Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Plenković Says He Requested Examination of Journalist's Arrest

ZAGREB, September 18, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in parliament on Wednesday he had asked the ministers of the interior and justice to examine all the circumstances in the arrest of journalist Gordan Duhaček.

I said yesterday already that all authorities must treat with special care and attention any representative of the media or journalist, he said during question time after Krešo Beljak of the opposition Croatian Peasant Party asked what he intended to do to punish judges' "evident omissions".

Beljak singled out a Zagreb judge who allegedly threatened Duhaček and a Split judge who sent an 18-year-old to prison, after which the youth died.

"Every possible analysis is under way in that tragic case as to what, if and who might have failed," Plenković said, regretting on the government's behalf the death of Kristian Vukasović, who was mentally ill.

Beljak said it was terrifying that a sick child could end up in prison and die of fright, adding that everything must be done to examine and punish those who he said had disgraced the justice system.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said in parliament on Wednesday he did not have the impression that there was no freedom of the press in Croatia, adding that one should be particularly considerate and attentive towards freedom of the press, journalists and their role in society.

"I can't have the impression that there is no freedom of the press here, that some owner, editor, journalist, analyst or commentator can't write what they think of any of us or of any phenomenon in society," he said during question time after Željko Jovanović of the opposition Social Democratic Party called out the government for corruption, conflict of interest and intimidation of journalists.

"I haven't heard that anyone, under my term, hasn't been allowed to write or say something," Plenković said, dismissing insinuations that someone in government circles was preventing freedoms of speech and press.

"The media may be free, but journalists aren't," Jovanovic said. "You have Đurđica Klancir and Gordan Duhaček as proof that there is pressure on journalists."

More news about human rights in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

CoE Commissioner for Human Rights Condemns Duhaček's Arrest

ZAGREB, September 18, 2019 - Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović on Tuesday tweeted that the arrest and fine of Croatian reporter Gordan Duhaček was "pure intimidation of the press", and called on Croatian authorities to protect media freedom and avoid undue pressure on the journalists.

"The arrest and fine of Croatian journalist Gordan Duhaček for his posts on Twitter amount to pure intimidation of the press. I call on Croatia’s authorities to protect media freedom and avoid undue pressure on journalists," Mijatović tweeted.

Gordan Duhaček, a reporter for the Index web portal, was detained at Zagreb airport on Monday morning for ignoring a police summons to report for questioning over alleged public order offences, Zagreb police said.

Interior Minister Davor Božinović on Tuesday said that he had asked the police chief to provide him with a report on the arrest and denied claims that the government was restricting media freedoms and that it was intimidating journalists.

The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) and the Gong NGO had earlier condemned the way the police acted toward Duhaček.

More news about pressure on media freedom in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Milanović Says Order for Reporter's Arrest Came from the Top

ZAGREB, September 17, 2019 - The presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Zoran Milanović, said on Tuesday that Index news website reporter Gordan Duhaček was reported, prosecuted and sentenced over tweets in which he had mocked the police, claiming that the order for his arrest had come from the top and that it was a political matter.

"This is not about the police, this is about the HDZ, the evil mother of Croatian democracy and an obstacle to Croatia's future," Milanovic told reporters, noting that such events pushed the Croatian society backwards.

A subcultural expression such as ACAB (All Cops are Bastards) is now gaining publicity and becoming a part of the mainstream, he said.

The police consider it a threat to the order and an offence to themselves and that is exactly what they are now about to get, Milanovic said, noting that this would cause revolt among ordinary citizens because it was not ordinary police officers who felt offended but the regime.

Recalling the public outcry of two weeks ago over statements by minority member of parliament Milorad Pupovac, Milanović wondered why Pupovac had not been arrested over those statements as people got arrested for writing graffiti on buildings and for minor offences.

These are not double standards, these are schizophrenic standards, he said.

A few days ago, a group of youths shouted and called for lynching an entire ethnic group at a football match, Milanovic said, wondering if that insulted the moral feelings of citizens.

"Isn't that incitement to hate and why was not anything done about it, are those who lead the police afraid?" Milanovic said, describing Duhaček's rendition of a patriotic song over which he was reported for insulting the moral values and feelings of citizens as a parody.

"I'm not calling for burning flags or mocking the national anthem because that is unacceptable, but this (Duhaček's case) was a type of free speech and mockery for which citizens cannot be prosecuted and arrested," he said, calling for amending the law on offences which dates back to 1990.

"If (Duhaček) really contacted the police on the previous day and that was recorded, why wasn't he detained then? That can be easily established," Milanovic said, adding that police conduct in the case was wrong and that "the regime is losing its sense of reality".

More news about Zoran Milanović can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

MP: Police Exposed to Pressure from Radical Groups

ZAGREB, September 17, 2019 - Independent MP Bojan Glavašević on Tuesday said that the police are exposed to pressure by radical, ultra-conservative groups and that in the case of the arrest of Index reporter Gordan Duhaček, the charge was filed for offending an official person and citizens' moral feelings in a selective manner.

