 the Office of the
Ombudsman received 1,560 complaints about protracted administrative
proceedings, which often lasted several years and in many cases took as
long as 10 years to resolve. The ombudsman blamed an understaffed court
administration and poorly prepared laws for the courts' inefficiency. He
also criticized the application of political criteria instead of
competence when appointing personnel in state administration. For the
second year in a row the parliament took note of the ombudsman's annual
report without adopting it.
the year the government continued to work toward completion of its
program to return occupied private properties to their rightful owners.
However, the property law implicitly favors ethnic Croats over ethnic
Serbs, who lost possession of their properties during the 1990s, by
giving precedence to the rights of temporary occupants, who were mainly
ethnic Croats, over those of the original owners, predominantly ethnic
Serbs. In nine cases, owners could not repossess their homes and were
waiting for completion of administrative procedures. Thirty-four owners
of agricultural land with unclear title, mostly in the Zadar hinterland,
who previously could not take possession of their plots, were able to
take possession of their land in April.
property seized during World War II and the Communist era remained a
problem. The law on restitution of and compensation for property taken
during the time of the Yugoslav Communist government permits the
restitution of property only to individuals who were citizens at the
time the parliament passed the law. As a result the law does not apply
to persons who had property expropriated but left the country and became
citizens of other countries. Many claimants have since acquired
Croatian citizenship but still cannot file claims.
Restitution of communal property remained a problem for all major religious groups except the Islamic community.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions in practice.
2008 the ECHR found one violation by the country of the right to
respect for private and family life as provided by the European
Convention on Human Rights.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
constitution and law generally provide for freedom of speech and the
press; however, some government influence over the media continued, and
there were reports of increasing pressure from commercial interests.
law provides for no less than six months' and no more than five years'
imprisonment for hate speech. Hate speech committed over the Internet is
punishable by six months' to three years' imprisonment.
Individuals can freely criticize the government publicly or privately without reprisal.
wide range of private newspapers and magazines were published without
government interference. In spite of the media law, media ownership was
not fully transparent, making it possible for political or other
interests to conceal their influence on media outlets.
regulates the national television and radio networks separately from
other electronic media. Independent television and radio stations
operated in the country, and two of the four national television
channels were private.
Local governments partly or fully owned
approximately 70 percent of the local media, making local broadcast
media particularly vulnerable to political pressure. Approximately 46
percent of local radio stations depended on the financial support of
local authorities. On World Press Freedom Day in May, the Croatian
Journalists Association issued a statement warning that media owners
continued to intervene directly in editorial policy. In particular, the
statement noted "political pressure on media has not ceased to exist in
the public, local or private media. Advertisers expect to be spared
because of the media space they purchase, so the media would not report
negatively about them."
In March, during the local elections
campaign, some journalists were denied access to press conferences
organized by political parties. On March 17, Drago Hedl, Jutarnji List
correspondent from Osijek, was denied entrance to a press conference by
Branimir Glavas, a member of parliament, and an Osijek TV crew was
denied entrance to the press conference by Vladimir Sisljagic, the
president of a political party.
As of year's end there were no
arrests in the 2008 beating of investigative journalist Dusan Miljus.
An investigation was ongoing and Miljus remained under police
protection. In June the Ministry of Internal Affairs announced an award
of 50,000 kunas ($10,000) for information leading to the arrest of
On June 16, the National Council for
Monitoring Implementation of the Anticorruption Strategy held a session
on the freedom of the media and the fight against corruption. The
council concluded investigative journalism was rarely practiced, and the
media was not effectively serving its purpose as a watch dog in the
fight against corruption. At the session investigative journalist Dusan
Miljus reported he had recently received another threatening letter.
Journalist Hrvoje Appelt discussed his dismissal from one of the largest
publishers in the country while he was under police protection after
writing about organized crime.
Libel is a criminal offense; in
recent years there were no reports of politically motivated libel
cases. However, a large number of libel cases from previous years
remained unresolved due to judicial backlogs. Courts may fine, but not
imprison, persons convicted of slander and libel.
were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports
the government monitored e-mail or Internet chat rooms. In general
individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views
via the Internet, including by e-mail. Internet access was widely
available and used by citizens throughout the country. According to
International Telecommunication Union statistics for 2008, approximately
51 percent of the country's inhabitants used the Internet.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Freedom of Assembly
constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, and the
government generally respected this right in practice. The law, however,
prohibits political protests in Zagreb's St. Mark's Square, adjacent to
the parliament and government offices.
Freedom of Association
constitution and law provide for freedom of association, and the
government generally respected this right in practice; however, the law
grants discretionary power to the Ministry of Justice over the
establishment and internal governance of foundations. While authorities
applied the law equally to all organizations, the law itself is
restrictive and controlling. For example, the law provides that
organizations may not register if their statutory goals are deemed
trivial or if their property is not deemed sufficient to carry out their
statutory activities. The law also permits the government to influence
the appointment of an organization's management body.
c. Freedom of Religion
constitution and law provide for freedom of conscience and religion and
free public profession of religious conviction, and the government
generally respected these rights in practice. There is no official state
religion; however, the Roman Catholic Church has a historic and close
relationship with the state not shared by other religious groups.
September 24, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Croatia,
Cardinal Josip Bozanic, visited Jasenovac, the site of the largest
concentration camp in Croatia during World War II where thousands of
Serbs, Jews, and Roma were killed. Some critics accused the Catholic
Church of collaborating with the pro-Nazi regime ruling Croatia at the
time. Bozanic was the highest ranking church official to ever visit
Jasenovac. While there, Bozanic acknowledged crimes were committed at
Jasenovac by members of the Catholic Church but reaffirmed the church
itself had no role in Jasenovac. He also asked for the truth to be told,
not only about the victims of Jasenovac, but also the victims of
fascism, Nazism, and communism. His trip was seen as a step toward
reconciliation by leaders of the Jewish and Serb communities; however,
he was also criticized for not offering a direct apology from the
Catholic Church and for equating victims of communism with those of the
On October 2, a ceremony was held to lay the
cornerstone for a mosque in the town of Rijeka after a number of
administrative delays. The cost of the mosque was estimated at 8 million
euros ($11.4 million); it will serve a community of approximately
10,000 Muslims residing in the surrounding county.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
Societal violence and physical abuse of religious minorities were problems.
The country’s Jewish community numbered approximately 2,300. Acts with anti-Semitic overtones were reported during the year.
