Friday, 28 December 2018

Drive Carefully: Number of Police Speedometers to Rise Threefold

ZAGREB, December 28, 2018 - The Ministry of the Interior and a group of local companies on Friday signed a 53 million kuna framework agreement for the purchase of roadside police speedometers, under which the number of these devices will increase threefold over the next three years.

Currently 26 fixed-position speed cameras are used, and under the agreement an additional 75 cameras of this type will be obtained.

Furthermore, police will be provided with 50 stationary radars plus 100 handheld laser speed guns.

The agreement specifies the amount of newly installed devices for each of the next three years. These devices will also be used to detect other traffic offences such as the use of mobile phones or failure to buckle up while driving, apart from measuring the speed of moving vehicles.

These technical improvements will lead to an integrated system of detection of traffic offences and fining of offenders, according to Minister Davor Božinović who today signed the agreement with the executives of the companies. "This is a great headway," he said, underscoring that the purpose of the purchase of speed control devices is to increase traffic safety.

Božinović said that so far this year the death toll on the country's roads had reached 313, with over 30,000 traffic accidents registered in the first 11 months of the year.

Over the last weekend before Christmas, about 3,700 traffic accidents were reported, and two persons were killed. As many as 12 percent of drivers caught driving under the influence and 35 percent of those booked for speeding were repeat offenders, the minister warned.

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

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

NGO Files Complaint against Police for Unlawful Migrant Expulsions

ZAGREB, December 18, 2018 - The Peace Studies Centre (CMS) on Tuesday filed with the prosecutorial authorities (DORH) a criminal report accusing unidentified police officers of behaving unlawfully towards migrants at Croatia's border with Bosnia. The police have allegedly conducted unlawful migrant expulsions.

The criminal report, lodged with DORH on International Migrants Day observed on 18 December, was prompted by a video footage released by the international organisation Border Violence Monitoring purportedly corroborating the suspicion that Croatian police systematically expel groups of migrants on the external border of the European Union back to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Croatian Ministry of the Interior dismissed the claim, insisting that border police were applying the principle of deterrence.

The CMS and the Welcome initiative insist that DORH should conduct an effective investigation that will result in the penalisation of the perpetrators.

They also insist that Interior Minister Davor Božinović, the national chief of police, Nikola Milina, and the head of the border police, Zoran Ničeno, should resign, claiming that they failed to ensure the conduct of the police in compliance with law.

Activist Sara Kekuš told a news conference Tuesday that numerous testimonies of refugees and warnings made over two years about the unlawful police behaviour, as well as the latest footage were sufficient to corroborate the claims that it was necessary to launch an investigation.

Kekuš said that it was of utmost importance that the police cease behaving unlawfully and violently at the border.

Police chief Milina on Sunday dismissed accusations against Croatian police over their treatment of migrants, saying that no cases of beating have been found. "Police guard the state border in accordance with the law and their professional standards. We have checked all recent reports of illegalities and have found no cases of beating," Milina told public broadcaster HRT in a prime-time news programme on Sunday evening.

More news on Croatia’s policies towards migrants can be found in our Politics section.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Police Chief: No Abuse of Migrants by Croatian Police

ZAGREB, December 17, 2018 - The national chief of police, Nikola Milina, has dismissed accusations against Croatian police over their treatment of migrants, saying that no cases of beating have been found.

"Police guard the state border in accordance with the law and their professional standards. We have checked all recent reports of illegalities and have found no cases of beating," Milina told public broadcaster HRT in a prime-time news programme on Sunday evening.

He commended the police for their outstanding performance, saying that over 547 smugglers had been processed to date, the largest number on record.

Milina resolutely rejected accusations that Croatian police were entering the territory of neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina. "That's not true. We enter Bosnia and Herzegovina's territory only in accordance with the cross-border police cooperation agreement, as part of joint patrols and regular activities with our colleagues from Bosnia and Herzegovina."

"So far this year, we have received 1,039 asylum claims, which shows that we are not violating human rights," Milina said when asked how police treated migrants on the border and whether they allowed them to apply for asylum. He said that the main task of the police is to protect lives, adding that Croatian police were helping migrants, providing them with medical assistance, food and so on.

Milina said that an estimated 5,000 migrants were currently staying in Bosnia and Herzegovina. "We are exchanging information on an ongoing basis with Bosnia and Herzegovina and all other countries on the migrant route. Estimates differ and change from day to day, but according to some, currently there are about 5,000 migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina."

