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.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Establishment of High Criminal Court Delayed by Constitutional Court

ZAGREB, December 19, 2019 - Constitutional Court President Miroslav Šeparović said on Wednesday that a decision on whether the establishment of the High Criminal Court, which should start operating on 1 January 2020, was in line with the Constitution, would be delivered within a reasonable period of time, in a few months.

Commenting on the decision to launch the procedure to determine if legal provisions envisaging the establishment of the High Criminal Court are in line with the Constitution, Šeparović told Hina the decision was made in order to prevent serious or irreparable consequences.

The Constitutional Court will therefore investigate whether the establishment of the High Criminal Court, as the highest court in the country, violates the constitutional status of the Supreme Court.

"The delay should not last longer than a few months," Šeparović said.

After on Tuesday it decided to temporarily postpone the implementation of legal regulations concerning the establishment and inauguration of the High Criminal Court, the Constitutional Court notified the State Judicial Council and the Supreme Court of its decision.

The decision will most probably be published on Friday, Šeparović said, explaining that the decision was not adopted unanimously and that the three dissenting opinions had to be written first.

Until the final decision by the Constitutional Court on the complaint of unconstitutionality, submitted by Social Democrat MPs Peđa Grbin and Orsat Miljenić, the 11 judges of the High Criminal Court will not be sworn in.

Šeparović underlined that that solution did not prejudge the final decision of the Constitutional Court.

Ivan Turudić, a newly-elected judge of the new court, who was previously entrusted by the justice minister with founding the High Criminal Court, told Hina that the Constitutional Court's decision was such due to its conclusion that the two pre-holiday weeks is too little time to make a competent decision.

Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković said before a government session on Wednesday that the Constitutional Court's decision to launch the procedure to determine if the legal regulations on the establishment of the High Criminal Court are in line with the Constitution is a procedural decision and noted that the establishment of the new court was good for standardising court practice.

More news about Croatian judiciary can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 12 August 2019

MOST Accuses Constitutional Court President of Siding with Parliamentary Majority

ZAGREB, August 12, 2019 - A member of parliament from the opposition MOST party, Robert Podolnjak, on Monday accused Constitutional Court President Miroslav Šeparović of having sided with the parliamentary majority and the government by not stating the court's position on an opposition motion for a special parliamentary debate on a vote of no confidence in the health minister, thus making it possible for the constitutional deadline of 30 days within which the parliament must discuss such motions, to expire.

Podolnjak said this in a letter which he sent Šeparović because he believes that the Constitution was violated when a conclusion was adopted that the parliament speaker does not have to call an extraordinary parliament session when one-fifth of its members file a motion to discuss a vote of no confidence in a government member at the time when the parliament is in recess.

Podolnjak, a constitutional law professor and member of the parliamentary Committee on the Constitution, Standing Orders and Political System, said that the motions submitted to the Constitutional Court regarding the parliament's conclusion not to discuss the opposition's motion described the conclusion as "a significant breach of the Constitution on which the parliamentary system is based".

"The most important element is the government's political responsibility towards the parliament, both collective and individual, and it cannot be partial or random. In every moment of their work, the government, the prime minister and individual ministers answer to the parliament and the ultimate test of their political responsibility is the vote of no confidence," Podolnjak said.

Procedures regarding such a motion, envisaged by the Constitution, must be interpreted in line with that, including Article 116, Paragraph 4, which says that a debate on and a vote of no confidence must take place within 30 days at the latest from the day a motion to that effect is submitted to the parliament, claims Podolnjak.

Despite the importance of the topic in question and the 30-day deadline, the Constitutional Court did not state its position nor did the President of the Republic act on MPs' request to call an extraordinary session of the parliament, in line with her constitutional powers, Podolnjak says in the letter.