July 25, at a concert in Biograd, controversial ultranationalist singer
Thompson incited the audience to chant profascist slogans. He also
accused President Stjepan Mesic, who has a reputation as a strong
antifascist, of high treason. Police investigated the incident but
brought no charges.
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2009 International Religious Freedom Report
d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons
constitution and law provide for freedom of movement within the
country, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the
government generally respected these rights in practice. The government
cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and
assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning
refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of
The law prohibits forced exile, and the government did not employ it.
returning to the country as citizens of another former Yugoslav
republic rather than as Croatian citizens encountered obstacles
obtaining permanent residency status. The law permits former habitual
residents who returned and applied by June 2005 to be reinstated to
their prewar status as habitual residents without further requirements,
and they could subsequently apply for citizenship. However, the
government did not consistently apply this provision. This caused
uncertainty and delayed the integration of returnees. The 2008 Law on
Foreigners includes a clause exempting refugees from the republics of
the former Yugoslavia from the rigid citizenship requirements under the
previous law. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported positive
feedback concerning the law from returnees who were able to acquire
The government took steps to recognize or
"convalidate" legal and administrative documents issued by entities not
under the country's control during the 1991-1995 conflict. In December
the government reported receiving 19,185 applications for
"convalidation" and issuing decisions in approximately 55 percent of the
cases. Approximately 55 percent of the cases decided were resolved
positively, while 45 percent were resolved negatively. International
observers noted there were wide discrepancies between regional offices
with average approval rates varying by as much as fifty percent,
bringing into question the equity of the approval system. The government
stated the discrepancy was due to the lack of documentation in some
regions of the country.
As of September the UNHCR had
registered the return of 388,583 refugees and internally displaced
persons (IDPs), 132,322 of them minority Serbs. The total includes 627
persons who returned in the first nine months of the year. The UNHCR
reported 54 percent of total returns were sustainable, while the
remainder were either one-time or "commuter" returns. International
organizations listed the poor state of the regional economy, lack of
employment, and delays in access to permanent housing for the former
tenants of socially owned apartments, as the main obstacles to return.
Additionally, many refugees have chosen to settle in their countries of
To address problems experienced by returning IDPs and
refugees, the government in 2008 began implementing a 60 million euro
($85.8 million) social and economic recovery project, jointly funded by
the government and the World Bank. The project was aimed at revitalizing
the economies of disadvantaged areas affected by the war and promoting
interethnic social cohesion. International observers said the program
had some success as it made possible improvements to infrastructure and
social inclusion, but because of budgetary constraints, its continuation
was in question. Public hostility toward returning ethnic Serb refugees
diminished in most parts of the country, but sporadic incidents, mostly
in Dalmatia and its hinterland, were still a cause of concern.
of houses belonging to Serbs was almost complete, and reconstruction of
those damaged by looting continued. As of September authorities had
finished repairing damage to 275 of 456 properties eligible for repair
under the government protocol for looted properties. There were cases in
which persons were discovered attempting to use the courts to recover
alleged investments they had made while illegally occupying the
property, and 13 such cases were pending in the courts. Although the
government adopted a process in 2006 to resolve the cases with investors
out of court, it remained reluctant to offer settlements before the
cases reached a court.
The government slowly continued the
program to resolve the claims of persons, mainly ethnic Serbs, who held
tenancy rights in socially owned apartments prior to the war but who
lost these rights during or just after the war. Individuals submitted
13,695 claims for government-provided housing under the program, 4,576
of which were in urban areas. According to the UNHCR, from 1995 through
the end of September, the government had allocated 6,772 housing units,
mainly in war-affected areas. The Ministry of Regional Development,
Forestry, and Water Management had delivered approximately 97 percent of
its 2007 target of 1,400 housing units and 80 percent of the 2008
target of 1,454 housing units, but during the year it delivered fewer
than 10 percent of its target of 2,100 housing units. Despite broad cuts
in the 2010 budget caused by the economic recession, the government
reportedly secured slight increases in budget allocations for housing.
March 30, the UN Human Rights Committee issued a decision on a
complaint brought by a former tenancy rights holder in 2006. The
complainant, Dusan Vojnovic, lost his tenancy rights in 1992 when he
fled the country after receiving threats due to his Serb ethnicity. The
complaint stated the country violated his rights to equal treatment,
home and family life, fair trial, and trial in a reasonable time, as
written in the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights to which the country is signatory. The committee
decided, although the termination of the tenancy rights had been done in
accordance with the country's law, it had been done arbitrarily, in
violation of some procedural decisions of the courts, was arbitrary, and
violated the principles of fair trial and equality before the courts,
including a reasonable time for completion of proceedings. The committee
decided the country should provide an "effective remedy to Vojnovic,
including compensation. The government was supposed to reply to the
committee by October 30 describing the actions it took, but it had not
responded by the end of the year. Observers noted the government's
actions could potentially set a precedent for approximately 30,000
persons who lost their tenancy rights during the war.
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
took an inconsistent and nonuniform approach in its treatment of
minority IDPs. As of September, 2,359 IDPs were registered with the
government; of this number, 1,638 were ethnic Serbs, whose numbers
remained unchanged from 2008. The Serbs were either waiting to be
recognized as integrated in their current places of displacement or to
receive reconstruction assistance from the state.
government allowed free access to all displaced persons by domestic and
international humanitarian organizations and permitted them to provide
Protection of Refugees
The country is a
party to 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967
Protocol. Its laws provide for granting of asylum or refugee status,
and the government has established a system for providing protection to
refugees. Persons seeking protection generally considered the country a
country of transit, and a significant number of asylum seekers left the
country before courts had reached decisions on their claims.
International observers criticized the government for delays in initial
decisions for asylum seekers.
In law and practice the country
provided effective protection against the expulsion or return of
refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened
on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a
particular social group, or political opinion.
reported 147 persons applied for asylum during the year; of these, the
government granted one person subsidiary protection (protection granted
to an applicant whose situation is not covered by the 1951 convention),
rejected the applications of 51 persons, and dismissed the applications
of 64 persons; decisions were awaited in 32 cases. Nine persons appealed
the government's decisions. During the year the government granted
protection to 13 persons. Of these, refugee status was granted to 11 and
subsidiary protection to two. In the first group there were five
persons from Russia, three from Uzbekistan, and one each from
Afghanistan, Armenia, and Uzbekistan. Persons from Afghanistan and
Kosovo were granted subsidiary protection. There was a reception center
for asylum seekers in Kutina, near Zagreb.
