Friday, 3 December 2021

Council of Europe's CPT Accuses Croatia of Severe Ill-Treatment of Migrants

ZAGREB, 3 Dec 2021 - The Council of Europe's European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) issued a report on Friday accusing Croatia of the severe ill-treatment of migrants by the police and the obstruction of cooperation.

The CPT  published a report on its ad hoc visit to Croatia from 10 to 14 August 2020, in particular to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), "to examine treatment and safeguards afforded to migrants deprived of their liberty by the Croatian police."

The Ministry of the Interior said on Friday that the CPT report was published without its consent and that it was based on unverifiable information from Bosnia and Herzegovina, adding that the CPR clearly overstepped its authority.

The CPT said that its delegation also "looked into procedures applied to migrants in the context of their removal from Croatia as well as the effectiveness of oversight and accountability mechanisms in cases of alleged police misconduct during such operations. A visit to the Ježevo Reception Centre for Foreigners was carried out as well."

The CPT interviewed migrants and "received numerous credible and concordant allegations of physical ill-treatment of migrants by Croatian police officers (notably members of the intervention police)."

"The alleged ill-treatment consisted of slaps, kicks, blows with truncheons and other hard objects (for example, butts/barrels of firearms, wooden sticks or tree branches) to various parts of the body. The alleged ill-treatment had been purportedly inflicted either at the time of the migrants’ 'interception' and de facto deprivation of liberty inside Croatian territory (ranging from several to fifty kilometres or more from the border), and/or at the moment of their push-back across the border with BiH," the report said.

The persons interviewed "displayed recent injuries on their bodies, which were assessed by the delegation’s forensic medical doctors as being compatible with their allegations of having been ill-treated by Croatian police officers (by way of example, reference is made to the characteristic “tram-line” haematomas to the back of the body, highly consistent with infliction of blows from a truncheon or stick)."

The report also documents several accounts of migrants being subjected to other forms of severe ill-treatment by Croatian police officers, such as "migrants being forced to march through the forest to the border barefoot and being thrown with their hands still zip-locked into the Korana river, which separates Croatia from BiH."

"Some migrants alleged being pushed back into BiH wearing only their underwear and, in some cases, naked. A number of persons stated that when they had been apprehended and were lying face down on the ground, certain Croatian police officers had discharged their weapons into the ground close to them."

The CPT urged the Croatian authorities "to take determined action to stop migrants from being ill-treated by police officers and to ensure that cases of alleged ill-treatment are investigated effectively."

The report noted that for the first time since the CPT started visiting Croatia in 1998, "there were manifest difficulties of cooperation."

"The CPT’s delegation was provided with incomplete information about places where migrants may be deprived of their liberty, and it was obstructed by police officers in accessing documentation necessary for the delegation to carry out the Committee’s mandate," the report said.

"In acknowledging the significant challenges faced by the Croatian authorities to deal with large numbers of migrants entering the country, the CPT stresses the need for a concerted European approach. Nevertheless, despite these challenges, Croatia must meet its human rights obligations and treat migrants who enter the country through the border in a humane and dignified manner," it added.

The CPT claims that there are no effective accountability mechanisms in place to identify the perpetrators of alleged acts of ill-treatment. 

As regards the establishment of an "independent border monitoring mechanism" by the Croatian authorities, the CPT sets out its minimum criteria for such a mechanism to be effective and independent.

In conclusion, the CPT said that it "wishes to pursue a constructive dialogue and meaningful cooperation with the Croatian authorities, grounded on a mature acknowledgment, including at the highest political levels, of the gravity of the practice of ill-treatment of migrants by Croatian police officers and a commitment for such ill-treatment to cease."

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Saturday, 6 November 2021

FM: Croatia's Admission to Council of Europe Was Great Achievement

ZAGREB, 6 Nov 2021 - Croatia joined the Council of Europe 25 years ago and that was "a great achievement", the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Gordan Grlić Radman, said at an event marking this anniversary in Zagreb on Saturday.

On 6 November 1996, Croatia became a member of the oldest pan-European organization whose role was to strengthen European unity and prosperity by promoting common values, fundamental human rights and freedoms, democracy, and the rule of law, Grlić Radman said.

"Twenty-five years ago it was a great achievement for Croatia to be admitted to the Council of Europe. Our membership means that we have adopted all its standards and that we respect fundamental human rights and all freedoms," the minister told the press.

Today, Croatia is an active member of the Council of Europe, and the Croatian representatives and experts within this organization and as part of intergovernmental and interparliamentary cooperation participate in the adoption of all policies and documents of the Council of Europe, he said.