Speaking of the purpose of the Interior Ministry's appeal addressed to international and local non-governmental organisations providing humanitarian assistance to migrants along the Balkan route, Milina said: "We want to protect lives, we want as few people as possible coming to grief. We've had nine deaths this year alone."

He said that false information is often spread via social networks that the border is open or will be opened and then migrants start towards the border. He noted that criminal networks also put migrants in danger.

In the meantime, Bosnia and Herzegovina's Security Minister Dragan Mektić said on Sunday that police in his country had evidence showing that Croatian police were forcing illegal migrants back to Bosnia and Herzegovina and abusing them in the process.

"It's a disgrace for a European country, a member of the European Union. Police are involved in migrant smuggling and are forcing them into illegal migration. We have warned of this several times," Mektić told the regional N1 television network.

The Croatian Ministry of the Interior dismissed such claims, saying that Croatian border police were applying the principle of deterrence in accordance with Croatian law, and that none of the alleged cases of abuse had been verified by checks.

Mektić made the statement while commenting on footage aired by German ARD television, which said that this proved that by forcing migrants back to Bosnia and Herzegovina Croatian police were violating Croatian laws and international conventions.

Mektić added that Bosnian security services had gathered evidence confirming the accusations by the German television channel. "We have evidence proving that they (Croatian police) are doing that, physically abusing and beating migrants. We also have evidence showing that they even abuse families and underaged children," Mektić said.

More news on the migrant situation on the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in our Politics section.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

979 Illegal Migrants Sought International Protection in Croatia This Year

ZAGREB, December 14, 2018 - In the first 11 months of 2018 Croatian police arrested 7,500 illegal migrants, of whom 979 have sought international protection in Croatia while others were returned to the countries from where they had entered Croatia illegally, officials of the Karlovac Police Directorate told reporters on Friday, after a session of the county assembly focusing on security and illegal migrations in that county that borders on Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovenia.

Police deputy director Josip Ćelić commended cooperation with the police forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovenia, and dismissed accusations from a part of migrants that Croatian police treat them inhumanely.

"Our police officers help children and adults who are in bad condition, they give them water, food, medical help, and claims about police brutality are absolutely untrue... If police have to defend themselves, they act in line with the law and use legal means of coercion," Ćelić said, recalling "clear cases of migrants inflicting injuries on themselves, deaths caused by rock slides and cases of drowning in rivers".

Karlovac County border police chief Zoran Ničeno said that the number of illegal migrants arrested was 66% higher than in 2017 and that 547 people smugglers were arrested, twice as many as in 2017.

He added that there were eight attacks on police.

More news on the migrant policies in Croatia can be found in our Politics section.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Croatia Rejects Accusations about Police Violence against Migrants

 ZAGREB, December 11 (Hina) - Croatian Minister of the Interior, Davor Božinović, on Tuesday dismissed accusations by Human Rights Watch (HRW) levelled against Croatian law enforcement authorities about police violence against migrants.

"The Croatian police protect the Croatian border, protect the European Union's external border in compliance with the Croatian laws and Schengen Zone rules. They have done that and are doing that in a professional manner. Had it not been so, Croatia would not have received commendations from the relevant members of the EU institutions for the way it is coping with the migrant crisis," Božinović said in Marrakesh on Tuesday.

The New York-based HRW says that Croatian police are turning migrants back to Bosnia and Herzegovina, in some cases violently, denying them the opportunity to apply for asylum. The organisation interviewed 20 people, including 11 heads of families and one unaccompanied boy, who said that Croatian police deported them to Bosnia and Herzegovina without due process after detaining them deep inside Croatian territory.

In response to this criticism, Minister Božinović said that all those objections had been made by people whose attempts to enter Croatia illegally were foiled.

The police check any reported case of violence and maybe somebody would be happier if we managed to find some evidence, but we haven't found anything to corroborate the accusations, the minister said.

Asked by the press if it is possible to safeguard the border without the use of force, he answered that "the police are trained to do so."

He underscored that the Global Compact for the Safe, Orderly and Regular Migrations, endorsed in Marrakesh on Monday, made a distinction between migrants and refugees, and that the majority of those coming to the Croatian borders are not refugees but migrants for economic reasons.