In May 2008 the
government introduced a new appeals commission that conducts substantive
reviews of the cases of rejected asylum seekers. Observers believed the
new commission was an improvement over the previous appeals body
because it enjoyed greater autonomy and included representatives from
civil society and academia. However, international observers reported
the commission did not have its own offices or proper facilities for
conducting interviews and storing confidential files. Additionally, only
one member of the commission, the president, was a full-time employee.
The UNHCR closely followed cases of individuals whom the government
deported or whom authorities returned to their country of origin.
There were no reports of persons requesting temporary protection during the year.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
constitution and law provide citizens with the right to change their
government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice
through periodic, free, and fair elections on the basis of universal
Elections and Political Participation
Political parties could operate without restriction or outside interference.
negotiations following the 2007 parliamentary elections produced a
government led by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), with the Croatian
Peasant Party, the Independent Democratic Party of Serbs, and the
Croatian Social Liberal Party represented in the new cabinet. While no
significant irregularities were reported in the 2007 elections, the
local NGO Citizens Organized to Monitor Elections (GONG) estimated the
registrations of approximately 20 percent of voters abroad (mainly in
Bosnia and Herzegovina) were outdated on election day.
Prime Minister Ivo Sanader abruptly resigned from office and was
replaced by the then HDZ vice president and deputy prime minister,
Jadranka Kosor. Despite slight adjustments in the cabinet, the
composition of the ruling center-right coalition remained unchanged. No
candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote in the December 27
presidential election, forcing a second round to be held in January 2010
between Ivo Josipovic, candidate of the center-left Social Democratic
Party, and Milan Bandic, the independent mayor of Zagreb.
were 36 women in the 153-seat parliament. There were four women in the
20-seat cabinet, including the prime minister and one deputy prime
minister. There were five women among the 13 Constitutional Court
justices, including the president of the court, and 17 women among the
37 Supreme Court justices.
The law requires representation for
ethnic minorities in local government bodies if the census showed a
minority group constituted at least 5 percent of the local population.
Local elections held in May used updated voter lists as the basis for
calculating the number of elected minority representatives, as required
by law. Due to the return of refugees since the previous census in 2001,
this method resulted in greater minority representation than the
earlier practice of basing proportional minority representation on
census figures alone. To provide adequate minority representation in
local governments as required by the Constitutional Law on National
Minorities, the country held special minority elections on December 6 to
choose six deputy county prefects and 40 deputy mayors.
Section 4 Official Corruption and Government Transparency
law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the
government did not always implement the laws effectively and corruption
remained a serious problem. During the year the government gave special
attention to the legal and institutional framework used to combat
corruption, including investigations, prosecution, and interagency and
international cooperation. The government worked closely with civil
society and the private sector to try to inculcate respect for the rule
of law in society.
Corruption remained a serious problem, with
a nexus of institutions, primarily in health care, university
faculties, the judiciary, and public-sector and commercial enterprises
often at the center of corruption cases.
Corruption cases in
the country involved nearly all segments of society, economy, and
government. The number of cases prosecuted by USKOK continued to
increase substantially in comparison with previous years. During the
year USKOK concluded several cases against high profile civil servants,
university professors, students, judges, public servants, and other
professionals. The highest ranking person to be formally investigated
for corruption was former minister of defense and current member of
parliament Berislav Roncevic. On July 31, criminal charges were filed
against Roncevic and his former deputy and a current state secretary in
the Ministry of Interior, Ivo Bacic, for alleged misuse of funds in a
2004 deal to buy 39 trucks for the Ministry of Defense. Earlier in the
year, a parliamentary committee, controlled by the ruling HDZ party of
which Roncevic was a member, concluded there had been no irregularities
in the truck purchase. On December 14, a Zagreb court upheld all counts
of a indictment filed by USKOK against former defense minister Berislav
Roncevic and his former assistant Ivo Bacic. The trial was scheduled to
begin in early 2010.
A multiyear anticorruption operation,
codenamed "Maestro," concluded during the year. The investigation into
the Privatization Fund resulted in the arrests in 2007 of six suspects,
including three fund vice presidents. USKOK ultimately indicted 10
persons for bribery and abuse of authority and position. On March 12,
the court found fund vice president Ivan Gotovac and another individual
not guilty in a first, smaller trial. The verdict was being appealed at
year's end. In a second, larger trial, fund vice president Matanovic was
sentenced on May 15 to 11 years in prison, while fund vice president
Pesa was sentenced to two years. Four other persons received sentences
ranging from one to three years in prison. Two defendants were
During the year authorities continued their
investigation of another large corruption case, dubbed "Index." USKOK
filed an indictment for the case in December 2008. On May 27, the court
announced verdicts against 16 defendants including professors, students,
mediators, and middlemen charged with illicit enrollment at the Faculty
of Transport Sciences. The former vice dean of the faculty and the
chief middleman were sentenced to two and a half and one and a half
years in prison, respectively, for illegally enrolling students. The
other 12 defendants in the trial, known as "Index 1," including a senior
lecturer, were given suspended sentences. On July 29, in a trial known
as "Index 2," nine professors from Zagreb's Faculty of Transport and
Traffic Engineering and four middlemen were sentenced to prison terms
ranging from six months to two years for taking bribes from students to
pass examinations. The remaining 17 middlemen, students, and parents
standing trial were given suspended sentences, while two were acquitted,
including a teacher. All the convicted teachers were prohibited from
teaching for five years.
In September Supreme Court reduced
the sentence of Ognjen Simic, who fled to Bosnia and Herzegovina after
his conviction on corruption charges in 2008, from nine to five years.
The court ruled the sentencing guidelines in force at the time the
offense was committed should have been applied, rather than those in
force at the time of the conviction. Simic continued to live freely in
Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The law requires public officials to
declare their assets. Most government officials complied, although there
were questions as to the thoroughness and effectiveness of the system
and imprecision as to the types of assets covered.
government, the prosecutors and police Offices for Suppression of
Corruption and Organized Crime (USKOK and PN-USKOK, respectively) are
the main law enforcement bodies responsible for fighting corruption. The
PN-USKOK was established in April, and its offices were formally opened
on September 10. The government also created special anticorruption and
organized crime departments in the four largest courts in the country,
where judges are screened and receive additional training and higher pay
for working on USKOK cases. The Ministry of Justice's Anticorruption
Office monitors the implementation of anticorruption measures throughout
the government and oversaw a large anticorruption public relations
campaign in the spring and summer of the year.
provides the right of public access to government information; however,
NGOs continued to complain the government did not implement the law
efficiently or effectively. On September 4, GONG published results of a
survey showing a third of towns and municipalities did not have
information officers as required by law. Additionally, some towns and
municipalities were charging citizens for documents that should be free
to the public.
