Monday, 5 July 2021

Zagreb Gay Pride 2021 Analysis: Issues Still Exist, Pride Celebrates History and Present Equality

July 5, 2021 - Gay rights in Croatia still have challenges ahead, but even if all problems are resolved, Pride should remain a commemorative event. A look at the history of gay culture in Croatia and the current climate in this Zagreb Gay Pride 2021 Analysis by TCN reporter Ivor Kruljac.

Zagreb Pride is the oldest pride in Croatia. First held in 2002, it attracts more and more people every year, from LGBTQ members, straight people that support gay rights to NGOs, human rights activists, and even politicians from the left and liberal specter. Over the years, the event grew from a one-day pride to Pride month, full of educational and entertaining events regarding LGBTQ issues and a chance for people with the same preferences to meet and celebrate who they are.

Pride month is marked in June in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan.

„The Stonewall Riots, also called the Stonewall Uprising, began in the early hours of June 28, 1969, when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village in New York City. The raid sparked a riot among bar patrons and neighborhood residents as police roughly hauled employees and patrons out of the bar, leading to six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement outside the bar on Christopher Street, in neighboring streets, and in nearby Christopher Park. The Stonewall Riots served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world“, reminds History.com.

When it comes to LGBTQ in Croatia, as you can expect with the ideological divide Croatians generally experience, there are mixed feelings on the issue.

From street violence to a family event  

Participating in the first Pride in 2002 required that if you are a man loving a man ready to openly admit it, you had to have balls.

The attacks by skinheads and other „morally concerned citizens were fierce and violent. Participants truly needed police protection which was provided but also needed to be careful to not get hit by the incoming rocks that were thrown among the participants.

skin_arrest.jpg

Police arresting violent skinhead at the first Zagreb Pride in 2002, screenshot / Zagreb pride

But, at least for Zagreb, the situation got better and more open. Today, pride is the forthcoming celebration of love and freedom, and entire families can be seen to join the picnic at Ribnjak park to teach their children tolerance and that people are not sick or different from others because of their sexual preference. Other larger cities in Croatia, such as Split, slowly but surely, do follow that path too, and Rijeka, the pinnacle of liberal Croatia, is also a very gay-friendly city.

Of course, a political counterstrike is expected and quite strong. The first most notable one was the 2013 referendum, where it was voted that the Croatian constitution declares marriage as a „community between a man and woman“. The goal was to deny LGBTQ couples the same rights as enjoyed by straight people.

However, the bill on life partnership outplayed that attempt.

In the meantime, LGBTQ couples can also adopt children in Croatia, as Constitutional Court concluded that gay couples fostering children is not against the Croatian Constitution.

That decision and along with the general openness of Croatia towards LGBTQ was followed by a controversial carnival in Imotski where an effigy of a gay couple was burned. President Zoran Milanović demanded an apology from the organizers, and SDP's MP Arsen Bauk filed charges against the organizers.

Counting pluses and minuses, the report on Croatia being the 39th best country for LGBTQ visitors still seems to uphold. No changes for the better, but at least Croatia is still in the top third for this category of tourists.

 Haters strike back

2020 and 2021 sadly saw the uprise of violence towards LGBTQ in the Croatian capital. Apart from the occasional tearing down or burning of the rainbow flag, Croatia was shocked with an attempt of burning a man in Maksimir Forest Park as well, with his sexual preference being the sole motive for the attack.

 On the other side, this year's pride felt to start stronger than ever. The newly elected mayor Tomislav Tomašević joined the parade, along with stating that Zagreb is a city that is open to everyone. This year arranged a bit differently to adhere to corona measures; around 2500 participated in the event.  

„Twenty of our prides made our city and our republic a better, more democratic, and joyous place for the life of all citizens“, was the main message of the 20th edition of Zagreb Pride.

As reported by Index.hr, the Zagreb Pride association representatives stated that the Croatian LGBTIQ community „became a powerful, responsible and self-aware part of the country, but that the fight isn't over“.

„Our constitution and our laws still do not include in a complete and fair way. Our streets and squares are still not free of hate. We didn't forget nor we will forget victims of homophobic and fascist rampage in this year and all previous years“, stated Zagreb Pride.  

Sadly, while Pride itself went without issues, participants of the pride who walked the streets of Zagreb after pride with rainbow flags faced a series of physical attacks on several locations in Zagreb.  

