Monday, 7 January 2019

Number of Civil Litigations in Supreme Court Rising

ZAGREB, January 7, 2019 - A report on last year's activities in the Supreme Court released via the 'eSpisa' (e-files) application indicates that the number of unresolved civil cases increased while the situation with criminal cases is "more stable."

There were 16,759 open civil suits at the start of 2018, 9,379 were resolved during the year, however, there were 6,839 new cases filed and currently there are 14,219 unresolved cases in the Supreme Court.

Compared to the year before, it is obvious that the number of cases being resolved is increasing and that the backlog was reduced by 2,540 cases however there is a growing number of new cases. Nevertheless, the number of unresolved cases is falling, the report notes.

Considering the increased inflow of cases, the question is whether the Supreme Court will manage to handle these cases without amendments to the Law on Civil Litigations.

As far as criminal cases are concerned, the situation is more stable. At the start of last year there were 625 unresolved cases, 1,906 cases were resolved during the year however 1,923 new cases were received.

At the start of this year there were 642 unresolved cases, meaning that similar results were achieved even though there were fewer judges in the Supreme Court. "The establishment of a High Criminal Court would set the preconditions for the Supreme Court to undertake its constitutional role regarding this branch of the judiciary," the Supreme Court's report notes.

More news on the Croatian justice system can be found in our Politics section.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Bar Association Suspends Disciplinary Proceedings Due to Agrokor

ZAGREB, January 2, 2019 - The Croatian Bar Association (HOK) has suspended disciplinary action against lawyers Boris Šavorić and Toni Smrček, who are suspected of legal malpractice and unprofessional representation during their involvement in the drafting of the law on the Agrokor food and retail group and the restructuring of this indebted conglomerate.

Šavorić and Smrček were perceived in the public as lawyers implicated in the so-called Hotmail affair, which resulted in the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Martina Dalić last year. Šavorić was also suspected of violating attorney-client privilege.

Email correspondence leaked by a news website showed that the suspects were involved in the drafting of the Agrokor law while at the same time their lawfirm represented the Russian bank VTB, one of Agrokor's creditors.

The HOK stated that the disciplinary action, initiated last May, had found no evidence to corroborate the allegations of wrongdoing by the two lawyers.

More news on Agrokor can be found in our Business section.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Zadar Protests against “Judiciary Which Protects Criminals”

ZAGREB, December 19, 2018 - A Facebook group called "Against a judiciary which protects criminals" held a peaceful protest rally in the coastal city of Zadar on Wednesday in support of an 18-year-old girl brutally beaten in June by her former 31-year-old boyfriend, who was released last week after six months in investigative custody.

The rally in downtown Zadar brought together about 1,000 people who carried banners with messages of support for and solidarity with the victim.

Protesters demanded that the local prosecutor's office change the charge against Darko Kovačević from grievous bodily harm to attempted murder because in that case investigative custody lasts up to 12 months and not six.

The victim's mother, Ana Gurlica, addressed the rally, saying her daughter was locked up at home while her abuser was drinking coffee on main street.

Protesters rallied outside the local courthouse, reading out testimonies of abused women.

Kovačević was released from custody last Friday after his attorneys failed to show up in court. The hearing could not be held and the judge had to release him given that the six-month deadline for keeping him in investigative custody on the charge in question had run out.

The Croatian Helsinki Committee on Human Rights (HHO) said today "the fundamental human rights of both the defendant and the victim have been infringed by the (in)action of the court in Zadar, given that 'the institutions haven't done their job' in time."

Commenting on statements by government and judicial officials on Kovačević's release, the HHO said that "in promoting human rights and the law in society, the solution is not in reducing the rights of the defence of the accused because some social institutions don't act responsibly or efficiently enough."

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday the Kovačević case was a "horrific case of violence in which it's more than clear, and the evidence is on the Internet, what exactly happened" and that he was outraged by the developments in this case.

Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković visited Zadar on Sunday for talks with the presidents of local courts and prosecutors to review the facts and the timeline in the case after Kovačević's release from investigative custody.

The minister announced amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act and the implementation of new European Union directives, saying this case would prompt legislative amendments to improve the legal framework so that such things did not happen again.

More news on the Croatia’s judiciary can be found in our Politics section.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Legislative Amendments Announced to Speed Up Croatian Court Proceedings

ZAGREB, December 17, 2018 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday the case of Darko Kovačević's physical assault on a girl in Zadar last summer was a "horrific case of violence in which it's more than clear, and the evidence is on the Internet, what exactly happened" and that he was outraged by the developments in this case. Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković visited Zadar on Sunday for talks with the presidents of local courts and prosecutors to examine the facts about Croatian court proceedings and the timeline in the case after Kovačević aka Daruvarac was released from investigative custody on Friday after six months, the maximum time he could be held in investigative custody.

"We all know the crime in this case and what he is charged with. This definitely isn't good," Bošnjaković told reporters on Sunday. He said the case was burdened by certain things about which nothing could have been done and that it would have been concluded had the judge in charge not become sick.

The minister announced amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act and the implementation of new European Union directives, saying this case would prompt legislative amendments to improve the legal framework so that such things did not happen again.

The prime minister said today "the way in which we as the state and the government can resolve this is by preventing the use of procedural institutes from endangering the fastness of proceedings, which is what happened in this case. The public is justifiably outraged. I'm as outraged as everyone because this case is obvious."

Asked if legal amendments were being sought, Plenković said he had discussed this with Bošnjaković. "This is unacceptable, because I don't think there's anyone who can in any way justify this situation which, judging by everything we could see, is pretty clear," he added.