"This sort of pressure on the police has resulted due to the permissiveness of the President, the Prime Minister and Interior Minister. As we have seen in numerous cases, the police are nowhere near as expeditious in domestic violence cases, or threats to public persons or hate speech. Politicians are obliged to protect institutions from attacks and the office-holders I mentioned above simply have not done so," Glavašević believes.

According to Glavašević, yesterday's incident clearly shows that reports of deteriorating freedom of the media and of free expression over the past few years have not been imagined but are a reality.

"The question of these liberties is not an ideological issue. It is not a matter of 'yours' and 'ours'. It is an issue of democracy, therefore something that requires political consensus of all political factions dedicated to a healthy, free society," he underscored and added that yesterday's incident disclosed serious flaws in the conduct of the police and courts.

The judge's conduct toward Duhaček is particularly concerning, Glavašević said and he called out the president of the Supreme Court and State Judicial Council to take responsibility and examine the conduct of the magistrate Krešimir Ožanić.

More news about human rights violations in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

GONG Slams Arrest of Journalist

ZAGREB, September 17, 2019 - The GONG NGO said on Tuesday that the police treatment of journalist Gordan Duhaček represented unacceptable pressure on journalists and the continuation of the erosion of freedom of the press.

"Situations appropriate to repressive regimes are occurring under the government of Andrej Plenković, who is preparing to take over the presidency of the Council of the EU," GONG said, responding to Monday's arrest of Duhaček over, as the NGO said, a satirical little song on Twitter.

The media in Croatia are swamped in lawsuits, politicians harass journalists and the police go after them, visiting them at their workplace, GONG said.

It voiced concern about judge Krešimir Ozanić's threat to Duhaček, which was published by Index, the website Duhaček works for, and demanded an urgent reaction from the State Judicial Council and the Justice Ministry.

"An attack on journalists is an attack on the freedom of the press, on the right of all citizens to question the government, as well as an attack on our fundamental political liberties, which we must not allow in any way," GONG said.

Duhaček was arrested at Zagreb airport on Monday for not responding to a police summons and was subsequently fined.

The arrest was condemned by the Croatian Journalists Association on Monday, while the House of Human Rights Zagreb and the Centre for Peace Studies said today it constituted unacceptable pressure on freedom of the press in Croatia and yet another problematic police action against persons who expressed social criticism.

More news about journalism in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Human Rights House: Božinović Not Appropriate to Coordinate Human Rights

ZAGREB, July 19, 2019 - Human Rights House in Zagreb on Friday said that it was inappropriate to nominate the incumbent Interior Minister Davor Božinović as the deputy prime minister for the coordination of human rights, calling on MPs to reject his nomination.

"Appointing Minister Božinović with this burden is a step backwards and certainly cannot give a 'new boost and energy' to the government's activities in the field of human rights, which has been neglected for years and without fundamental public policies for the protection and promotion of human rights such as a national human rights programme," the NGO said in a press release.

It is absurd the minister whose "ministry is faced with continual and serious accusations by international and local organisations and institutions of systematic human rights violations and illegal expulsions of refugees and migrants" should be responsible for the coordination of government activities in the field of human rights.

The NGO accused Minister Božinović of "seriously jeopardising the rule of law in Croatia," because he "systematically prevented and thwarted the supervision of police conduct by the ombudsman's office, an independent institution authorised by parliament for the protection of human rights."

The NGO called on lawmakers to show their commitment to the respect of human rights and Croatian laws by rejecting Minister Božinović's nomination and urged Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to select someone that would make a significant step forward in that field.

More news about human rights in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 19 July 2019

State Prosecutor Calls out Human Rights Ombudswoman

ZAGREB, July 19, 2019 - The State Prosecutor's Office (DORH) has accused Human Rights Ombudswoman Lora Vidović of procedure confidentiality breach by publishing an "anonymous complaint" by border police officers who claim their superiors force them to be violent towards migrants.

Vidović has made a post on her website under the headline "Institutions without response to anonymous complaint by police officer about unlawful actions", enclosing the anonymous complaint.

DORH says it has forwarded the complaint to the relevant prosecutor's office for preliminary investigation, which is under way.

DORH notes that it is therefore not one of the institutions mentioned in the ombudswoman's headline, and that her conclusion "about the lack of response is based solely on the fact that she was not informed about action taken on the anonymous complaint."

It adds that under the law only victims may request from the relevant prosecutor's office to be informed if action has been.

DORH recalls that any action taken during a preliminary investigation as well as information on a person against whom a criminal complaint has been filed is confidential. It adds that investigation confidentiality envisages the protection of the complainant, notably when they voice fear about their personal, job or family safety, as is the case with this anonymous complainant.

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

Monday, 15 July 2019

HRW Calls on Croatia to Stop Pushing Back Migrants to Bosnia

ZAGREB, July 15, 2019 The Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday sent an open letter to President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović calling on Croatia to "immediately stop summarily returning migrants and asylum seekers to Bosnia and Herzegovina, in some cases with force."

"Zagreb needs to put an end to unlawful pushbacks and violence against migrants at its borders," Lydia Gall, senior researcher for Balkans and the Eastern European Union (EU) at Human Rights Watch, was quoted as saying.

