Thursday, 28 April 2022

Courts Received 158,000 More Cases In 2021 Than In 2020, Minister Says

ZAGREB, 28 April 2022 - Justice Minister Ivan Malenica said on Thursday that last year Croatian courts received 1.3 million cases, 158,000 more than in 2020, and that in terms of cases per 100,000 population, Croatia was near the top in the EU.

Last year, the courts closed 98,000 more cases, he said in parliament, presenting amendments to the Civil Procedure Act aimed at stepping up, simplifying and modernising proceedings.

The amendments are part of a set so that our judiciary becomes more efficient and so that citizens can solve their disputes as quickly as possible, the minister said.

The amendments stipulate that first instance proceedings should be over in three years and second instance proceedings in one. In disputes when small amounts are involved, proceedings must end in the first instance and six months in appeal. A preparatory hearing must be held within three months and the main hearing in six at the latest.

The amendments also envisage the mandatory audio recording of the proceedings.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 18 April 2022

Another General Withholds his Support to Letter Asking Pardon for Mustač, Perković

18 April 2022 - General Marinko Krešić stated on Sunday that he withheld his signature to the request to President Zoran Milanović to pardon Josip Perković and Zdravko Mustač, former Yugoslav and Croatian intelligence agents, sentenced by a German court to life for assisting in the murder of a Croatian dissident.

Perković and Mustač were sentenced by a German court in August 2016 to life for assisting in the murder of Croatian dissident Stjepan Đureković in Wolfratshausen in July 1983. Last Tuesday, attorney Anto Nobilo announced pardon motions for his two clients who are serving their sentences in Croatia.

In the meantime, media have reported that the letter with the request for their pardoning by President Milanović has been supported by retired generals Ante Gotovina, Ivan Čermak, Ljubo Ćesić Rojs, Pavao Miljavac, Davor Domazet Lošo and Marinko Krešić. General Krešimir Ćosić was originally mentioned as one of the supporters, however, he has withdrawn his signature.

Krešić followed Ćosić's suit, explaining that the divisions which the letter has caused among Homeland War veterans, prompted him to withhold his support.

Krešić, the president of the Croatian Generals Corps (HGZ), an association of retired Croatian Army generals and brigadiers from the Homeland War, said, among other things, that he he had never wanted to be a cause of any divisions or political confrontations.

I have always advocated the reconciliation and unity between Croatia and the Croatian expat communities, Krešić said, adding that he always followed the guiding principle of the first Croatian President, Franjo Tuđman: "Always and everything for Croatia, and our only and eternal Croatia – not for anything."

Explaining why he had initially accepted to participate in this campaign to support the request, Krešić said that he had been inspired by the idea of the all-Croatian reconciliation, the atmosphere of the Holy Week and that he had accepted the fact that brigadiers Perković and Mustač had given a certain contribution in the Homeland War and that he had also taken into consideration their old age and health condition.

The media have reported that the generals feel that Perković and Mustač deserve to be pardoned because of their contribution to the creation of the Croatian state and its defence.

On Monday, General Luka Džanko, a leader of the Association of Homeland War Veterans and Anti-Fascists (VeDRA), joined the initiative to ask President Milanović to pardon the two, due to their contribution in Croatia's war of independence, the association reported on its Facebook account.

Germany requested their extradition from Croatia as Zagreb was entering the EU, which took place in July 2013, whereby Croatia assumed the obligation to execute the European Arrest Warrant.

After the warrant for them was issued, the Croatian parliament passed a law on judicial cooperation in criminal matters with EU member states, under which the EAW would not apply to crimes committed prior to 7 August 2002. This prevented the extradition of Perković, so the law was dubbed Lex Perković. The legislation was passed during the premiership of then SDP leader Zoran Milanović. Due to Lex Perković, as the then prime minister, Milanović suffered major political damage.

Despite that, Croatian courts extradited Perković and Mustač to Germany.

Under the Pardons Act, the president pardons persons convicted by Croatian courts or serving sentences in Croatia. The presidential pardon is not conditioned by the length of the sentence served.

Minister says president would set precedent by pardoning Mustač, Perković

Justice Minister Ivan Malenica said on Saturday that President Milanović would set a precedent if he pardoned Perković and Mustač because, since taking office, he had not responded to the 274 pardon applications sent him by the ministry.

Speaking to Hina, Malenica said that in a little over two years the ministry had sent 274 pardon applications to the President's Office, enclosing reports prepared by the ministry based on the Pardons Act.

Until now, the president has not exercised his constitutional power to pardon someone and if this happens now, it would be a precedent in Milanović's term, he added.

Malenica said that during his presidential campaign, Milanović said the pardon institute was a relict of the past which he would not use. "If this has happened now, it's up to President Milanović to explain his political decision to pardon someone."