More news on Croatia’s judiciary can be found in our Politics section.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Prosecution Appeals against Zagreb Mayor Acquittal

ZAGREB, December 7, 2018 - The anti-corruption agency USKOK has appealed against Zagreb County Court's acquittal of Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić and his associates Ivan Lovrić and Zdenka Palac of the charges that they favoured the civil society group In the Name of the Family by allowing that NGO to use city stalls, free of charge, to collect signatures for a referendum on changes to the election law, thus defrauding the city budget of 308,000 kuna.

USKOK has appealed against the non-final ruling of October 19 citing significant breaches of the Penal Code and saying that the reasons stated in the ruling are unclear and, to a considerable degree, contradictory.

USKOK also believes that the county court had erroneously determined facts in the case and that it wrongly concluded that there was no evidence that the accused had committed the crimes they were charged with.

USKOK has suggested that the Supreme Court find the accused guilty or annul the county court ruling and order a retrial.

Before the end of the trial, USKOK amended its indictment to charge Bandić with not only abuse of office but also with influence peddling involving Palac, director of the city company operating farmers markets.

At the same time, the charges against Lovrić were changed and he was eventually not charged with abuse of office but with abetting and aiding abuse of office, while the charges against Palac remained the same.

Aside from this case, Bandić has been indicted in one more case, dubbed Agram, which involves charges of defrauding the city and state budgets. Bandić pleaded not guilty at the start of that trial, too.

For more on the Zagreb mayor, click here.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Croatian Prison Population on Decline, CoE Report Says

 ZAGREB, December 4, 2018 - The prison population across Europe is unchanged, while the Croatian prison population is decreasing, according to the report "Prisons in Europe 2005-2015", which was published by the Council of Europe on Tuesday.

Figures are very high in England, Wales, Scotland, Spain and Portugal whereas Croatia, Greece, Slovenia and Turkey have low rates. In the 2005 and 2015 period, the number of prisoners rose the most in Albania, Georgia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey. On the other hand, the lowest growth rates were registered in Germany and the Netherlands, while Estonia and Latvia registered the highest rates of a decrease in prison population in Europe.

The report notes that when compared to other European countries, in 2014/15 Croatia had a low prison population rate.

"Low: prison population rate, average length of imprisonment based on stock and flow, prison density, rate of suicides per 10,000 inmates, percentage of suicides in pre-trial detention, ratio of inmates per staff, average amount spent per day for the detention of one inmate," reads the report.

From 2005 to 2015, the prison population rate of Croatia (stock) increased by 2%. In 2005, the country had 79 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants, while in 2015 it had 80.

"Medium: rate of entries into penal institutions, average length of imprisonment based on the total number of days spent in penal institutions, percentage of non-sentenced inmates, percentage of custodial staff in the total staff.

From 2005 to 2014, the rate of entries (flow of entries) decreased by 28%. In 2005, there were 301 entries into penal institutions per 100,000 inhabitants, while in 2014 there were 216, according to the report.

"High: rate of releases from penal institutions, median age of the prison population, percentage of foreigners in pre-trial detention, rate of deaths per 10,000 inmates."

The report reads that from 2009 to 2014, the rate of releases (flow of releases) decreased by 23%. In 2009, there were 278 releases from penal institutions per 100,000 inhabitants, while in 2014 there were 214.

"When the percentage of female and the percentage of foreign inmates are calculated, the Croatian percentages are medium compared to the member States of the Council of Europe, but low compared to the member States of the European Union."

For more on prisons in Croatia, click here.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Court Orders Daily to Pay Damages to a Judge

ZAGREB, November 17, 2018 - The Croatian Journalists Association (HND) expressed deep concern about a Split Municipal Court ruling ordering the Jutarnji List daily to pay Split County Court judge Neven Cambi 50,000 kuna in compensation for non-pecuniary damage in the form of mental anguish the judge said he had suffered due to an interview published by the daily in November 2017, in which he was not even mentioned.

The interview in question was an authorised interview with MOST party MP Nikola Grmoja in which Grmoja spoke, among other things, about the situation in the judiciary, describing the State Judicial Council (DSV) as a "source of corruption" but without naming any DSV member specifically.

Regardless of that, the judge brought a civil action against the daily and won the case, saying that claims in the interview referred specifically to him and were published with the sole aim of depicting him as a bad person promoting unlawfulness and as a corrupt judge.

The HND said in its statement that it had been warning for years about the intolerable practice of prosecuting media for publishing authorised interviews as well as about the harmful practice of awarding high damages in cases when judges sue reporters for defamation, on which the European Court of Human Rights gave its opinion a few days ago.

In the case of the newspaper publishing company Narodni List d.d. versus Croatia, the ECHR on November 8 ruled that by ordering the company to pay judge Boris Babić 50,000 kuna in compensation for mental anguish Croatian courts had violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the freedom of expression.

The ECHR advised Croatian courts that damages awarded for mental anguish caused by the publishing of information must be proportionate to the actual damage suffered.

Excessive damages have a freezing effect and can seriously restrict an open debate on issues of public interest, the HND said.

For more on the status of journalists in Croatia, click here.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Minister Not Worried About Croatia's Poor Judicial Independence Ranking

ZAGREB, October 21, 2018 - Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković commented on Saturday on a recent World Economic Forum report which ranked Croatia 120th out of 140 countries in terms of judicial independence, saying such a bad ranking was unrealistic.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Zagreb Mayor Acquitted in One Case

ZAGREB, October 19, 2018 - The Mayor of Zagreb, Milan Bandić, and his co-defendants have been acquitted of the charge of favourable treatment of a non-governmental organisation at the expense of the municipal budget.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Whistleblowers to Receive Better Protection

ZAGREB, September 27, 2018 - The Croatian government sent to parliament on Thursday a bill designed to protect those exposing any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within an organisation that is either private or public.

Page 5 of 7