"Human Rights Watch and other nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Council of Europe (COE), have regularly reported on and raised concerns about pushbacks and violence by Croatian border officials at Croatia’s border with Bosnia and Herzegovina," the HRW says in its report.

"Croatian authorities had denied the allegations, in some cases with smears of the groups and victims."

"Since July 2018, the European Coast Guard and Border Agency, commonly known as Frontex, has had a presence on the Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina border through a Multipurpose Aerial Surveillance (MAS) system, meaning daily aerial patrols along the border and border area to detect irregularities. One of the priorities of the Frontex operation is to detect human rights violations and summary returns.

"But in late May, Frontex told Human Rights Watch that it had not detected any human rights violations or pushbacks., the NGO says.

The HRW says in its statement that President Grabar-Kitarović's "recent admission during an interview on Swiss television that Croatian officials are engaged in these pushbacks triggers a responsibility by Croatian authorities to investigate and to hold those responsible for any unlawful action to account".

The HRW holds that the Croatian president’s statement calls into question the effectiveness of Frontex’s mission and the extent to which it is capable of fulfilling its mandate to protect human rights while engaged in border control efforts.

"The summary return of asylum seekers without consideration of their protection needs is contrary to EU asylum law, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the 1951 Refugee Convention," the human rights watchdog says.

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

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Ombudswoman: Work and Social Security-Related Complaints Most Frequent

ZAGREB, July 3, 2019 - Presenting in the parliament a report on her work in 2018 on Wednesday, Gender Equality Ombudswoman Višnja Ljubičić said that the largest number of complaints lodged with her office last year referred to work, employment and social security, and that most complaints were filed by women.

Ljubičić said that this was not surprising since most of the unemployed were women, most women worked in underpaid sectors, and most of the victims of sexual harassment in the workplace were women.

She stressed that women were underrepresented in senior business decision-making positions and encountered the so-called glass ceiling.

As for demographic trends, Ljubičić said that in 2017 the number of newborns was the lowest in the last 100 years and that depopulation had been affecting many Croatian regions.

As for reproductive rights, Ljubičić recommended consistent application of comprehensive sexual education, giving women access to family planning and all services related to sexual and reproductive health, including modern methods of contraception, as well as a safe and legal pregnancy termination.

Ljubičić believes that the underrepresentation of women on slates in the political sphere should not be fined but that rather slates with an insufficient number of female candidates should be turned down was the case in a growing number of western countries.

Ljubičić warned that women continued to be the most frequent victims of domestic abuse.

In 2018, misdemeanour charges were pressed against more than 10,000 people for domestic violence - 78% of them were men and 22% women. Of the total number of perpetrators of domestic violence, 91% are men and 9% are women. As for the victims, 75% are women and 25% are men.

As regards all types of violence, prevention plays a very important role, Ljubičić said, adding that victims of intimate partner violence still lacked appropriate legal protection.

More news about ombudswoman’s activities can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 21 June 2019

USA: Croatia Fails to Meet Standards for Elimination of Human Trafficking

ZAGREB, June 21, 2019 - The U.S. State Department has issued a report on human trafficking in 2019 which says that Croatia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.

The latest "Trafficking in Persons Report", however, praises the Croatian government for demonstrating "overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Croatia remained on Tier 2." The countries are grouped in three tiers.

As for the Croatian efforts to counter human trafficking the report reads that they "included investigating, prosecuting, and convicting more traffickers and identifying more victims, particularly victims of forced criminality."

"The government conducted operations to proactively screen for trafficking indicators, increased funding to NGO-run shelters, and adopted the 2018-2021 national action plan."

"However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas," reads the report.

"Despite conducting operations to proactively identify victims, the government did not consistently screen migrants and asylum seekers, and alleged police abuse strongly discouraged victims within this population from cooperating or self-identifying.

"Judges continued to issue light sentences and dismissed victim testimony as unreliable due to a lack of understanding of trafficking, while a large backlog of criminal cases caused long delays and police experienced difficulties in encouraging victims to cooperate with investigations.

Croatia is advised to "institutionalize and implement screening procedures for migrant flows, including asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors."

Zagreb is urged to "increase capacity and training to accurately screen for victims and consistently implement screening procedures for vulnerable populations, particularly migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, seasonal workers, and Roma."

One of recommendations is to "vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, and impose strong sentences."

Judges are supposed to be trained at all levels of the judiciary to understand the severity of trafficking when issuing sentences, and sensitize judges to the issue of secondary trauma.

As for other countries in the region, Serbia is also included in the Tier 2 group, whereas Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina fall into the group labelled "Watch List".

Bosnia and Herzegovina's authorities are criticised for failing to show additional efforts to address this issue.

The State Department underscores that "human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes on Earth."

"Right now, traffickers are robbing a staggering 24.9 million people of their freedom and basic human dignity—that’s roughly three times the population of New York City. We must band together and build momentum to defeat human trafficking. We must hold the perpetrators of this heinous crime accountable. We must achieve justice for survivors as they rebuild their lives. We must reinvigorate our shared commitment to extinguish human trafficking wherever it exists. There is no time to waste," the Secretary of State, Michael R. Pompeo, was quoted as saying.

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

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