Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Bosnian Court Rejects Croatia's Extradition Request for Football Boss Zdravko Mamić

ZAGREB, June 11, 2019 - The State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina on Tuesday rejected a request by Croatian authorities for the extradition and custody of former Dinamo football club mogul Zdravko Mamić after an international arrest warrant was issued for him.

The court, however, ordered that Mamić's travel documents be confiscated and that he be prohibited from leaving the country.

After a hearing, Mamić told reporters that the entire affair was politically motivated against him.

Mamić's Bosnian defence attorney, Zdravko Rajić, said that his client has Bosnia and Herzegovina citizenship and that he objects to being extradited to Croatia. "I don't want to forecast what will happen... It needs to be determined whether he was given a fair trial in Croatia. Mamić did not take one lipa nor one kuna from Croatia. There is no tax evasion, there isn't anything," Rajić told reporters.

According to procedure, the Bosnian State Court could have ruled for Mamić to be put in extradition custody pursuant to the international arrest warrant, but it did not do so. Croatia's Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković will have to send a request for Mamić's extradition and the Bosnian authorities will then take a position.

The next step requires the Bosnian State Court to determine the merit of the Croatian authorities' extradition request based on Mamić's criminal trial at Osijek County Court.

On 7 June, Osijek County Court ordered that a warrant be issued for the arrest of former Dinamo football club mogul Zdravko Mamić after the court on May 21 set investigative custody for Mamić. On May 21, that county court upheld a second indictment which the Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK) filed against Mamić and six other people, charging them with defrauding Dinamo of HRK 200 million. Investigative custody was set for Mamić on the same day.

In June 2018 Mamić was convicted, pending appeal, to six and a half years in jail for siphoning around HRK 116 million from Dinamo. Just before the verdict was handed down, Mamić, who also holds Bosnia and Herzegovina citizenship, fled to that country.

More news about Zdravko Mamić can be found in the Sports section.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

BiH Presidency's Member Accuses Croatia over Intelligence Agency

ZAGREB, June 6, 2019 - The Bosniak member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Šefik Džaferović, on Wednesday said that he still expects a reply from Croatia to a protest note that the BiH Presidency sent regarding alleged pressure by the Croatian Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA) on citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina who are suspected of being connected to radical Islamic groups.

Commenting on SOA's latest report about the security situation in Croatia, which also mentions the alleged recruiting of BiH citizens to collaborate with SOA, Džaferović said that that document is yet more proof of Croatia's unfair relations toward Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"I expect a response from Croatia to the protest note that the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina sent due to numerous cases of abuse of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina who stayed in Croatia and various conditions, including those regarding collaboration with (Croatia's) their intelligence services," Džaferović said.

In its report, SOA said the affair that was dubbed in Bosnia and Herzegovina as "Salafi" was an attempt to influence through the media the stability of Croatian state institutions and to falsely present Croatia as an "unreliable member of NATO and the EU."

The Croat representative to the three-man Presidency, Željko Komšić, too accused Croatia on Wednesday. He told the Sarajevo-based Patria agency that Croatian police were sending all illegal migrants to BiH, including some that had not come from BiH, and in that way "amassing" them in the country.

He blamed the HDZ BiH party for the deteriorated situation with illegal migrations in the country, saying its personnel is in the most responsible positions in the border police.

HDZ BiH has absolute influence on Bosnia and Herzegovina's border police and instead of the border police protecting the BiH-Serbia border, where the majority of migrants are entering the country, the border police are energetically protecting the BiH-Croatia border and that is why we have the situation where migrants can relatively easily enter BiH but can't get out. We are of the impression that our neighbours are deliberately concentrating migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Komšić said.

He called on Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović to jointly approach the problem of the migrant crisis in the two countries, in an effort to protect the citizens of BiH and Croatia as well as migrants and refugees themselves.

More news about relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Emergencies from Neretva River Valley to Be Handled by Mostar Hospital

ZAGREB, June 5, 2019 - Patients from the Neretva River valley and the area of Vrgorac - heart attack and stroke patients, multiple trauma patients and seriously ill children - will soon be able to seek medical care at the Mostar University Hospital.