Section 5 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally
operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing
their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were often
cooperative and responsive to their views.
The Office for
Human Rights, the entity for cooperation with NGOs and other government
ministries and offices, was active in coordinating and promoting NGO and
governmental efforts on human rights and civil society. It received
both UN and government funds during the year. The office was the primary
government body responsible for developing, coordinating, and
implementing the government's human rights policies. While the office
did not have authority to investigate alleged human rights abuses
directly, it cooperated effectively with NGOs and the international
community to conduct awareness campaigns to promote gender equality and
women's rights, encourage general tolerance, and prevent trafficking in
persons. It also served as a liaison between governmental offices and
citizens reporting violations and complaints. The office awarded project
grants to NGOs to address various human rights problems. It was
adequately funded and enjoyed the cooperation of other government
In December Human Rights House-–an umbrella
organization for human rights NGOs--began operations in offices donated
by the city of Zagreb in a reconstructed building with a five-year
moratorium on rent payments.
During the year the Office of the
Chief State Prosecutor prosecuted war crimes committed by both ethnic
Serbs and ethnic Croats; ethnic Croats were defendants in several
high-profile cases, including the conviction of parliamentarian Branimir
Glavas (see section 1.e.).
The government cooperated with the
ICTY. On December 3, ICTY Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz stated
during his semiannual presentation to the UN Security Council that the
"central issue of concern remains the still unresolved request to locate
and obtain key military documents related to Operation Storm of 1995."
The chief prosecutor welcomed the October personal initiative of the
prime minister of Croatia to establish an interagency task force aimed
at locating these documents and stated that a recent report of the task
force was helpful in revealing gaps in the previous administrative
investigations and in identifying further investigative steps to be
taken. The prosecutor concluded by saying that "these and all other
available investigative steps must be urgently undertaken in order to
complete a comprehensive and credible investigation into locating the
An appeal in the Ademi-Norac trial reported in 2008 was still pending.
Section 6 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
law prohibits discrimination based on gender, age, race, disability,
language, or social status; and the government generally enforced these
Rape, including spousal
rape, is a crime punishable by one to 10 years' imprisonment; however,
according to NGOs many women did not report rape or spousal rape. The
law provides longer sentences for sexual violence against persons with
disabilities. In cases of rape under aggravated circumstances that
result in death or pregnancy, or if the victim is a minor, sentences may
be between three and 15 years. Due to social pressure and
stigmatization, rape and sexual violence were underreported. NGOs
criticized the government for allowing only police and not hospitals to
have rape kits. This resulted in victims having to be examined twice.
During the year the government formed a working group with NGOs to work
on a protocol for conduct in cases of sexual violence, aimed at
streamlining the procedures. The availability of victim assistance
services, such as rape crisis centers, varied widely from community to
In the first 11 months of the year, 75 rapes and 20
attempted rapes were reported to police. NGO officials estimated that
for every reported rape, there were three unreported cases; on average
100 to 140 cases of sexual violence and rape are reported annually. The
NGO Women's Room stated women frequently did not report rape and spousal
rape because they lacked information about available legal protections,
felt ashamed, feared reprisal, or, in case of spousal rape, were
concerned over the economic consequences. Victims were often reluctant
to report rape, particularly spousal rape, because it was difficult to
prove in court and because medical staff, police, and judicial officials
were not trained to treat victims. Women's NGOs asserted sentences for
spousal rape tended to be lenient.
Violence against women,
including spousal abuse, continued to be a problem. The law provides for
persons other than the victim, including the police, to initiate a
domestic violence case, which is treated as a misdemeanor. Penalties
range from fines of 1,000 to 10,000 kunas ($200 to $2,000) or up to 60
days in prison. Under the criminal law, perpetrators can face up to
three years in prison for the same acts. Police officials tended to
classify domestic violence against women as misdemeanors, resulting in
minimal sentences. Minimum sentences were particularly common in cases
of rape. Police officers in most urban areas were trained to handle
family violence and to provide quick intervention, secure victims'
safety, and remove perpetrators from families; in rural areas, police
officers were generally less well trained in handling family violence
Support for victims of violence was limited. In general
private donations financed most services, but the government took some
steps to address the rising number of domestic violence cases.
and local governments operated 17 shelters, but, according to the
ombudsperson for gender equality, only five were permanent. On November
25, the government signed contracts with county, city, and civil
organizations to cofinance shelters and counseling centers for victims
of domestic violence. In September the ombudsman reported 550,000 kunas
($111,000) was paid during the year to NGOs running shelters for victims
of domestic violence. Hotlines, counseling, and legal assistance were
available to victims of domestic violence.
On January 27, the
ECHR ruled against the state in a law suit brought by the family of a
domestic violence victim with the assistance of a local women's NGO. The
court ruled the state did not take sufficient measures to prevent the
death of Mignon Tomasic, who was murdered along with her daughter by her
husband in 2006. The court found the state failed to conduct a thorough
investigation and did not order sufficiently long psychiatric treatment
after the victim reported her husband's first serious threats. The
court ordered the state to pay 40,000 euros ($57,200) in compensation to
the family of the deceased woman and 1,300 euros ($1,860) for court
Prostitution is illegal but widespread and generally
punishable by fines. Engagement in prostitution is treated as a
misdemeanor, while pandering is a criminal act. Activities of clients
are not criminalized. The activities of the brothel owner/operator,
pimps, and enforcers are crimes and the laws were generally enforced.
Women's organizations claimed prostitutes faced abuse, stigmatization,
and public humiliation. There were reports that women were trafficked
for commercial sexual exploitation.
The law prohibits sexual
harassment in the workplace; however, it remained a problem. According
to trade unions, the problem was most pronounced in the textile and
leather, trade, and catering industries. The ombudsman for gender
equality and unions reported that his office worked on sexual harassment
cases, although many women were reluctant to take action for fear of
The government generally respected the right of
couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number,
spacing, and timing of their children. Citizens generally had the
information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, or
violence. There was no recent data on the percentage of the population
with access to contraception, although condoms are widely available and
oral contraception is available with a prescription.
to the UNDP, the number of women reported to have HIV infections is
significantly lower than men, but women were and men were diagnosed and
treated equally. However, women who lived in rural areas and worked out
of the home may not be as aware of the need for testing or where to get
tested as their male counterparts.