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

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Croatian Police Arrest Weapon Smugglers

ZAGREB, November 22, 2018 - Croatian police have busted a five-member criminal ring charged with having ordered a large quantity of hand guns and weapon parts online from the USA, which arrived in Croatia under false declarations at the address of the criminal ring's alleged organiser. The weapon smugglers are four Croatians aged 42, 63, 59 and 34, and a 31-year-old Dutch national, the Ministry of the Interior has said.

The USKOK anti-corruption agency has said that the five persons are under police investigation for the unlawful possession, production and procurement of weapons and explosives.

In the period from early 2018 to November 21, the suspects formed a criminal ring in the area of Split-Dalmatia County and Zagreb to acquire illegal gain by continually buying large quantities of firearms and weapon parts in the United States and selling them on the black market in Croatia.

The arms thus procured were falsely declared as car and motorcycle parts or toys.

The ring involved a postal customs official who made it possible for parcels with hand guns or their parts to avoid customs control.

The Ministry of the Interior has said that three of the suspects have been placed in custody, one, a 31-year-old man, is currently beyond the reach of the police, while one has already been in investigative custody on the charge of holding large quantities of arms and ammunition as well as a large quantity of money in his home.

The Ministry of the Interior said that during its investigation into the case it had cooperated very well with the police forces of the USA and Great Britain, as well as with the Croatian Customs Administration and the Croatian Post.

For more on the activities of Croatian police and the fight against weapon smugglers and other forms of organised crime, click here.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Police Exhibits Forged Artworks in Osijek

In the building of the Croatian National Theatre in Osijek, the Police Museum and the Police Administration of Osijek-Baranja County have organised an exhibition of forged artworks found by the police during their investigations. This truly unique exhibition is titled “The Beauty of False Glitter”, reports on November 21, 2018.

Forged artworks are certainly some of the most interesting exhibits in the permanent collection of the Police Museum. The collection consists of about seventy forgeries, mostly paintings (oil on canvas), as well as several sculptures.

The majority of forgeries are attempts to recreate works by Croatian painters such as Edo Murtić, Zlatko Prica, Ljubo Ivančić, Mersad Berber, Dimitrije Popović, Đuro Pulitika, Vasko Lipovac, Miljenko Stančić, Vladimir Kirin, Oscar Herman, Boris Bućan, Ivan Rabuzin, Ivan Generalić, Ferdo Kovačević, Dragica Cvek Jordan, Slava Raškaj, as well as the sculptures of Dušan Đamonja and Vojin Bakić.

Among foreign authors “represented” at the exhibition, forged artwork by Salvador Dali and Renoir are the most prominent.

By presenting this exhibition, the police want to warn citizens about the unscrupulousness of players who operate on the black market, who are willing to do everything in order to make a profit, including deceiving uninformed buyers.

The opening of the exhibition was attended by Osijek Mayor Ivan Vrkić, who thanked the police for bringing the exhibition to Osijek and for raising awareness among citizens about the need to be very careful if and when they decide to buy expensive artwork.

The exhibition will be open until November 30. All those interested to see it can come to the Croatian National Theatre building in Osijek daily from noon to 8 pm. The entry to the exhibition is free.

Similar exhibitions have already been presented in several Croatian towns and have proven to be a success with the general public.

For more on the Croatian police, click here.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Interpol Rules in Favour of Croatia in Hernadi Case

ZAGREB, November 17, 2018 – The Interpol Executive Committee met in Dubai on Saturday and ruled in favour of Croatia, allowing the renewal of the international arrest warrant for the CEO of the Hungarian energy company MOL, Zsolt Hernadi, the Croatian Interior Ministry said in a press release.

The Ministry recalled that in November 2016, Croatia's request to INTERPOL to extend a Red Notice for MOL's CEO Hernadi was outvoted at an Interpol general assembly. As EU member states, Croatia and Hungary were urged to resolve their dispute before a relevant EU body after which they can submit another request to the Committee to consider issuing the arrest warrant for Hernadi.

After a European Court in Luxembourg announced in July this year that Hungary should not have ignored the European arrest warrant issued for Hernadi, Croatian police have once again requested Interpol to extend a Red Notice for the MOL's CEO,

The European arrest warrant for Hernadi, which some states have ignored, was first issued after Croatia's USKOK anti-corruption office accused him of giving former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader 10 million euro in bribes so that MOL could have management rights in Croatian oil company INA.

In December 2015, Sanader's corruption trial was combined with Hernadi's case, but the latter's defence asked that the case file be translated into Hungarian. They also claimed that Hernadi had been acquitted of bribing Sanader in a private suit in Hungary.