Grlić Radman said that the greatest recognition of Croatia's efforts within the Council of Europe was the appointment of former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of European Affairs Marija Pejčinović Burić as Secretary-General of the Council of Europe on 26 June 2019.

This is the highest office a Croatian official has held in an international organization to date, he noted, adding that Croatia further confirmed its commitment to the European values through the presidency of the most important executive body of the Council of Europe, the Committee of Ministers, in the second half of 2018.

As part of events marking the 25th anniversary of Croatia's admission to the Council of Europe, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs set up an info stall in Cvjetni Trg square in Zagreb on Saturday to raise public awareness of the importance of the Council of Europe and Croatia's membership of this organization.

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Tuesday, 31 August 2021

EU Council Recommends Its Members to Reintroduce Restrictions on American Travelers

August 31, 2021 - Due to the increase in infections and delays in the vaccination process, some countries, including the US, would be removed from the safe list of several European countries, on the recommendation of the EU Council. Should Croatia follow these measures?

HrTurizam writes that national representatives of the Council of the European Union met yesterday, Monday afternoon, to discuss and update the EU's safe travel list, a process that takes place every two weeks.

The EU Council has decided to remove six countries from the listIsrael, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, and the United States, claiming that their current coronavirus infection rate exceeds the agreed threshold of 75 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days.

The US vaccination campaign has stalled in recent months and has lagged significantly behind EU vaccination efforts. More than 57% of the EU population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, compared to 52% in the United States. The U.S. has more than 1,000 new cases a day, the highest level since March.

Removal from the EU safe list means that trips that are not important again become subject to temporary travel restrictions, such as testing, quarantine, or a total ban.

However, compliance with the recommendations is not mandatory. Some EU countries have the right to decide unilaterally whether to keep their borders open to US travelers. On the other hand, America still does not allow European travelers free entry into the country.

The presence of American tourists in Croatia has been positive in the August statistics so far, and even September arrivals are still expected. At the moment, the United States is on Croatia's safe list, which means that that the travelers arriving from the USA do not have to provide any reason for their travel in order to enter Croatia. They will be required to prove that they’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID and that they haven’t spent any significant time outside of the “green countries”.

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Sunday, 11 July 2021

Iron Age Danube Route Presented

ZAGREB, 11 July 2021, 2021 - The Iron Age Danube Route was formally presented in the archaeological park Necropolis under the Tumuli in the northern town of Goričan earlier this week as the first Council of Europe certified cultural route originating in Croatia.

The Iron Age Danube Route has the great potential to contribute to the diversification of the tourism industry in continental Croatia, the presentation was told.

Sandra Herman, State Secretary at the Ministry of Tourism and Sport, said that this cultural route runs through 14 continental counties.

"Sixteen percent of tourists who come to visit continental Croatia are motivated by culture, compared to thirteen percent in coastal destinations," she said.

The Council of Europe launched the Cultural Routes programme in 1987, certifying 45 routes since then, including 14 routes that pass through Croatia, said Tatjana Horvatić, head of the Department for Movable, Ethnographic and Intangible Cultural Heritage at the Ministry of Culture and Media.

"The routes develop destinations that are not known well enough but are certainly attractive," she added.

The Iron Age Danube Route currently includes 22 members from six countries - Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Germany and Slovenia.

Rudi Grula, Director of the Međimurje County Tourism Board, said that the archaeological park the Necropolis under the Tumuli is the result of the years-long Interreg project Slovenia-Croatia. The park features a regional information centre and theme workshops on the Iron Age.

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Saturday, 6 March 2021

3 in 4 Croats Aged 20 to 64 to be in Work Under 2030 Employment Target

ZAGREB, 6 March, 2021 - Croatia's 2030 employment target is to have 75% of adults in work, and currently only two thirds  (66%) of the adult population are employed, the Večernji List daily reported on Saturday.

The current Portuguese presidency of the Council of the European Union is organising a summit meeting on social affairs in May, and the EU is supposed to endorse new goals in this sector which should be accomplished until the end of this decade.

One of the goals is that at least 78 of 100 people aged 20 to 64 should be in employment by the end of this decade.

Three of four Croats aged between 20-64 to be employed

It is up to each member state to define its targets, and Zagreb plans to have three fifths people in the 20-64 age cohort in employment until 2030. For this target to be met, the country should create new 200,000 jobs in the coming years.

Currently, only Greece and Italy fare worse than Croatia in this regard, where only three fifths of adults (60%) are employed.