Women generally held lower
paying positions in the work force. In June the Croatian Statistics
Bureau released its annual report, Women and Men in Croatia
report noted women in the private and public sectors earned 10.8 percent
less than men. Women's pensions were 17 percent lower than those of
men. Women were also more likely to be unemployed, accounting for 62.2
percent of all job seekers registered with the employment bureau. These
disparities were present despite women generally achieving a higher
level of education.
In November 2008 the World Economic Forum
(WEF), an international NGO based in Geneva, noted large differences in
Croatian women's and men's salaries, employment and access to
managerial functions as well as political representation and women's
access to education and health care was regarded as commendable. The WEF
measured gender equality in the fields of the economy, politics,
education, and the health system. The government Office for Gender
Equality criticized the report for using inaccurate data.
government cooperated with NGOs to promote gender equality. While NGOs
participated in drafting legislation promoting gender equality, they
believed their impact on the ultimate result was often limited.
Office for Gender Equality was responsible for implementing the law on
gender equality that came into effect in 2008 and for formulating the
government's gender policy; the ombudsman for gender equality monitored
implementation of the law, including the submission of mandatory action
plans for state institutions and public companies.
law established quotas to secure increased political representation of
women. It requires women to make up at least 40 percent of the voting
list for each political party by the third round of local and national
elections as well as in elections for the European Parliament. Political
parties, state bodies, local authorities, employers, and the media can
be fined for violating the new law. Local NGOs criticized the law on the
grounds the fines were too small to be a deterrent and the government
rarely enforced previous laws with quotas.
noted the Office for Gender Equality campaigned actively during the year
to educate the public about the new law, especially about the provision
regarding the composition of voting lists for the May 31 local
elections. It funded projects by 23 NGOs aimed at informing the public
about the new law. It also ran a number of television and radio ads and
organized local meetings to discuss women's participation in politics,
an effort that lasted for six months and consumed approximately 20
percent of the office's annual budget. The number of women on political
party slates on a county level rose to 26 percent compared with 21
percent in the 2005 elections.
In July the Office for Gender
Equality criticized Croatian Radio Television for what it claimed was
insufficient programming featuring gender issues, a position shared by
the ombudsman for gender equality.
is derived by birth in the country's territory (jus soli) or from one
of the parents (jus sanguinis). Authorities register all births at the
time of birth within the country or upon registration for births abroad.
There are no reports failure to register births resulted in denial of
public services, including education and health care, to children.
education is free and mandatory through grade eight, Romani children
faced serious obstacles to continuing their education, including
discrimination in schools and a lack of family support. The number of
Romani children enrolled in preschool education for the 2008-2009 school
year rose to 595 from 509 in 2007. According to the Ministry of
Science, Education, and Sports, the number of new Romani pupils
increased to 3,940 from 3,786 in 2008. There was a fourfold increase
During the year the ministry reported, for the
first time, the reimbursement of kindergarten fees to Romani parents.
The payments made for the previous academic year totaled 130,700 kunas
($26,300) for 71 children in 13 kindergartens. The government
distributed over 300 scholarships to Romani students in high school, 35
more than in the previous school year. The number of Roma students
receiving scholarships for university level studies increased to 20 from
12 in the school year.
In 2008 international organizations
and local NGOs reported school authorities continued to provide
segregated, lower quality classes for Romani students in the northern
part of the country.
In July the ECHR rejected a complaint of
discrimination by the parents of 15 Romani children concerning the
creation of separate classes for Romani students in several elementary
schools in the northwestern county of Medimurje. The court found the
schools did not set the children apart simply for being Roma but rather
the schools separated them only until their language improved to the
point where they could join a regular classroom. The ECHR agreed to
reconsider the case in April; a decision was pending at year's end.
Child abuse, including sexual abuse, was a problem.
Office of the Ombudsman for Children reported 1,050 new complaints of
individual violations of children's rights through December. The office
has seen yearly increases in the number of complaints, due in part to
the greater visibility and presence of the ombudsman.
2008 the government launched a campaign in cooperation with the Council
of Europe to prevent corporal punishment. The campaign continued through
the year and targeted families, schools, children's homes and
penitentiaries. However, the ombudsman for children reported in August
the campaign was not visible enough and the number of cases of corporal
punishment was not diminishing.
In 2007 local NGOs filed suit
against the country before the European Committee for Social Rights
(ECSR) alleging its sexual education curriculum for school-age children
violated young people's basic rights to comprehensive and adequate
sexual and reproductive health education. In August the ESCR published
its decision, which found "the evidence was insufficient to justify a
conclusion that the sexual and reproductive health education overall is
inadequate." However, the committee criticized the government for
homophobic material in classroom texts. The textbook in question was
subsequently removed. Despite this ruling, the ombudsman for children
criticized the government for not having a systematic and uniform sexual
health education program throughout the country. While some areas of
the country had very developed sexual education programs, others had
The country has no official statistics on
child marriages; however, social welfare services believed this to be a
problem in the Romani community. Common law marriages between persons
16 and older were customary, many times prompted by pregnancies. These
marriages were in some cases made official when partners reached
Statutory rape is a part of the penal code with the
minimum age for consensual sex set at 14 years. Penalties for statutory
rape range between one and eight years, but in aggravating
circumstances such as sex resulting in pregnancy or repeated sexual
acts, penalties range from five years to up to 40 years. Filming or
photographing children for pornographic material is penalized with
between one and five years of prison, while exposure of children to
pornography can be punished with financial fines or up to one year in
During the year state prosecutors received reports of
the following incidents involving children and minors: 36 reports of
sexual intercourse with minors and 29 convictions for the same crime,
114 reports and 86 convictions for lewd behavior involving a child or a
minor, 11 reports and nine convictions of abusing children for
pornography, and 68 reported cases of child pornography on the Internet
with 13 convictions for crimes committed earlier.