At the end of 2017, Croatia's Supreme Court quashed a decision of 30 May 2017 whereby Zagreb's County Court suspended the Sanader-Hernadi trial while ruling on appeals filed by USKOK and Hernadi's defence. Last week, the County Court adjourned a preliminary hearing in the proceedings.

For more on the INA-MOL case, which has been burdening the relations between Croatia and Hungary, click here.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Police Doubt Whether Migrants Damaged Cemetery Fence in Croatian Village

ZAGREB, November 7, 2018 - Varaždin police on Wednesday said in a press release that border police had noticed damage to the fence around the cemetery in Cvetlin and that the search was on for unidentified perpetrators. The police issued the press release in response to an earlier statement by the local municipality, which assumed that migrants were involved, and said that there had not been any significant increase in the number of illegal crossing of the border in that area.

The police said that an on-site investigation disclosed that unidentified perpetrators had cut the wire fence around the cemetery, bending it toward the ground, and that the damage is estimated at a hundred kuna and that police were looking for the perpetrators.

"We also note that the police have not recorded any theft or break-in that would indicated that the perpetrators are illegal migrants," the press release said. "The Varaždin police administration has not recorded any increased number of illegal crossings of the state border in the Cvetlin and Jamno area. However, the border police are acting in accordance with their own assessment of risk and covering the area along the state border and at all access routes," the press release said, adding that in the past two months, 10 people were identified as attempting to illegally cross the border and that they had been dealt with in accordance with the law.

The local municipality reported earlier in the day that the cemetery fence had been damaged and that local residents assumed that this was done by migrants attempting to cross the border into Slovenia. Even though residents are aware that the route toward Slovenia passes through Cvetlin and Jamno, no one has anything against migrants, but residents are concerned with the security aspect, the municipality's press release said.

For more on the migrant crisis as it affects Croatia, read here.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Police to Seize Cars of Drivers Who Repeat Traffic Violations

After a series of serious traffic accidents caused by drunk drivers, the Interior Ministry has started to draft amendments to the Law on Road Traffic Safety, reports on November 6, 2018.

Just last weekend, the police identified 4,588 violations of traffic rules, out of which over 1,800 were people driving faster than the speed limit. During the intensified traffic controls, 482 alcohol-related driving violations were reported and the highest measured alcohol concentration, in the amount of 0.34%, was recorded in Koprivnica-Križevci County.

In order to respond to the problem as quickly as possible, Interior Minister Davor Božinović met with representatives of the Faculty of Traffic Sciences. In addition to the minister, the meeting was attended by the Chief of Police Nikola Milin, his deputy Josip Ćelić, chief of police directorate Ivan Merčep and head of the Traffic Safety Department Josip Mataija.

This was not the first meeting of experts from the two institutions on the issue. While not solely responsible for the traffic safety, the Ministry of the Interior has started with the activities to find more suitable solutions, more appropriate to current circumstances, with a view to preserving lives and improving road traffic culture through expert working groups. The Interior Ministry has initiated the meeting on the basis of the opinion that in finding a high-quality and comprehensive solution it is necessary to achieve cooperation with the scientists who deal with traffic issues.

The sanctions currently prescribed for drivers by the Law on Road Traffic Safety do not fully meet their purpose, meaning that the perpetrators of the violations are not sufficiently deterred from repeating their illegal driving habits. Therefore, the intention is to move forward towards solutions that could include the permanent revocation of driving licenses, but also the seizure of vehicles which were used in committing a traffic offense. One of the proposals is to introduce liability for owners of vehicles which were used for committing traffic offenses.

“We will launch a legislative initiative to increase punishments for drivers who cause serious traffic accidents, especially those who belong to the recidivist category,” the minister said in a conversation with Nova TV. “In our opinion, the vehicle as a mean of committing a criminal offense should be seized even if the offence was not committed by the owner of the vehicle. The owner should assume the responsibility for giving the vehicle to the driver,” Božinović said.

The Ministry of the Interior has also supported the proposal of the Faculty of Traffic Sciences for the establishment of the centre of excellence as part of the faculty, which will bring together all the relevant authorities and work on strategic solutions.

In the first ten months of this year, 272 people died in 257 traffic accidents, with 185 dying on the spot, which is 68% of the total number of deaths.

For more on traffic issues in Croatia, click here.

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