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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Friday, 3 July 2020

GONG Asks Constitutional Court To Oversee Legality of Election

ZAGREB, July 3, 2020 - The GONG election-monitoring NGO asked the Constitutional Court on Friday to oversee the constitutionality and legality of Sunday's parliamentary election "because persons infected with coronavirus are being deprived of the right to vote."

GONG submitted its request together with signatures by 179 citizens.

The state has the duty to find a way so that voters with coronavirus vote by prescribing additional epidemiological measures for contact with them on election day, similarly to the measures prescribed for self-isolating voters, GONG said in an explanation of its request.

In a press release, GONG recalled that it had warned in time about the need to introduce postal voting due to coronavirus, "but there has been no political will."

Now, GONG said, we have a situation in which some voters are deprived of the constitutional right to vote. "Regardless of the number of those infected, regardless of the attempt to downplay the problem... the right to vote does is not taken away."

GONG said earlier that citizens, notably seniors and those in self-isolation, "must not be forced to falsely choose between health protection and voting rights" and that it was up to the government to hold the election in a way that would not endanger either.

Monday, 8 June 2020

Parliament Ignoring Constitutional Court For 10 Yrs, Paper Says

ZAGREB, June 8, 2020 - The Constitutional Court is dissatisfied that the coming parliamentary election will again be held without the constituencies having been changed, which the court requested ten years ago, Jutarnji List daily said on Monday.

The election will be legal but the question is to what extent will it be legitimate because the difference in the number of voters per constituency remains much higher than the envisaged five percent. For example, 14 MPs will be elected by 329,000 voters in the fourth constituency, by 344,000 in the first, by 422,000 in the ninth, and by 400,000 in the tenth.

Constitutional Court president Miroslav Separovic recalled in the paper that the court sent a report to parliament in 2010 on instances that were not in line with the constitution and the law, and that parliament did nothing about it.

"The report isn't legally binding but has importance because the authority of the Constitutional Court stands behind it," he was quoted as saying.

In the unanimously adopted report, the court warned the legislature that the number of voters per constituency was not in line with the law. Under the law, the difference in the number must not exceed five percent. In reality, however, the differences were up to 25%, making the weight of a vote in one constituency bigger than in another.

The court warned on that occasion that that could bring into question the legality of the next election and that the deadline by which parliament should pass a new law on constituencies was 11 March 2011.

Ten years have gone by and nothing has happened and Separovic believes this is a case of obvious disrespect of the Constitutional Court by every parliament since 2010.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

A Dozen Lawsuits Challenge Legality of Pandemic-Fighting Measures

May 20, 2020 — Croatia’s Civil Protection Directorate successfully kept the coronavirus pandemic at bay. But did it break constitutional law in the process?

Legal entities and private citizens submitted proposals asking the Constitutional Court to assess the legality of Croatia’s pandemic-fighting measures.

There is no timeline for the court’s response. Croatia entered the political and procedural noman’s land when it dissolved parliament and called for elections.

A dozen lawsuits before the constitutional court as a whole challenge the directorate’s decisions, putting a spotlight on the uneasy tradeoff between a rapid response to a crisis and following prescribed procedures.

The government and members of the directorate argue a speedy response to save human lives trumps procedural hurdles. But claimants in the suit argue limits on movement and forced closures encroach on constitutional rights.

Seven of the 12 lawsuits contend limits of movement within the country passed on March 23 broke with constitutional rights. The complaints contend such measures can only be passed by a parliamentary vote.

Another two complaints contend limits on social gatherings, work, and service activities meant to limit the number of people allowed to congregate in one spot. The plaintiffs contend the measures forced them out of business, impinging upon their constitutional freedoms as entrepreneurs — including the right to work and the right to earn.

A final set of complaints contends limits on funeral gatherings, passed on March 20, as well as the ban on crossing the border.

Perhaps the most contentious ties to an indirect bailout the media industry, which was laced into measures passed to preserve jobs.

The court’s decisions will last well into the coming phases of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as other emergencies.

Parliamentary Speaker Gordan Jandroković dismissed concerns about the constitutionality of the directorate’s maneuvers, predicting the court would dismiss any complaints — if anyone even bothered filing them.

Numerous legal experts, including a member of the court itself, warned from the beginning that the National Civil Protection Directorate’s decisions ran afoul of the Croatian Constitution.

Judge Andrej Abramović argued the Civil Protection Directorate lacked the constitutional authority to pass and enforce its decisions.

Abramovic said amendments to the Civil Protection System Act passed by Parliament on March 18 introduced the concept of "occurrence of special circumstances" even though the description of "special circumstances" is identical in substance to the state of "catastrophe" that the law already contains. "Why did the government not declare the disaster foreseen by law?

"Detaining people in their own homes without testing puts them in a precarious position: neither healthy nor sick, they are stigmatized to the extent of being threatened by most,” he wrote.

The text included comparisons between the pandemic response and the war. The judge 

They contend the Government only retroactively regulated the status of the members of the Headquarters, with parliament passing a special law giving them the authority to make decisions on-the-fly.