A week ahead of Pride, conservative MOST Party parliament member Nikola Grmoja complained that commercials displayed during EURO 2020 commercials were LGBTQ propaganda and that kids need to be protected from it and announced that he might include it in his anti-pedophile package. Grmoja's statement caused strong disagreements among the Croatian public, with several people (including celebrities) teasing him that if he wants to start battling pedophilia, he should start from church (as Grmoja is quite clerical). Božo Petrov, president of the MOST party, added more fuel to the fire when he supported Grmoja, stating that „minorities can't dictate what my children can learn in school“. He added that minorities need to be aware that they are minorities and that „we tolerate that," sparking more enrage from the public, with many comparing MOST to the controversial Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Zagreb Pride linked the post-Pride physical attacks with Petrov and Grmoja's public statements, and Petrov and Grmoja announced they would sue Zagreb Pride for slender.

 Nikola_Grmoja_lgbt_article.jpg

Nikola Grmoja, screenshot N1

The Law: "Gay is OK". Popular opinion: "Do it in your homes, not on the streets".

In this political escalation, what does the average Croatian think? Looking at the comments on social networks, it seems the majority of Croatians don't mind gays being gays and living how they like (even if they are not always happy with legal rights the LGBTQ community received). But, one sentiment in that „tolerance“ is particularly worrying.

„Live in your house however you want it. You don't have to wave around, like its a best thing ever“, said one of the online comments on Index.hr beneath the news on Petrov and Grmoja.

So it seems the public does not understand why Pride is important. First of all, as evident, the political climate is such that the battle for equality truly isn't over in Croatia, and Pride is the best way for the community to express what issues LGBTQ still face in Croatia. Additionally, pride month is also educational and supportive, and public presence show to other people who feel the same that they are not alone, as they might feel lonely and unable to find people who feel the same in everyday life.

zagreb_pride_fotka_druga.jpg

© Zagreb Pride

But, even if the law and constitution give the same rights and solves the problem of intolerance of LGBTQ people completely, does that mean that Pride should then be canceled? Well, Croatia won its independence and the war in the nineties. Does that mean we should stop commemorating the Homeland War? Or is it nice to honor and celebrate the victory and triumph over all obstacles Croatia had to face in its independence? Pride is a cultural, commemorative event honoring those who were or still are victims and oppressed for their sexual preference, either in Croatia or in the world. Croatia is a democratic country. Every group, national, ethnical, racial, religious, etc. should have the right to gather and honor its heroes. The right to gather and honor its tragedies and their dates and connect with other people who feel the same. If political elites are so concerned with keeping Croatians in Croatia, then they can't afford to discriminate or attack part of Croatian society solely based on their sexual preference. A preference that, unlike being violent or intolerable, can't be chosen.

Learn more about LGBT rights in Croatia and what LGBT tourists should know on our TC page.

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Sunday, 6 June 2021

SDP Candidate for Istria Prefect to File Constitutional Complaint After Slim-margin Defeat

ZAGREB, 6 June, 2021 - Danijel Ferić, the Social Democratic Party's (SDP) candidate for Istra County Prefect, who was defeated by Boris Miletić of the Istrian Democratic Party (IDS) by a slim margin of a few dozen votes, on Sunday announced a complaint against the State Electoral Commission's (DIP) decision.

The Constitution Court has a 48-hour deadline to respond to the objections to be lodged by Ferić and the SDP on Monday.

On Saturday, DIP affirmed the victory of IDS leader Boris Miletić in the election runoff on 30 May for the new Istria County prefect. During its hours-long session the commission partially upheld the objections made by Ferić and SDP observers on the count of the votes after last Sunday's election runoff.

As a result, Ferić, was given 17 more ballots, and Miletić three more ballots than they had after the count of votes immediately after the polling stations were closed. Thus, of 52,574 valid ballots Miletić and the candidate for his deputy, Tulio Demetlika, won 26,308, while Ferić and his deputy Antonella Degrassi mustered 26,268 ballots, or 40 fewer ballots. There were 2,056 invalid ballots or 3.76%.

Ferić told a news conference in Pula today that the constitutional complaint would refer to the DIP's refusal of the SDP request to check the allegations that people who actually had not been in the town of Labin during the election runoff being were registered voters who exercised their right on that day.

Ferić insists that the election runoff for the Istria County prefect were contaminated and particularly in the towns where the IDS was in power: for instance, Pula, Labin, Rovinj and Pazin.