Trafficking in Persons
law prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons; however, the country
was a source, destination, and country of transit for trafficked women
The country was mainly a country of transit for
women and girls trafficked from countries in Eastern Europe and the
Balkans to other parts of Europe for prostitution and labor
exploitation. The country was also a source and destination for
trafficked women and men. In December the government reported
authorities identified eight trafficking victims during the year. Four
victims were Croatians, two were Serbians, and two originated from
Bosnia and Herzegovina. Six of the victims were women trafficked for
purposes of sexual exploitation and included one underage girl, while
two were men trafficked for labor exploitation. The government reported
the victims cooperated with police investigations and NGOs.
in 2008 indicated women and girls 30 years old and younger were most at
risk of being trafficked. Anecdotal information indicated regional and
domestic organized crime groups were responsible for trafficking.
Traffickers controlled victims through violence, intimidation,
withholding documents, and threats.
The law defines
trafficking in persons as a crime separate from slavery and provides
penalties between one and 10 years' imprisonment for traffickers. The
minimum penalty for trafficking crimes committed against a minor is five
years' imprisonment. If a criminal organization committed the crime and
it resulted in death, the penalty is five years' to life imprisonment.
The law provides criminal sanctions of three months to three years in
prison for using the services of trafficked persons.
December the government had arrested and instituted criminal proceedings
against nine persons. The government reported six trafficking
convictions against five persons, in which the court sentenced the
defendants to prison terms ranging from two to eight years, while in one
case the defendant was ordered to compensate the victim with 152,196
kunas ($30,400). The government also issued five indictments against
eight persons during the year whose cases were pending at year's end.
government has a national committee for the suppression of trafficking
in persons. The head of the government's human rights office was also
the national coordinator for trafficking issues. Various agencies are
responsible for the suppression of trafficking. Police participated in
international investigations through the regional center of the
Southeastern European Cooperative Initiative (SECI) Bucharest, and
through Interpol and Europol. Between March and November, the Ministry
of Interior conducted four operations responding to sexual services
advertisements on the Internet and in the media in order to identify
possible trafficking victims. Police continued to cooperate with both
short- and long-term advisors from Germany and Austria. In addition,
police had an active role in the Mirage working group from the SECI
regional center and reported strong cooperation with Europol and
Interpol in combating trafficking in persons.
There were no specific reports government officials were involved in trafficking.
the year the government did not deport or punish victims of
trafficking, and it cooperated with NGOs and the International
Organization for Migration (IOM) mission to offer all necessary
assistance to victims. While the law criminalizes international
prostitution and unauthorized border crossings, it exempts trafficking
victims from prosecution. Similarly, the law exempts trafficking victims
from deportation under laws that permit authorities to charge
foreigners engaged in prostitution with a misdemeanor and initiate
deportation proceedings if they do not fulfill legal requirements for
their stay in the country.
The government has a legal
framework to provide for victim assistance, and support services were
available for trafficking victims. The government continued to finance
shelters for adults and minors who were victims of trafficking. The
Croatian Red Cross, in cooperation with the government, operated four
reception shelters. The government offered assistance to all victims and
provided services jointly with local NGOs and the IOM.
law regulates the status of foreign victims of trafficking. It defines
methods of identification and the scope of assistance and the respective
bodies that are responsible for offering victim assistance. The Law on
Foreigners was amended in March to extend the "reflection period" for
adult victims from 30 to 60 days, while for victims who are minors it
remained at 90 days. The law specifies different forms of assistance
that should be offered to foreign victims, including safe
accommodations, financial support, education and training, and
assistance with regard to work. The law also provides for temporary
residence permits for victims, initially from six months to one year,
which the government can extend based on a subsequent needs assessment.
government continued to broadcast public awareness campaigns produced
during the previous years and continued to support an NGO hotline,
alternative shelters, and two traditional shelters. Government
information campaigns targeted children and adults as potential victims,
while one targeted potential clients of those who were trafficked.
The Department of State's annual Trafficking in Persons Report
can be found at www.state.gov/g/tip.
Persons with Disabilities
law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in
employment, education, access to health care, and in the provision of
other state services; however, discrimination occurred.
government maintained 10 counseling centers offering assistance to
persons with disabilities and their families. In 2008 the government
also opened a separate department for persons with disabilities at the
employment agency, aimed at increasing employment rates. A total of
1,028 persons with disabilities were employed during the year, while the
number of unemployed was 6,215. An estimated 67.3 percent of unemployed
persons with disabilities have been unemployed for more than a year.
June 2008 parliament appointed the first ombudsman for persons with
disabilities. In a report covering the second half of 2008, the
ombudsman noted the majority of complaints received by his office
involved welfare and pension payments. The office actively cooperated
with NGOs dealing with disabled persons.
During the year
parliamentarian Vesna Skulic criticized the government for lagging
behind in fulfilling its obligations under the National Strategy for
Persons with Disabilities for 2007-2015. The government was late in
introducing measures or revising relevant laws that affect the lives of
persons with disabilities. Skulic continued to criticize the lack of
transparency in the management of the government's fund for professional
rehabilitation and employment.
The number of persons with
mental disabilities in institutions did not decrease, despite some
efforts to develop community-based alternatives. The law provides that
unemployed parents of children with disabilities be granted 2,200 kunas
($443) in monthly compensation. The law also provides compensation to
The law mandates access to buildings for
persons with disabilities; however, the government did not always
enforce this provision, and the law did not mandate that existing
facilities be retrofitted. As a result, access to public facilities for
persons with disabilities remained limited.
constitutional protections against discrimination applied to all
minorities, open discrimination and harassment continued against ethnic
Serbs and Roma.
Incidents, including looting, physical
threats, verbal abuse, and spraying graffiti on Serb property, continued
in the Dalmatian hinterland and the central part of the country.
International organizations reported that the frequency and gravity of
violent incidents against ethnic Serbs diminished in most of the country
with the exception of the Zadar and Sibenik hinterland, where they
On July 11, police arrested two young men
who broke into the house of a Serb returnee in a village near Knin,
smashed the furniture and verbally and physically assaulted the owner.
Human rights NGOs reported the two were a part of group that first
stoned the house and then used wooden sticks and ladders to break the
windows. The owner immediately called the police, who stopped the
attack. The police filed criminal charges against the two attackers,
19-year-old immigrants from Bosnia and Herzegovina, for acts of violence
motivated by hatred. The Croatian Helsinki Committee subsequently
issued a statement criticizing the incident and the police in Knin for
repeated reluctance to report low-level violence (such as driving across
cultivated fields or destroying satellite dishes) against ethnic Serbs
in the area over the previous three years.