Friday, 17 April 2020

Croatia's Top Court: Politicians Can Talk Sh*t While at Work

April 17, 2020 — Want to insult someone in Croatia with limited legal repercussions? Win an election.

If one average Croat turns to another and shouts, "I f*ck your mother!", the recipient could prosecute for "defamation" and "insult". If an elected official, however, declares a colleague a "piece of sh*t" while both are at work, the nation's top court considers it political expression.

An elected official cursing out a colleague on the premises of the representative body does not constitute defamation or insult, the Croatian Constitutional Court decided, according to Jutarnji List.

The decision muddies the already-murky interpretation of Croatia's defamation laws. Up until now, insulting speech and cursing opened the door to legal proceedings, though the outcomes weren't always guaranteed. The laws are often used by politicians to silence unfriendly media coverage, or ornery citizens with thin skin and cash to burn on legal expenses.

The decision opens the floodgates to some of the Croatian language's best expressions. Politicians can now freely deploy these terms during legislative sessions and within government buildings.

The court's decision offers two legal hurdles to provide one with the freedom to curse without legal consequences: the speaker and recipient must both be elected officials, and the four-letter words must be uttered, shouted or angrily hissed while within a government building.

That means "I f*ck your mother!", "You piece of sh*t!" and “And I really do f*ck your mother!” all now belong in Croatia's political vernacular, but can still get one in trouble out on the street.

The Constitutional Court's decision came thanks to a complaint filed by the Independent Councilor of Korcula City Council, Tin Andrijic. In 2013, at a session of the City Council, he verbally attacked the director of the Korčula Sports Facilities Dalibor Antunović. Knowing that everything was transmitted by Radio Korcula, the councilman told Antunović, "I f*ck your mother!", "You piece of sh*t!" and “And I really do f*ck your mother!” among other things.

Antunović sued Andrijić for defaming his honor and reputation, a widely-interpreted legal premise that's a catchall for any speech or expression which makes a person feel like a "piece of sh*t", regardless of whether or not they are one.

Other western defamation and libel laws require a second hurdle: the speaker's intent to defame or hurt must be proven. Croatia's does not. The person calling someone a "piece of sh*t" is wrong simply if it makes the alleged "piece of sh*t" feel bad. Even their behavior may merit someone telling them "I f*ck your mother!"

The Dubrovnik Municipal Court ruled Councilman Andrijić committed the offense of insult and fined him HRK 5,000. In the proceedings, Andrijić invoked the immunity guaranteed by the Law on Local and Regional Self-Government, according to which a member of the representative body cannot be prosecuted or held accountable in any other way for voting, statements or opinions and opinions expressed at sessions of the representative body. The court dismissed his argument. 

"It was not a statement or an opinion or a position at a sitting of a representative body within the meaning of the said legal provision, but a mere curse and a pure insult, and such words have no purpose or meaning other than to offend and disparage," it wrote in its decision.

The Constitutional Court disagrees. It stated lower courts violated the constitutional right to a fair trial, and referred to a precedent set in a similar case, which said legislative immunity included such situations. The Constitutional Court's decision was not unanimous, however. Three constitutional judges opposed it and wrote separate opinions. Among them are two former SDP members, Josip Leko and Ingrid Anticevic Marinovic, and Judge Andrej Abramovic.

So if any citizens want to insult each other with full legal immunity, consider running for office.

Friday, 31 January 2020

Court Suspends Waste Management Regulation, Prices to Remain Unchanged

ZAGREB, January 31, 2020 - The Constitutional Court on Thursday suspended the 2019 waste management regulation, until a final decision on constitutionality is established, and therefore waste management prices will remain unchanged for the time being.

"Even though this decision on temporary suspension does not pre-empt a final decision, we consider that this refers to a very important issue which requires special attention and a detailed debate particularly in light of the possibility of a threat to one of the fundamental values of constitutional order and that is to protect nature and environment and the constitutional right to a healthy environment," Constitutional Court Chief Justice Miroslav Šeparović told Hina.

Now that the Constitutional Court decision has been made, the cost of the services of waste management will remain unchanged, which means that cities cannot increase their price as some had announced they would.

Several cities, municipalities, utility companies and some individuals, applied to the Constitutional Court to test the constitutionality of the regulations of waste management that the government adopted in May 2017 and in September 2019 related to the Law on Sustainable Waste Management.

All the applicants proposed that until the Constitutional Court adopts its decision, the regulation and pertaining operations should be temporarily suspended, underlining that the enactment of the regulation could lead to "grave and irrevocable repercussions for consumers of public services, providers of those services as well as for local government units."

The applicants, among other things, said that the contested regulation could hamper the waste management system's functioning, and it could also lead to the model of payment of utility services contrary to the "law and EU directives."

They underlined that unclear criteria determining the ratio between the fixed and variable portions of the cost of waste collection requires a detailed opinion by the Constitutional Court and that the "introduction of ambiguously defined various groups of legal subjects brings into question the applicability of measure aimed at achieving one of its basic objectives and that is to sort waste at the doorstep."

More waste management news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

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