Tuesday, 5 April 2022

My Resignation Is Not On the Table, Interior Minister Says

ZAGREB, 5 April 2022 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Tuesday, after the European Court of Human Rights judgment in the case of six-year-old Afghan migrant girl Madina Hussiny has become final, that his resignation was not on the table and that the purpose of such rulings was to improve the system.

"In cases like this the burden of responsibility is always on the system. We need to see what can and should be rectified," Božinović told the press on the sidelines of the second day of the US Croatia Forum in Zagreb when asked whether he considered himself responsible and whether he would step down.

He said that the point of such court rulings was to rectify the shortcomings of the system through rules or improvements of practice. "The purpose of courts is to draw attention to such shortcomings," he added.

Božinović said that the death of the little migrant girl was a tragedy that affected everyone. "It happened in the territory of another country. An investigation was conducted and the court reached its conclusion. Now we have to find solutions and adopt measures to improve the system," the minister said.

The judgment, which found that Croatia violated the girl's right to life, has become final after the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights rejected the Croatian application for re-examination of the case.

The Centre for Peace Studies (CMS) said today that the government and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković could no longer look away but must urgently replace those responsible, including the minister of the interior, national chief of police Nikola Milina, head of the Directorate for Borders Zoran Ničeno, and state secretary Terezija Gras.

Croatian authorities will now have to take concrete steps to ensure that something like this never happens again, the CMS said. It urged the government to adopt measures to stop illegal and violent expulsions of illegal migrants from Croatia, ensure efficient investigations, punish perpetrators, and ensure full independence and efficiency of the police oversight mechanism.

Madina Hussiny was hit by a train at the Croatia-Serbia border in November 2017 after the Croatian authorities allegedly denied her family the opportunity to seek asylum and ordered them to return to Serbia along the tracks.

The Strasbourg-based court found Croatia responsible for a number of violations of rights under the European Convention on Human Rights - the right to life, the prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment, the prohibition of collective expulsions of aliens, the right to security and liberty, and the right of individual petition. 

Saturday, 2 April 2022

4 Montenegrins, Charged With Migrant Smuggling Across Croatia, Remanded in Custody

ZAGREB, 2 April 2022 - Four Montenegrins, who were arrested on Thursday while they were trying to smuggle Afghan migrants across Croatia, were on Saturday placed in custody after an investigating judge in Karlovac ordered their detention as they were a flight risk.

The four Montenegrin men, aged between 24 and 32, were charged with the illegal transport of migrants and with forgery of documents.

The suspects were nabbed by the Croatian police in the hamlet of Kukača in the morning of 31 March, while they were transporting irregular Afghan migrants on their way to west Europe.

The migrants were placed in the trunks of the two cars driven by the Montenegrins, and they were being transported in life-threatening conditions, being concealed in a small space without enough air to breathe, according to the report issued by the local prosecutor.

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Former Sisak-Moslavina County Head Sentenced to Seven Years for Corruption

ZAGREB, 29 March 2022 - The former head of Sisak-Moslavina County, Marina Lovrić Merzel (SDP), was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to seven years in prison on Tuesday. She has the right to appeal, but since her sentence is longer than five years, she will have to go straight to prison from the courtroom.

Three other defendants were also found guilty - Silvijo Kobeščak, former president of the supervisory board of the Ceste Sisak roads company; Bernard Popec, who sold the county a building for emergency medical services above the market price, and Dalibor Rožanković, Lovrić Merzel's nephew who laundered the money Lovrić Merzel received in bribes by purchasing a holiday apartment.

The indictment also included businessman Željko Žužić, who made a deal with the prosecution, after admitting that he had given Lovrić Merzel €100,000 in bribes, and was given a suspended sentence of one year's imprisonment with four years' probation, and the former director of the Hrvatske Šume forest management company, Zvonko Rožić, who was sentenced to eight months in prison with two years' probation after reaching a deal with the USKOK anti-corruption office.

Lovrić Merzel was charged with receiving €100,000 in bribes from Žužić in return for selling the Ceste Sisak company to his company. She concealed this transaction by purchasing a holiday apartment and registering it in her nephew's name. 

According to the indictment, contrary to the decision by the county to build a building housing emergency medical services at another location, Lovrić Merzel did all in her power to ensure that the county bought Popec's property at a considerably higher price, as a result of which his company made undue gain of about HRK 4 million while the county was defrauded of HRK 5.6 million.

Merzel Lovrić was also charged with commissioning unnecessary advisory services, incurring excessive entertainment expenses and concluding fictitious project contracts.