An agreement to that effect was signed in Zagreb on Wednesday by Croatian Health Minister Milan Kujundžić, Bosnia and Herzegovina Federation entity Health Minister Vjekoslav Mandić and Mostar University Hospital head Ante Kvesić.

"Most of the hospitals in Croatia are an hour-drive away from patients' place of residence and due to historical circumstances and the proximity of the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, people who live in the Neretva River valley do not have the same status as other citizens in cases of serious illness, multiple trauma and heart attack and stroke. This agreement makes their status equal to that of other Croatian citizens," Kujundžić said.

Emergency cases from the Neretva River valley will be treated at the Mostar hospital, which is open 24 hours a day, has good results and offers procedures that guarantee safety and quality, Kujundžić added.

Mostar University Hospital head Mandić said that the hospital had the necessary capacity to take in patients from the Neretva River valley in Croatia, who, he said, had gravitated to that medical institution before 1991.

More medical news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Dozens Injured in Fire in Migrant Centre near Border with Croatia

ZAGREB, June 1, 2019 - About 30 people have been injured in a fire which broke out on Saturday morning in the migrant reception centre for illegal migrants in Velika Kladuša, north-western Bosnia and Herzegovina, Una-Sana Canton police spokesman Ale Siljdedić said.

The fire broke out in a former factory which was repurposed last year for the temporary accommodation of migrants.

"It's too early to say what caused the fire," Siljdedić said, adding that at least 29 people who were in the centre were taken to hospitals in Velika Kladuša and Bihać.

Witnesses said they saw migrants jumping out of windows in a panic. Local media released video footage of the former factory encircled by thick smoke.

More than 6,000 illegal migrants have entered BiH this year and most of those who arrive in the country in an attempt to reach Croatia seek temporary accommodation in Velika Kladuša and Bihac. Local authorities have been warning for months that they can no longer handle the migrant flow and seek greater assistance from the state authorities and the international community.

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

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina Solve Problems in War Crimes Cases

ZAGREB, May 25, 2019 - Bosnia and Herzegovina's Justice Minister Josip Grubeša and Chief State Prosecutor Gordana Tadić met in Zagreb on Friday with their Croatian counterparts and agreed future procedures in war crimes cases thus removing obstacles that existed in the referral of those cases, Bosnian judicial institutions in Sarajevo have reported.

Minister Grubeša and Chief State Prosecutor Tadić visited Croatia on the occasion of an event marking the national day of prosecutors.

Bosnia's justice ministry said in a press release that the Bosnian officials met on the margins of that event with Croatia's Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković and Chief State Prosecutor Dražen Jelenić.

The talks focused on outstanding issues in cooperation between the two countries' prosecutorial authorities and justice ministries, and the importance of referring war crimes cases, which is regulated by an international agreement and protocols, was underscored.

"In that regard it was necessary to resolve certain issues concerning the procedure itself in order to enable more efficient prosecution, which we indeed did today," a press release said.

Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina do not extradite their citizens accused of war crimes, however, an agreement signed by the two countries envisages the possibility of referring war crimes cases to the other country to be prosecuted.

Numerous people accused of war crimes have exploited their dual citizenship to avoid trial.

More news about relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Zdravko Mamić's Extradition Can't Be Made Conditional on Ex-Judge's Extradition

ZAGREB, May 24, 2019 - Justice Minister Drazen Bošnjaković said on Friday that the extradition of former Dinamo football club executive Zdravko Mamić from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Croatia could not be made conditional on the extradition of former Sarajevo judge Lejla Fazlagić to Bosnia and Herzegovina because those were two separate cases.

Bošnjaković said that the Justice Ministry would request Mamić's extradition after it obtains the necessary documentation from the court in Osijek which is in charge of the case.

The Osijek County Court earlier this week upheld a new indictment which the Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK) filed against Mamić and six more people on the suspicion that they had defrauded Dinamo of 200 million kuna from 2004 to December 2015, when Mamić held a few executive posts in that Zagreb-based football club.

Asked if he considered it to be unlawful, as Mamić's defence claims, that the court had ruled on investigative custody for Mamić two times, Bošnjaković said that that was a question for experts, the prosecutorial authorities and the relevant courts.