On March 26, a
group of eight young men threw stones at and verbally abused the local
Serb population in the village of Bukovic in the Benkovac area. They
threatened one of the villagers with a knife and demanded money. They
smashed windows in homes and burned the haystack of another villager.
The police identified all eight perpetrators and charged them with
"violent behavior" and "disruption of the inviolability of the home."
Human rights NGOs reported no indictments had been issued at the year's
On July 16, police arrested three men for smashing the
windows and slashing the tires of a car with Serbian plates in front of
the Hotel Plat in Dubrovnik. The three were indicted for damaging and
destroying property, and authorities qualified the act as a hate crime.
The case was pending at year's end.
In May 2008 authorities
transferred the 2007 case of two young men arrested for verbally and
physically abusing two Serb returnees and attempting to burn their house
with them inside, from the county court to the municipal court in
Pozega. The prosecutors in Pozega revised the charges from attempted
murder to inflicting grave injuries. On April 23, the court sentenced
the two perpetrators to two years in prison with parole. The prosecution
appealed the verdict in June; a final decision was pending at year's
Authorities made no further progress in identifying suspects in the 2007 bombing of a Serbian-owned vehicle.
continued against ethnic Serbs in several areas, including the
administration of justice, employment, and housing. Ethnic Serbs in
war-affected regions continued to be subject to societal harassment and
discrimination. Local authorities sometimes refused to hire qualified
Serbs even when no Croats applied for a position.
after the parliament passed the Constitutional Law on National
Minorities (CLNM), authorities had not implemented its provision on
proportional minority employment in the public sector in areas where a
minority constitutes at least 15 percent of the population. Ethnic
Serbs, the largest minority, were most affected by the slow
implementation of the law. Difficulties with the implementation of the
CLNM continued during the year. At a roundtable on minority employment
organized by the Ministry of Justice in Karlovac on May 14, officials
admitted that minority representation in the judiciary was not adequate.
One department head cited Karlovac County as an example of an area
where minorities made up 11 percent of the population but constituted
only 2 percent of employees in the judiciary. The law provides that
minority participation is to be taken into account when appointing
judges in regions where minorities constitute a significant percentage
of the population.
The National Minority Council received
approximately 42 million kunas ($8.5 million) for minority associations'
cultural programs during the year.
harassment, and discrimination against Roma continued to be a problem.
While only 9,463 persons declared themselves to be Roma in the 2001
census, officials and NGOs estimated the Romani population was between
30,000 and 40,000.
At the end of June, four skinheads verbally
abused and then tried to set on fire 12 Roma sleeping on trucks parked
near a temporary dump site at the outskirts of Zagreb. One of the
skinheads hit a Rom with a Molotov cocktail but failed to cause any
injuries. The attackers fled before being arrested.
the ECHR ruled in favor of Darko Beganovic, a Rom beaten by seven
persons in 2000, and found the state violated the European Convention on
Human Rights by failing to institute criminal proceedings in the case.
The court ordered the government to pay Beganovic 1,000 euros ($1,430)
for damages and 6,940 euros ($9,920) for court expenses.
faced many obstacles, including lack of knowledge of the Croatian
language, lack of education, lack of citizenship and identity documents,
high unemployment, and widespread discrimination. Many Romani women in
particular had only limited Croatian language skills. In 2007 Romani
NGOs estimated 25 percent of Roma did not have citizenship documents and
thus could not obtain social benefits, employment, voting rights, and
property restitution. According to the Council of Europe, only 6.5
percent of Roma had permanent jobs, while the government estimated
20,000 to 30,000 Roma were receiving some form of social assistance. In
September the government estimated over 90 percent of registered Roma
lived on social aid.
On a national level, the government
worked to increase the employment rate of Roma by providing two years'
worth of salary payments to employers who hired Romani workers.
Government spending on programs for Roma increased from 17 million kunas
($3.4 million) in 2008 to 27 million kunas in 2009 ($5.4 million).
During the year the government worked with the European Commission to
improve conditions in major Roma settlements in the Medjimurje region,
where Roma constituted 6 percent of population. The government allocated
7.5 million kunas ($1.5 million) for administrative costs related to
the legalization of four Roma settlements there. In addition, the
government contributed 2.5 million kunas ($503,000) to a joint project
with the European Commission to reconstruct infrastructure in these
Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
was some societal violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay,
bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons. There are at least two active
On June 13, an antigay protest was staged
during the annual Gay Pride Parade. Members of the protest carried
banners with abusive language such as "kill the faggots." Organizers of
the parade considered the protest a hate crime and criticized
authorities for having allowed it to take place. Police arrested five
persons who tried to break through police lines and attack parade
participants. After the parade two unidentified persons followed one
parade supporter to his doorstep and severely beat him.
August the ECSR issued a statement on the sexual education curriculum in
Croatian schools that criticized the government for homophobic material
in classroom texts. The committee stated certain parts of the
educational material were "manifestly biased, discriminatory, and
demeaning" and served to stigmatize homosexuals "based upon negative,
distorted, reprehensible, and degrading stereotypes." The committee
found the material had a "discriminatory and demeaning impact" upon
persons not of heterosexual orientation throughout society and presented
a "distorted picture of human sexuality." The committee stated the
government had failed "in the provision of objective and nonexclusionary
health education." Authorities removed the textbook in question.
Societal discrimination against LGBT persons was frequently manifested by insults, stereotypical jokes, and societal prejudices.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS remained a problem. The
Croatian Association for HIV (HUHIV) reported dentists and general
practitioners at times refused to treat HIV-positive patients and some
hospitals postponed surgery because doctors were reluctant to operate on
them. If an HIV patient did not go through the infectious disease
hospital, he or she often waited for treatment, and doctors sometimes
delayed surgery indefinitely. There were allegations transplant centers
refused to put HIV patients on their lists of potential organ
According to HUHIV representatives, the lack of
public assistance, such as hotlines, for HIV-positive patients was a
problem. According to the UN theme group on HIV/AIDS, an analysis of the
country's laws indicated they contain discriminatory provisions
regarding HIV. The group cited legal provisions requiring testing under
medical supervision for certain professions and, in certain cases,
restricted employment for prisoners and HIV-positive persons. According
to the analysis, most cases of discrimination occurred outside the scope
of the law or were due to insufficient enforcement of privacy laws,
lack of consistent, adequate medical care, and discrimination in school
or the workplace.
Section 7 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
are entitled by law to form or join unions of their choice without
previous authorization or excessive requirements, and workers exercised
this right in practice. Unions generally were independent of the
government and political parties.