Lovrić Merzel and her co-defendants were arrested in April 2014 and four months later she resigned as Sisak-Moslavina County Prefect. The trial opened in June 2018, but had to start over three months later after a judge withdrew from the case.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Minister Ivan Malenica Expects State Attorney to Investigate Football Mogul Zdravko Mamić's Judge Bribe Claims

ZAGREB, 17 March, 2021 - Minister of Justice and Public Administration Ivan Malenica said on Wednesday that he expects the State Attorney to urgently investigate claims made by football mogul Zdravko Mamić who has accused Supreme Court Chief Justice Đuro Sessa and Osijek County Court judges of corruption.

"I trust that the competent bodies will urgently check Mr Mamić's claims and the content of the (USB) stick which I am not familiar with at the moment, and that they will quickly determine whether the accusations, which I consider grave and serious, are founded," said Malenica, adding that Mamić said that he had given a USB stick with the material to the competent bodies.

Malenica told reporters that that case was now with the State Attorney, who had received the material and would now check it to determine if the claims were authentic after which certain procedures would be launched accordingly.

Asked whether it would be appropriate for the county court judges and chief justice whom Mamić mentioned to be temporarily suspended until the investigation was completed, considering the gravity of the accusations, Malenica said that that was up to the State Judicial Council.

"The accusations are grave, but if we were to react to all the accusations against individual judges and suspend them, I don't know where we would be," said Malenica.

Asked whether the reaction was sufficiently prompt considering the fact that Mamić sent the USB stick last October, Malenica said that he was not familiar with the content of the documents and what sort of reaction they required from the competent bodies that need to determine their authenticity based on defined procedures before any conclusion can be released. He said that the question was for the State Attorney's Office to say how fast it should have, could have or would have to react.

"I cannot say if there is anything contentious, however, I do expect the State Attorney to react as soon as possible if there are any grounds based on those claims to launch certain proceedings, and that will certainly reflect on the status of those judges," said Malenica.

He believes that Supreme Court Chief Justice Đuro Sessa and the other judges Mamić mentioned, need to react to Mamić's claims. "I expect Sessa, as does the entire public, to react to the allegations but I think this isn't the first time Mamić has mentioned Sessa," said Malenica.

Malenica added that he can't say whether this will affect Sessa's chances of being re-elected as Supreme Court Chief Justice but he believes that accusations against him are grave and serious.

After the Supreme Court upheld a first instance ruling sentencing Mamić to six and a half years in prison, during a press conference in Mostar yesterday, Mamić accused Sessa and Osijek County Court Judges Zvonko Vekić and Darko Krušlin of corruption while calling the chief justice of that court, Judge Zvonko Vrban, a criminal.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that Sessa had no intention of reacting to the "absurd and untrue claims," whereas the USKOK anti-corruption office said that "Zdravko Mamić had sent his statement on a (USB) stick to the State Attorney on 8 October last year and as soon as the stick was received, USKOK began investigating its content and the investigation is still ongoing."

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 20 November 2020

Court Upholds Fine Against SDP Over Ex-MP's Electioneering in Parliament

ZAGREB, November 20, 2020 - The High Administrative Court has upheld a ruling by the Administrative Court and a State Election Commission decision to fine the Social Democratic Party (SDP) over former SDP MP Gordan Maras having displayed campaign messages on his laptop in parliament ahead of the 2019 European election.

Under the decision by the State Election Commission (DIP), the SDP was fined HRK 86,000 (approx. €11,500) for its former MP's conduct.

Ahead of the May 2019 EP elections, Maras displayed different promotional stickers in the parliament on his laptop such as "Vote Maras", and "Vote 007", which, DIP decided, violated the law on the financing of election campaigns because he used official parliament premises for electioneering.

DIP concluded that Maras showed extreme persistence in violating the law because he disregarded warnings to stop with that conduct.

Dissatisfied with DIP's decision, the SDP appealed with the Administrative Court in Zagreb, but that court too, ruled against the SDP, and its ruling has now been upheld by the High Administrative Court.

Monday, 29 June 2020

Separovic: Court Didn't Launch Procedure On COVID-19 Response Team's Decisions

ZAGREB, June 29, 2020 - Constitutional Court President Miroslav Separovic on Monday denied media reports that the Constitutional Court had launched the procedure ex officio to assess the constitutionality of decisions taken by the national coronavirus response team.

"The Constitutional Court did not launch any such procedure ex officio. The truth is that we have requested certain data and opinions from the government, and whether it will launch the procedure ex officio will be decided at a meeting of the Constitutional Court as in all other cases," Separovic told Hina.

The Constitutional Court will decide on a supplement to the decision on a temporary ban on border crossing, the authority to order self-isolation, and the decision on business hours in the retail sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The action was proposed by two Constitutional Court judges, including Goran Selanec who confirmed the information in an interview with the N1 television channel.

The initiative was launched at the start of this month when fewer than five new coronavirus cases were reported weekly. The two judges proposed that the court examine whether the national coronavirus response team had overstepped its authority, according to N1.