Reporters also asked Chief State Prosecutor Dražen Jelenić if he knew where Mamić was, to which he said that the court that had issued the warrant for Mamić's arrest was in charge of the extradition procedure.

"After it is completed, the Justice Ministry will seek Mamić's extradition from Bosnia and Herzegovina," Jelenić said, adding that the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor was not involved in the procedure.

The Croatian media have been speculating lately that Mamić's extradition could depend not only on a decision by the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina but also on whether Croatia would in turn extradite Lejla Fazlagić, a former Sarajevo judge suspected of abuse of powers, money laundering and fraud, who has been hiding in Croatia.

More news about Zdravko Mamić can be found in the Sports section.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Gas Networks of Croatia and Bosnia to Be Connected Despite Serb Opposition

ZAGREB, May 22, 2019 - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has provided 500,000 dollars in a grant for the elaboration of a feasibility study of a new gas pipeline that is supposed to connect Bosnia and Herzegovina's and Croatia's networks despite opposition by authorities in the Serb entity, local media reported on Wednesday.

The future gas pipeline will make it possible for Bosnia and Herzegovina to have access to the trunk pipeline which will also provide a connection with the future LNG terminal on the Croatian island of Krk.

The Sarajevo-based Faktor portal reported that this move would lessen Bosnia's dependence on gas supplies from Russia and Serbia.

The BH-Gas company's director Jasmin Salkic was quoted as saying that a tender for the preparation of the feasibility study would be advertised next week.

All the relevant documentation is to be completed in the next 12 months and it is expected that the pipeline will be operational in 2023 at the latest.

The "Southern Interconnection" project is regarded to be strategic by the authorities in the Croat-Bosniak Federation.

The future pipeline would extend from the southern Croatian town of Zagvozd to Posušje, Bosnia and Herzegovina and further on to Mostar and Travnik.

Croatia is expected to build a 60-kilometre long pipeline from Split to Zagvozd as part of the project, whereas the whole route from Zagvozd to Travnik is 114 kilometres with an additional 46 kilometres of a branch pipeline to Mostar.

The whole project is estimated to be valued at 100 million euro.

A favourable loan to be granted by the EBRD will cover the costs. The grant for the feasibility study was ensured with the assistance of the USAID agency. An agreement to that effect was signed during the EBRD's 2019 Annual Meeting and Business Forum in Sarajevo earlier this month.

Earlier this year, the government in the Republika Srpska entity concluded that the project was not a priority for the entity and rejected it. Serb authorities withheld its support for a future Bosnia-Croatia agreement on interconnecting the two countries gas networks.

More news about the relations between Croatia and Bosnia can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Swiss TV Shows Footage of Croatian Police Pushing Migrants to Bosnia

ZAGREB, May 16, 2019 - A Swiss broadcaster on Wednesday showed footage of Croatian police pushing back migrants to neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina and migrants saying that police had seized their mobile phones and money.

Croatian police have been faced for some time with accusations that they unlawfully return migrants who reach Croatia's territory to Bosnia and Herzegovina instead of giving them the opportunity to seek asylum in Croatia. The accusations also include allegations of physical abuse and theft.

The Croatian Foreign Ministry has dismissed the allegations.

In its political programme "Rundschau", the SRF broadcaster showed footage of police bringing a group of migrants in a van to a border crossing and sending them back to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Reporters secretly filmed the push-back operations for two days. In those operations, 70 migrants, mostly from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Algeria were sent back to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The migrants told reporters that Croatian police had destroyed their mobile phones and taken their money and that they had used force against them.

A migrant said that when asked if they could seek asylum in Croatia, a police officer told them that they would get "Bosnian asylum".

The location where Croatian police were filmed while pushing back migrants in late April is said to be near the village of Gradine.

The Croatian Ministry of the Interior said in response to the SRF programme that the footage showed "an official operation that is in line with the Schengen Borders Code and is designed to prevent illegal entries into the EU."

However, German migration expert Marcus Engler says that this is a clear case of violation of European and international law because group expulsions are not allowed without a prior procedure. Engler says that Croatia is not the only one to blame for such practice and that the entire EU is responsible.