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Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Court Grants Constitutional Complaint by Killed Migrant Girl's Family - Večernji List Daily

ZAGREB, 21 April, 2021 - A constitutional complaint by the parents and eight siblings of Afghan migrant girl Madine Hosseini, who died in 2017 after she fell under a train near the Croatian-Serbian border, regarding their application for protection in Croatia, has been granted, Večernji List daily said on Wednesday.

The Constitutional Court established that the Ministry of the Interior (MUP) and administrative courts did not establish with sufficient certainty that Serbia was a safe third country and that asylum seekers would not be at risk of being returned to their country of origin.

A complaint filed by the second wife of Madine's father and children has also been granted, so decisions of the High Administrative Court were quashed for a total of four adults and ten children aged one to 15 from Afghanistan and the case was returned to the Administrative Court in Osijek. All of them were represented by lawyer Sanja Bezbradica Jelavić.

After Madeine's death they were returned to Serbia, but in 2018 they re-entered Croatia and applied for international protection. The father and husband who filed the constitutional complaint said that the Taliban had threatened him because he had worked as a police officer and driver for the US military in Afghanistan, so in fear of them, since he had been wounded in one attack, he managed to flee with his family.

After they illegally entered Croatia, MUP rejected their asylum request by applying the safe third country institute. The explanation was that the Serbian constitution guaranteed fundamental human and minority rights.

Administrative courts also confirmed that Serbia's legal framework guaranteed an efficient and fair procedure of international protection, even from chain refoulement. The fact that they had not been exposed to inhumane or similar treatment in the year and a half they stayed in Serbia was also taken in to account.

However, the lawyer said that the evaluation of Serbia as a safe third country had not taken into account the fact that over the past 10 years refugee statuse had been granted to only 47 persons and subsidiary protection to 62, which was negligible in relation to the number of refugees.

The constitutional judges too ruled that it was not enough to examine the legal framework for asylum seekers but also the real situation, Večernji List said.

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Tuesday, 23 March 2021

President Zoran Milanović Due to Pick Supreme Court Chief Justice Nominee From Applicants

ZAGREB, 23 March, 2021 - The Constitutional Court on Tuesday concluded that the Croatian President can select a nominee for the Supreme Court Chief Justice only from those applicants who sent their applications for that post after the State Judicial Council (DSV) publicly advertised the position. 

After receiving requests to test the constitutionality of the provision regulating the selection procedure under which the DSV advertises the position for the Supreme Court President, the Constitutional Court, which considered this issue, said that the provision concerned does not restrict the head of state's constitutional powers whereby he/she can nominate the candidate for the said post while it is the parliament that appoints the Supreme Court head.

The Constitutional Court says that the head of state is authorised to nominate one of the applicants who have sent their applications following the DSV's public advertisement.

The latest conclusion of the Constitutional Court was adopted with nine votes in favour and four votes against it. These four judges have announced their dissenting opinions, while four of the nine judges who voted for this conclusion have also announced the publication of their supporting opinions.

The Constitutional Court has received a few requests to review the constitutionality of the Courts Act which stipulates the procedure for the appointment of the Supreme Court President.

The issue has grabbed limelight since President Zoran Milanović decided not to select any of the three applicants who sent their applications after the State Judicial Council advertised the position.

After the expiry of the public call, Milanović proposed law professor Zlata Đurđević, insisting that the law regulating the procedure is not in line with the Constitution.

In the meantime, lawyers Sandra Marković and Jadranka Sloković have sent a request to the Constitutional Court to test the constitutionality of the said legislation, after a request for the review of its constitutionality was also forwarded by filmmaker Dario Juričan, who ran in the presidential election in 2019.

Constitutional Court president Miroslav Šeparović told Hina on Friday that the court would decide on Tuesday whether the latest request would be put on its agenda as a separate item or whether it would be discussed together with Juričan's proposal.

Milanović insists that it is his constitutional right to nominate the person he chooses. The decision of the parliament speaker not to add Milanović's motion to the parliament's agenda concerning professor Đurđević, who was not among the three applicants, prompted President Milanović to criticise the legislature for defending the status quo and "untouchable" top officials in the judiciary.

Last Friday, the parliament confirmed the opinion of the Committee on the Constitution that no mistake was made by Speaker Gordan Jandroković when he asked President Milanović to supplement his motion on the nomination of the Supreme Court president.

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Sunday, 13 December 2020

Constitutional Court Rejects Sanader's Claim in Planinska Case

ZAGREB, Dec 13, 2020 - The Constitutional Court rejected the lawsuit by former prime minister and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Ivo Sanader in the Planinska case, due to which he is serving a six-year prison sentence.