In July 2008 the government
initiated a consultative process through the Croatian Social and
Economic Council with key stakeholders: labor unions, employer
associations, and economists, to provide recommendations on bringing the
existing labor code into line with EU standards. The negotiations
concluded in December 2009 with three amendments to the labor code which
were pending in the parliament at year's end. The amendments include
limiting temporary work contracts to no more than three years,
establishment of a flexible eight-hour workday with overtime regulations
and night-shift restrictions, and establishment of a 56-hour maximum
The law provides for the right to strike, with some
limitations, and workers exercised these rights during the year. The
law does not permit members of the armed forces, police, government
administration, or public services to strike. Workers may strike only at
the end of a contract or in specific circumstances mentioned in the
contract after they have gone through mediation. When negotiating a new
contract, workers are also required to go through mediation before they
can strike. Labor and management must jointly agree on a mediator if a
dispute goes to mediation. If a strike is found to be illegal, any
participant may be dismissed and the union held liable for damages.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
constitution and law protect collective bargaining and the right to
organize, and workers exercised these rights in practice, although some
international observers reported there that small firms did not always
uphold this right.
Approximately 12 percent of the country's
workers are on fixed-term contracts with employers. Manual labor and
retail employees are primarily affected and many employers hire new
workers for a trial period of typically three months.
prohibits antiunion discrimination and expressly allows unions to
challenge firings in court; however, incidents of union-related
harassment and firing of employees occurred, and in general the
inefficiency of the court system seriously delayed and discouraged
citizens' attempts to seek redress through the legal system.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
law prohibits all forced or compulsory labor, including by children,
but there were incidents in which adults and children were trafficked
for prostitution and labor (see section 6, Trafficking in Persons). The
cases of trafficking for labor involved an auto mechanic and a
d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
are laws and policies to protect children from exploitation in the
workplace and provide for acceptable working conditions. While the
government for the most part implemented these laws and policies
effectively, child labor remained a problem.
In 2008, the last
year for which data were available, the State Labor Inspectorate
recorded 173 violations of labor-related laws involving 86 children
under the age of 17. Of these violations, two involved a child under the
age of 15. Violations occurred mainly in the hospitality, tourism,
retail, food, industrial, services, and construction sectors.
minimum age for employment of children is 15 years. The Ministry of
Economy, Labor, and Entrepreneurship, in conjunction with the ombudsman
for children and the state inspectorate, is responsible for enforcing
this regulation. Minors under the age of 15 may work if they receive
prior approval from the state labor inspectorate and if it is determined
that the child will not suffer physically or mentally from the work.
Approval is usually requested for filming movie scenes or for play
rehearsals. The law prohibits workers under the age of 18 from working
overtime, at night, or under dangerous conditions.
proscribes the worst forms of child labor, including trafficking in
children for purposes of sexual exploitation and labor. The national
ombudsman for children coordinated the country's efforts to prevent the
exploitation of children and to assist in removing children from
exploitative situations. The labor inspectorate has 111 inspectors whose
duties include inspection for illegal employment of minors. The
inspectorate forwarded all cases of violations involving minors to the
Office of the Ombudsman for Children. Criminal cases were prosecuted by
the State Prosecutor's Office and often resulted in convictions.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
minimum wage as determined by the government was 2,814 kunas ($566) per
month; the net wage was between 2,000 and 2,200 kunas ($402-$443),
depending on exemptions, and did not provide a decent standard of living
for a worker and family. Government statistics from June indicated the
average wage was 5,370 kunas ($1,080), and the minimum cost of living
for a family of four in rented housing was 6,316 kunas ($1,270). The
government enforces the minimum wage, while the ministry of finance
determines the level.
Nonpayment and late payment of wages
continued to be a problem, as was nonpayment for overtime and holiday
work. According to the labor inspectorate, the law no longer requires
that records be kept of the number of persons who did not receive
payment of their salaries. However, workers have the right to bring
court proceedings against employers who did not issue pay slips to their
employees. Based on data that it received through various reports, the
inspectorate concluded that at least 1,708 employees did not receive
full payment for their work in 2008, the last year for which data were
The inspectorate reported that it shut down 452
employers for periods of at least 30 days during 2008 for labor law
violations. Violations included illegally employing local and foreign
workers without work permits, employing workers not registered with the
pension fund, and employing workers not registered with a health
insurance agency. The labor inspectorate reported that although its
officers greatly increased their inspections and reporting of
violations, the courts did hand down punishment commensurate with the
seriousness of the violations, and therefore the inspectorate's actions
were not effective. The inspectorate pointed to the large number of
violations that were not tried in court due to the expiration of the
statute of limitations. In 2008 there were 4,186 such cases involving
terms of employment and 948 involving work safety.
provides for a standard workweek of 40 hours. Workers are entitled to a
30-minute break daily, one day off out of seven, and a minimum of four
weeks of paid vacation annually. The law provides that workers are
entitled to time-and-a-half pay for overtime and limits overtime to
eight hours per week. The labor inspectorate must be notified if
overtime work by an employee continues for more than four consecutive
weeks, for more than 12 weeks during a calendar year, or if the combined
overtime of employees of an employer exceeds 10 percent of the total
working hours in a particular month. Pregnant women, mothers of children
under three years of age, and single parents of children under six
years of age may work overtime only if they freely give written consent
to perform such work. In 2008 the inspectorate processed 14,593
violations. After processing, the inspectorate sent 5,737 violations to
misdemeanor courts for proceedings. Infractions included violations
related to labor contracts, payment for work, annual leave, and unpaid
and unreported overtime. In 2008 authorities sent 36 criminal
proceedings against employers to municipal state attorneys' offices.
government set health and safety standards, which the Health Ministry
enforced; its inspectorate has jurisdiction over enforcement of health
and safety laws at the workplace. In practice many industries often did
not meet worker protection standards. In 2008 the inspectorate initiated
2,687 requests for misdemeanor proceedings covering 5,588 violations of
safety standards. During 2008 misdemeanor courts issued 1,526
violations, of which authorities declared three were criminal acts and
referred them to higher courts. Courts rejected 948 of the reported
violations because of expiration of the statute of limitations.
the law workers may remove themselves from hazardous conditions and
have recourse through the courts if they believe that they have been
dismissed wrongfully for doing so; however, according to the labor
inspectorate, workers did not exercise this right in practice and
normally reported employers only after they had left their job.