Croatian border police are financed with European money. Other countries support such conduct because they profit from it politically, Engler told the SRF.

The European Commission has declined comment on the footage made available to it by the SFR.

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

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Bosnia Accuses Croatia of Violating Dual Citizenship Agreement

ZAGREB, May 14, 2019 - Bosnia and Herzegovina's Civil Affairs Minister Adil Osmanović said on Tuesday that Croatia was unjustifiably asking citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina wishing to acquire Croatian citizenship to renounce their Bosnian citizenship, citing a 2012 agreement that allows dual citizenship.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs has so far received 1,187 applications for renunciation of the citizenship of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the purpose of acquiring Croatian citizenship. More than 200 such cases were recorded in 2018 alone, and 79 applications have been filed this year.

Osmanović told the Faktor.ba news website that such applications were mostly filed by Bosniaks who have been living in Croatia for years.

"Under the Agreement on Dual Citizenship, Bosnia and Herzegovina has asked for the formation of a joint commission to address this problem, but Croatia has rejected it on the grounds that every citizen must be asked to renounce the citizenship of their country of origin because that is required by relevant laws, except when citizenship is acquired by a person married to a Croatian citizen, and these are primarily people of Croatian ethnicity. The same solution is provided under the Bosnia and Herzegovina Citizenship Act, but the primary purpose of the Agreement on Dual Citizenship is to prevent renunciation of the citizenship of the country of origin," Osmanović said.

He said that Bosnia and Herzegovina consistently complied with the Agreement on Dual Citizenship and did not require Croatian citizens to renounce their citizenship when applying for the citizenship of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Osmanović warned that Bosnia and Herzegovina might be forced to take reciprocal measures if Croatia continued this "unjustified and unnecessary" practice, adding that the two countries should continue working on promoting good-neighbourly relations.

More news about relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Migrant Crisis Escalating on Croatian Border with Bosnia

ZAGREB, May 13, 2019 - The authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have to urgently deal with the extent of the migrant crisis and undertake measures to control it because the situation in Una-Sana Canton, where the most migrants are located, has become unbearable, the canton's prime minister, Mustafa Ružnić, warned on Monday. The canton is located on the border with Croatia.

Participating at a meeting of the House of Representatives of the Federation entity, Ružnić said that there are about 5,000 illegal migrants currently located in that canton, yet there is accommodation for only about 3,200 in reception centres in Bihać, Velika Kladuša and Cazin.

Last year 19,200 migrants from 46 countries passed through the canton and twelve check points have been established due to the extraordinary circumstances that are constantly manned by police in order to control the influx of migrants, and the police is barely managing to do so.

In an attempt to reduce the pressure on the border with Croatia, the police in that part of Bosnia have returned 3,330 migrants since the start of 2019.

According to Bosnia's security agencies, more than 6,000 illegal migrants have entered the country so far this year, which is twice as much compared to the same period last year.

There are only two inspectors working with migrants in Una-Sana Canton and state and entity authorities have not taken any responsibility, and it turns out that the state simply does not have any strategy to manage the migrant crisis, Ružnić said.

He added that at this pace, Bosnia and the entire region will need to deal with the problem of illegal migrants in these numbers for the next ten years, and that it is necessary as soon as possible to undertake measures to control that problem.

The Una-Sana Canton's minister of health, Nermina Ćemalović, warned that the health system in the canton is under huge pressure and that the hygienic-epidemiological situation "is out of control."

During 2018, more than 30,000 migrants were treated which cost the canton's health budget more than 2 million euro.

She confirmed that about 90 HIV positive cases had been identified among migrants located in Bihać and that there were "silent epidemics" such as TBC which no one wants to admit publicly. "Health inspections in migrant reception centres have determined a horrific situation," she said.

She warned that the security situation in Bihać has become unbearable, with frequent break-ins, attacks and theft. "Bihać is occupied by migrants, 80% of them are illegal migrants," she said.

Bihać Mayor Suhret Fazlić complained that the Croatian police were returning migrants across the border in contradiction to extradition procedures. "I saw Croatian special police enter Bosnian territory armed with rifles. I saw that and I warned them about that," said Fazlić.

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

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