With this decision all legal means of challenging the verdict before national courts have been exhausted.

The verdict in the Planinska case, in which Sanader was charged with receiving a commission of HRK 17.5 million after the state bought a building in Zagreb's Planinska Street from the company of former HDZ MP and butchers chain owner Stjepan Fiolic during his term as prime minister, was handed down by Zagreb County Court in 2017 and upheld by the Supreme Court in April 2019.

The Supreme Court increased Sanader's sentence to six years in prison, after which the former prime minister was sent to Zagreb's Remetinec jail.

In the trial, Fiolic admitted that he brought HRK 10 million and another one million euros (approx. HRK 17.5 million in total) to Sanader's home in a cardboard box. The property of Fiolic's company was purchased by the regional development ministry, led by former minister Petar Cobankovic, who made a plea bargain with the prosecution before trail and was sentenced to one in year in prison. He did not go to prison but did community service.

Apart from them, the trial chamber in this case also convicted Mladen Mlinarevic, for whom it established that he inflated the value of the building in Zagreb's Planinska Street owned by Fiolic before it was purchased by Cobankovic's ministry.

In the rejected constitutional complaint, Sanader repeated that he was a victim of political persecution and that Fiolic and Cobankovic had reached agreements with the prosecution and received lighter sentences. In the complaint, Sanader called Cobankovic a "false witness" who spoke in court as instructed by the prosecution.

He also claimed that the equality of arms principle had been violated as several criminal proceedings had been conducted against him at the same time. In addition to the constitutional complaint, he also filed a motion to delay enforcement procedures and to postpone his imprisonment.

In the meantime, in November, Sanader was sentenced in a retrial to eight years in prison and ordered to return HRK 16 million in the Fimi Media case, after the non-final verdict from 2013 was quashed by the Supreme Court.

Sanader is also waiting for the Supreme Court's decisions on several more non-final verdicts. He has been sentenced pending appeal to six years for taking a bribe from the Hungarian energy group MOL, and MOL CEO Zsolt Hernadi was sentenced to two years in prison. If the verdict becomes final, Sanader will have to return €5 million to the state.

He has also been sentenced pending appeal for taking a kickback from the Austrian Hypo bank, and he has been acquitted pending appeal for the sale of electricity from the HEP provider to a company owned by Rober Jezic at prices below the market price.

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Government: St Mark's Square Designated a Guarded Area

ZAGREB, November 26, 2020 - The government on Thursday amended the decree on designation of protected persons and buildings, designating St Mark's Square, the location of the buildings housing the government offices, parliament and the Constitutional Court, as a category 1 guarded area.

The amendment came after a 12 October shooting incident in which a police officer guarding the entrance to the government building was shot and wounded and the perpetrator later committed suicide.

Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said that the designation of the area as a guarded area created the legal grounds for stepping up security measures in order to reduce the possibilities of direct access and undermining the safety and security of the persons and buildings concerned.

He said that the rights to public assembly and peaceful protests would not be restricted and would be in compliance with the relevant legislation.

Access and movement for all persons, employees, office-holders, lawmakers, Constitutional Court judges, people living in the buildings in the square, worshippers visiting St Mark's Church and participants in public rallies will not be restricted.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Croatian Helsinki Committee: Constitutional Court's Reaction Prompt

ZAGREB, Sept 16, 2020 - The Croatian Helsinki Committee (HHO) said on Wednesday the Constitutional Court's action on the national COVID response team's work had been more than prompt, dismissing as unfounded the criticism of the court for not holding a public session with the press attending.

The problem is the length of decision making is due to the government, which last responded to the complaints filed by citizens and institutions, at the judge-rapporteur's request, on August 10, HHO president Ivan Zvonimir Cicak said in a press release.

Therefore, the Constitutional Court resolved some 30 citizen complaints in one month and four days, whereas it took 18 months to resolve the Agrokor case, the HHO said, adding that the law does not stipulate a deadline by which the court should decide but says it should decide within an appropriate time.

As for complaints that in deciding on the work of the COVID response team on Monday the Constitutional Court did not hold a public session, the HHO said it would have been no public session but a sort of press conference, i.e. a public spectacle.

The HHO criticised opposition parties for failing to use their legal right to initiate a parliamentary debate on the work of the government and the COVID response team.

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Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Plenkovic Says Split Mayor Andro Krstulovic Opara Enjoys His Support

ZAGREB, Sept 15, 2020  - Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Tuesday that Split Mayor Andro Krstulovic Opara enjoys his support when asked if Krstulovic Opara would run in the next local election, set for May 2021.