Sweden tops the EU ranking with 82 out of 100 adults being employed, and Germany follows with 80%.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Council of Europe Recommends Slovenia Recognise Croatian as Minority Language

ZAGREB, Sept 23, 2020 - The Council of Europe has again recommended that Slovenia recognise Croatian as a traditional minority language, the Council said on Wednesday.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council Europe reiterated its long-standing recommendation that Slovenian authorities recognise Croatian, German and Serbian, which are present in parts of Slovenia, as traditional minority languages.

In 1992, the Strasbourg-based organisation, which includes 47 member states, adopted the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages which aims to promote and protect those languages.

In a report based on the Charter, which entered into force in Slovenia in 2001, the Committee called on Slovenian authorities to enter into a dialogue with representatives of the three languages to strengthen their protection.

It is recommended to create educational models and to broadcast radio and television programmes in the minority languages, the press release said.

According to the 2002 census, 35,642 Croats lived in Slovenia, and Croatian was the native language of 54,079 citizens, the website of the Central State Office for Croats Abroad says.

Data on the nationality and the native language of the population was not collected for the 2011 census in Slovenia, it is added.

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Sunday, 26 April 2020

Croatian Jurist Elected European Court of Human Rights Vice-President

ZAGREB, April 26, 2020 - Croatian jurist Ksenija Turković has been elected a Vice-President of the European Court of Human Rights, the Strasbourg-based court has said on its website.

Turković will take office on May 18.

A criminal law professor at the Zagreb School of Law, Turković was elected a judge of the European Court of Human Rights in October 2012.

The number of judges of the European Court of Human Rights is equal to the number of contracting states to the European Convention on Human Rights. Judges perform their duties in an individual capacity and do not represent any country, and they are elected for a non-renewable nine-year term.

More news about Croatia and the Council of Europe can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Plenković, Pejčinović Burić Announce Stronger Cooperation between EU, Council of Europe

ZAGREB, January 14, 2020 - Council of Europe Secretary-General Marija Pejčinović Burić and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Monday announced that they would work on strengthening cooperation between the two organisations during Croatia's EU presidency, while Pejčinović Burić called on Croatia to adopt the CoE's recommendations on migrants.

Plenković met with Pejčinović Burić, a former Croatian foreign and European affairs minister, in Strasbourg while on Tuesday he will present Croatia's priorities during its presidency of the European Union to the European Parliament.

The two officials assessed that Croatia had proved to be successful when a year and a half ago it chaired the CoE and that its chairmanship of the Council of the European Union will be just as successful.

The prime minister congratulated Pejčinović Burić, who took the helm of the CoE, which has 47 member states, in September last year, on the initiatives that she has managed to implement in such a "short period," such as the financial aspects that "related to normal budget functioning of the organisation."

Pejčinović Burić said that relations between the CoE and the EU are strategic relations. "In that regard, in the context of relations with the EU, we are working together on implementing European standards or establishing European standards in a series of countries."

"Primarily they are countries in the Western Balkans and Eastern Europe, and in the context of Croatia's presidency of the Council of the EU, the European prospects of Western Balkan countries are exceptionally important," Pejčinović Burić underlined and said that with its expertise in meeting human rights standards, the rule of law and democracy, the CoE is prepared to assist with the preparations of the EU-Western Balkans summit to be held in Zagreb in May.

Plenković said that Croatia would enhance the EU's international activities during its presidency of the Council of the EU, which is one of the priorities of Croatia's presidency, and that "in that regard close dialogue and cooperation with the Council of Europe is one of the EU's natural reflexes." "That is why my coming here is a message and political signal of respect toward the Council of Europe," said Plenković.

Addressing a joint press conference, Pejčinović Burić pointed out some of the topics the two officials discussed such as migration, recalling that in a report in May 2019 by the CoE's Special Representative on Migration and Refugees, Tomaš Boček, issued some recommendations for member states regarding migrants.

Boček underlined that operations on the borders should "respect human rights and not prevent identifying those people who require international protection," the CoE' website says.

Croatia needs to establish "credible complaint mechanisms and investigations to address the allegations of ill-treatment at the border," Boček said in his report for 2018.

"I called on the prime minister to work on the recommendations in that report and that they be implemented," Pejčinović Burić underlined.

"For the Council of Europe, it is exceptionally important that all standards of international law and human rights are respected with regard to the issue of migrants. This institution considers that children migrants are a particularly sensitive issue, particularly unaccompanied migrant minors," Pejčinović Burić added.