As for Šeparović's statement in which he said that the Constitutional Court acts exclusively on its own initiative and when and if it deems it necessary and would act the same way in the case of the latest motion, Podolnjak said that the motion in question was not an ordinary motion by a group of MPs but a motion by more than one-fifth of members of almost all opposition parties and all opposition members of the Constitution Committee.

Podolnjak also noted that Šeparović's response and failure to act sent wrong messages to the public - that the motion is not an important matter concerning constitutional law and that motions by opposition MPs and parties are irrelevant.

Podolnjak also said that the Constitutional Court should urgently hold a session on the Opposition's motion for an extraordinary parliamentary debate on a vote of no confidence in the health minister.

More MOST party news can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Constitutional Court President Surprised by President's Request

ZAGREB, August 10, 2019 - Constitutional Court President Miroslav Šeparović said on Friday that he was surprised by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's response to the MOST party's request to call an extraordinary session of the parliament to discuss a vote of no confidence in Health Minister Milan Kujundžić.

The Office of the President said earlier in the day that President Grabar-Kitarović would make a decision on MOST's request if the Constitutional Court ruled that conditions for such a move had been created.

"If the Constitutional Court decides that conditions have been created for the parliament speaker to call an extraordinary session of the parliament and if the parliament speaker fails to do it, the president will decide on the request for an extraordinary parliament session in line with her constitutional powers," the president's office said.

"The President does not have the authority to call on the Constitutional Court to act in line with its powers and respond to motions put forward by members of parliament but she can, in line with Article 79 Paragraph 2 of the Constitution, submit a request for an extraordinary parliament session," Šeparović told Hina.

He added that "under Article 104 of the Constitutional Law on the Constitutional Court, the Constitutional Court monitors compliance with the Constitution and laws and submits reports to the parliament about cases of non-compliance with the Constitution and laws, which are formulated at sessions of the Constitutional Court."

"... in such cases, the Constitutional Court acts exclusively on its own initiative and when and if it deems it necessary. That is how it will proceed also in the case of the motion filed by a group of members of parliament," said Šeparović.

In a comment on the statement from the Office of the President, MOST said in a Facebook post that after she criticised the health minister by saying that he had not done anything in his sector for the past three years, the president "should have finally put her foot down and started practicing what she preaches."

"In a typical bureaucratic move, she has shifted responsibility onto the Constitutional Court, thus failing to exercise her presidential powers," MOST said.

Sources at the president's office said that MOST had set the course of action itself, given that it had asked the Constitutional Court for its position on the party's motion, thus opting to wait for it.

More news about the MOST party can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 9 August 2019

President Puzzlingly Asks Constitutional Court Whether She Should Call Parliament to Meet

ZAGREB, August 9, 2019 - The Office of President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said in a statement on Friday that with regard to a request sent to her by the MOST party to call an extraordinary session of the parliament to discuss a vote of no confidence in Health Minister Milan Kujundžić, she would make a decision on the request if the Constitutional Court ruled that conditions for such a move had been created.

"If the Constitutional Court decides that conditions have been created for the parliament speaker to call an extraordinary session of the parliament and if the parliament speaker fails to do it, the president will decide on the request for an extraordinary parliament session in line with her constitutional powers," the president's office said.

The office noted that after the Parliament's Committee on the Constitution, Standing Orders and Political System turned down MOST's request for a special parliament session to discuss a motion for a vote of no confidence in Minister Kujundžić, party whip Nikola Grmoja wrote to President Grabar-Kitarović on August 6, asking her to request the parliament speaker to call a special parliament session in line with Article 79, Paragraph 2 of the Croatian Constitution.

"... Considering that 32 members of parliament who signed the motion for a special session of the parliament have asked the Constitutional Court to submit to the parliament a report on the constitutionality and legality of the conclusion made by the Committee on the Constitution, Standing Orders and Political System, the President calls on the Constitutional Court to act in line with its powers and respond to the motion filed by the parliamentary deputies on July 22," the president's office said.

More news about the Constitutional Court can be found in the Politics section.

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