Plenkovic made the statement for the press after meeting with Krstulovic Opara and Split County head Blazenko Boban, also a member of the HDZ party.

HDZ has a lot of candidates for local election

Asked who could be the HDZ's candidate for the mayor of Zagreb, Plenkovic said that "the HDZ has a lot of candidates."

"We will have good candidates, there is enough time left for that. The HDZ has a lot of candidates," Plenkovic said, denying speculation by some media outlets that Finance Minister Zdravko Maric was a likely candidate for the post of Zagreb Mayor.

Plenkovic also commented on the Constitutional Court's decision of Monday that laws on the powers of the national COVID-19 response team, passed by the parliament, were in line with the Constitution and that most of the team's decisions were lawful.

Constitutional Court's support very good in terms of legal security

"The COVID response team and the government yesterday received support from the Constitutional Court which either dismissed (complaints) or declared that practically all of the team's decisions were constitutional and in line with relevant laws. I believe this is very good in terms of legal security and the fact that our actions were based on Article 16 of the Constitution and we made decisions in the context of a declared epidemic, to protect citizens' health," he said.

If the fight against COVID-19 in the spring had not been successful, we would not have achieved 50% of the results of last year's tourist season, which was the best ever, he stressed.

Commenting on the HDZ's pre-election promise about a Sunday trading ban, and the fact that the Constitutional Court ruled that the COVID-19 response team's decision to ban Sunday trading was not in line with the Constitution, Plenkovic recalled that some surveys showed that as many as 80% of Croatians were in favor of a Sunday trading ban.

Gov't to put forward balanced law on non-working Sunday

"We believe it would be good and in the interest of the family and a healthy balance between work, rest, and spending time with one's dearest ones. During this term the government will put forward a bill that will seek a balance between a non-working Sunday and a certain number of working Sundays," he said.

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Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Pride Parade to Start in St. Mark's Square on Sept. 19

ZAGREB, Sept 15, 2020 - The 19th Pride parade will be held on September 19, and this year its participants will start their walk, seeking constitutional equality and a society free of gender and sexual norms and categories, in St. Mark's Square, where the government and parliament buildings are located. 

"This year we fight for constitutional equality and the right to freedom, within and outside our own four walls... the Constitution currently poses a wall for us because it restricts our freedoms. We must bring that wall down," the organizers of the Pride parade, Zagreb Pride, said.

This is the first time Pride marchers will gather outside the parliament and government buildings and the Constitutional Court.

"This is not so by chance, we will be there to ask the highest authorities of our republic to bring down the walls that still restrict our rights and continue to treat our families as second-class citizens," the organizers said, demanding that a procedure be launched to amend the constitution to make all families equal in their rights and obligations.

As for a recent decision by the Constitutional Court which enabled same-sex partners to provide foster care, they said it showed clearly how much the constitutional restriction of 2013 "is obsolete, nonsensical and unnatural."

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Monday, 14 September 2020

Constitutional Court Makes Decision on Civil Protection Headquarters

September the 14th, 2020 - The Croatian Constitutional Court has been given the task of deciding on whether or not the instructions being given by the National Civil Protection Headquarters during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic are constitutional and legal.

The National Civil Protection Headquarters have been the subject of a lot of conversation over the months since the coronavirus pandemic found its way to Croatian territory, with some claiming the decisions they make are illegal and unconstitutional. As such, the formal body competent for such matters has been given the final say on whether or not Vili Beros and company are allowed to set the rules as they do.

From remarks about needing to wear masks when using public transport or going shopping to all out protests in the very heart of Zagreb, the National Civil Protection Headquarters have faced a barrage of complaints from irritated citizens who would, for their own respective reasons, either prefer to not take any anti-epidemic measures or simply dispute the alleged politicisation of the team involved in passing those decisions.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 14th of September, 2020, the Croatian Constitutional Court ruled on the constitutionality of several laws and a package of 27 different constitutional complaints against measures passed by the National Civil Protection Headquarters related to the coronavirus pandemic.

At its session held on the 14th of September 2020, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia made a  decision on the constitutionality of the decisions made by the National Civil Protection Headquarters and as such the measures being prescribed by them.

The Croatian Constitutional Court clarified in a statement that it had decided that the Nationl Civil Protection Headquarters had not violated anyone's constitutional rights by making the series of decisions that they have been given the means and power to do since the outbreak of the pandemic within Croatian borders.

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