CoE Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatović in December criticised the way Croatia's police was treating illegal migrants arriving from Bosnia and Herzegovina, claiming that security forces were violent towards migrants and that evidence of that existed. She underscored that pushbacks that Croatia's police were allegedly applying was a violation of the Convention on Human Rights.

Pejčinović Burić called on Croatia to ratify an additional protocol regarding the Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism and to quickly ratify a revised version of the European Social Charter. Plenković said "that should not be a problem."

Pejčinović Burić said that the EU had announced relaunching negotiations on the EU's accession to the European Convention on Human Rights, which is an obligation that stems from the Lisbon Treaty.

"That is exceptionally important for us, the Council of Europe, because we would not like court practice, as well as other different instruments for the implementation of human rights, develop on two tracks. Hence, we believe that apart from being an obligation from the Lisbon Treaty, that is exceptionally important for European citizens and citizens of the Union and citizens of the CoE member states," said Pejčinović Burić.

Plenković announced that together "with the Commission and other members, Croatia will see how to improve or accelerate the process of the Union's accession to the system of the Council of Europe Convention on Human Rights which, we can freely say, is the backbone of the entire organisation, the alpha and omega of the entire system of conventions."

More news about the Council of Europe can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 13 January 2020

Croatian Prime Minister to Visit Council of Europe

ZAGREB, January 13, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković is travelling to Strasbourg on Monday afternoon and is expected to meet with the Council of Europe Secretary-General, Marija Pejčinović Burić, and Croatian members of the European Parliament.

On Tuesday, Plenković will inform the European Parliament about the priorities of his country's presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2020, and will be received by the EP President David Sassoli.

On Wednesday, the Croatian prime minister will attend a discussion on a Conference on the Future of Europe.

The new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen has pledged to launch the Conference on the Future of Europe to give new impulse to European construction and bring Europe closer to citizens. Commissioner Dubravka Šuica will take charge of the process.

"Preparation of the Conference, in von der Leyen's approach, will follow three steps: first, the elaboration of the concept, structure, timing and scope with Parliament and Council; then, design of a means to ensure that citizens participate as much as possible, including by fostering online participation for younger people; and last, making sure that appropriate follow-up is provided to the actions agreed by the Conference," the EP says on its website.

Parliament has created a working group to contribute to the design of the two-year Conference, in particular in respect of its structure, with a view to a vote in plenary.

More news about the Council of Europe can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 6 December 2019

Mijatović: Treatment of Migrants by Croatian Police Is Unacceptable

ZAGREB, December 6, 2019 - Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatović on Friday criticised the treatment by Croatian police of illegal migrants coming from Bosnia and Herzegovina and called on Bosnian authorities to treat migrants more responsibly and to urgently close down the Vučjak camp outside the northwestern town of Bihać.

Mijatović has been in Bosnia and Herzegovina this week to see for herself the scale of the problem of illegal migration, visiting all refugee camps in the country. Addressing an end-of-visit press conference in Sarajevo on Friday, she explicitly condemned the conduct of Croatian border police as unacceptable, particularly their practice of pushing migrants back over the border into Bosnia and Herzegovina.

She said that many doctors had given her "consistent statements" about violence being used by Croatian police. She added that there was a disturbingly large number of testimonies of violence against and abuse of migrants and of migrants being robbed of their property.

Mijatović said that the practice of pushbacks used by Croatian border police was a violation of the human rights convention, including the right to asylum and prohibition of torture.

She said she had requested an explanation from Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković in October 2018, but the situation had only worsened since then. I am mentioning this again because nothing has changed, she underlined.

Mijatović called for an independent investigation into police abuses to identify the perpetrators and bring them to account. She said she would continue closely monitoring the illegal migration situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region and act at the European level.

Whether that will bring about change is a matter of political will and not resources. The migrants I have met asked me to be their voice, Mijatović said.

Mijatović, herself from Bosnia and Hezegovina, has visited the migrant centres in the country this week and called for the Vučjak camp near Bihac to be immediately closed down because of inhumane conditions.

She said she was shocked by what she had seen in Vučjak. Human beings, including minors, cramped in mud at a former waste disposal site next to minefields, she added.

Mijatović said she expected the camp to be closed down very soon because there were not many people there, about 500 to 600, and appropriate accommodation should be found for them. She added that she had received guarantees from Security Minister Dragan Mektić that this would happen soon.

Mektić later said that the Vučjak camp would be dismantled by the end of next week, and the people staying there would be transferred to other camps.

More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

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