Saturday, 16 March 2019

Protesters Call for Zero Tolerance to Violence

ZAGREB, March 16, 2019 - Protesters who rallied in Zagreb on Saturday to show solidarity with victims of violence said "Croatia needs zero tolerance to violence" and read out the demands they will put to the government on Monday.

Several hundred protesters rallied in King Tomislav Square, carrying banners with messages against domestic violence - "Love doesn't hurt", "Violence is not a family matter", "Let's not give in", "We are all responsible", "A crime, not a misdemeanour", "Zero tolerance", "I'm a victim of domestic violence too", "The victim is never to blame", "Brave people" and "Actions speaker louder than words".

Protesters said domestic violence was on the rise, with 145 such crimes reported in 2015, 330 in 2016, of which 279 against women, and 552 in 2017, including 464 against women. They said that in 90% of the cases domestic violence was tried as a misdemeanour, including 16,000 such cases in 2015, 13,000 in 2016 and 12,000 in 2017.

Protesters said 91 women were killed in Croatia over the past five years, accounting for 47% of all murders. In 70% of the cases, the murderer was a person close to the victim and in over a half they were their partners.

The organisers of today's #SaveMe protest demand the immediate enforcement of all measures necessary to reduce violence, notably in the family, to improve the work of institutions and the legal framework, and to raise public awareness.

They called on the authorities to take a more serious approach to domestic violence, to improve regulations and to stop treating victims and perpetrators equally. They demand better cooperation between prosecutors, the police and welfare centres, as well as protecting the dignity and safety of victims during legal proceedings.

Furthermore, they demand additional training for professionals working with victims of violence and more money for associations working on the protection of victims.

Today's protest was prompted by a recent case in which a father threw his four children from a balcony on the island of Pag. Protests were also held in Dubrovnik, Šibenik and Split.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Saturday took part in a Zagreb protest for stronger protection of victims of domestic violence, saying violence should be treated as a crime and that punishment should be stricter as that was the only way "to reduce this phenomenon, which is really big in society."

Speaking to reporters at the #SaveMe rally, Plenković said he did not consider it a protest but an initiative he supported.

He recalled that on March 8 last year he announced the ratification of the Istanbul Convention and that his main arguments in its favour had been very similar to those heard at today's rally.

Plenković said domestic violence was an everyday phenomenon happening to many women and children, "which is the first true problem of the tissue of our society." He reiterated the five main messages he made in parliament ahead of the ratification of the Istanbul Convention last year to show that the government was applying European mechanisms in the prevention of domestic violence and victim protection.

The goals are stronger prevention, stricter punishment for perpetrators, greater support and care for victims, strengthening all the institutions involved in this issue, and raising public awareness, Plenković said.

He said he had tasked Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković with drawing up amendments to the Penal Code to increase punishment and to make sure the police, whenever possible, qualified violence as a crime and not a misdemeanour.

Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy Minister Nada Murganić will continue to work on improving the implementation of the national strategy for protection from domestic violence, including by increasing funding for hotlines and safe houses, Plenković said.

He said he and his ministers would meet with representatives of the #SaveMe initiative on Monday and ask that civil society organisations and NGOs continue contributing to dealing with this problem. He said he had come today as prime minister as well as a citizen concerned for victims of violence, and that it was good that individuals, groups of citizens and the government worked on the problem together.

Asked when the Penal Code could be amended, Plenković said the amendments would not be extensive, applying to only several articles, and that "it could be done by the summer recess."

He said it was necessary to raise awareness among judges with regard to domestic violence and to prioritise the prosecution of such crimes by better organising the work of courts, with the support of the Justice Ministry.

Asked if the public could expect his cabinet to do everything to prevent and reduce violence, Plenković said they were doing their best and that domestic violence did not start yesterday and would not stop tomorrow as it was facilitated by new technologies. "It's time we all make a step forward together, fully aware that we are doing something good."

Asked to comment on the criticisms of Minister Murganić, notably regarding her statements about domestic violence, and the fact that one of the demands at today's protest was her resignation, Plenković said he had not heard this demand and that the minister had apologised for the statements.

He said Murganić's job, dealing with welfare, families, demography and youth, was "demanding" and that "she is doing a very good job, resolving problems and giving her all."

As for criticisms that Murganić's department was understaffed, Plenković said salaries were raised at her initiative and that, as of July, more money were set aside from the national budget and the European Social Fund.

More news about the issue of domestic violence can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 28 December 2018

Zagreb Joins “Justice for David” Protests in Banja Luka

ZAGREB, December 28, 2018 - Thousands of members and sympathisers of the "Justice for David" group rallied in downtown Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina again on Thursday, despite a police ban, to demand the truth about the death of 21-year-old David Dragičević. A support event for the protests in Banja Luka was held in Zagreb.

The gathering was again led by David's father Davor. After police ordered them to move away or they would disperse them by force, he told the officers they could ban protesters from standing on a city square but not from taking a protest walk, which they proceeded to do, carrying lit candles and pictures of David, shouting "Justice" and "Murderers".

Davor Dragičević announced another big rally for Sunday a 6 p.m., saying he would then state a list of demands that would have to be met by January 9. "From then on, nothing will be the same," he said.

He criticised Bosnian Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik, who earlier today blamed the escalating violence in Banja Luka on the local prosecutor's office and defended Interior Minister Dragan Lukač for sending police against the protesters on Tuesday. Dodik said the judiciary was to blame for the fact that David Dragičević's death has not been cleared up.

David Dragičević was found dead in the mouth of a tributary of the Vrbas River that runs through Banja Luka in March, a few days after he went missing in the night between March 17 and 18.

His father has initiated anti-government protests, insisting on a thorough investigation into his son's suspicious death. The investigation has been lasting for nine months. A protest held in Banja Luka on Tuesday resulted in police brutality and numerous arrests.

About 150 Zagreb residents rallied in a downtown square today in a show of support to the "Heart for David" initiative and the parents of the murdered youth as well as to show disapproval of police brutality in Banja Luka this week. They lit heart-shaped candles and demanded justice for David Dragičević and all murdered children.

Gordana Pasanac, one of the participants, said that by supporting the protests in Banja Luka, they "want to prevent the same from happening in Croatia too." She said the violence must end and that "the state must finally be on citizens' side, so that we are all equal under the law, so that not only the children of socially acceptable families are protected."

More news on the human rights issues in Croatia can be found in our Politics 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.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

HDZ Building “Attacked” with Eggs and Oranges

After “an attack” on the Ministry of Health, a second protest action by the Free Croatia political party.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Few Drivers Stop to Protest Against High Fuel Prices

ZAGREB, June 16, 2018 – Some drivers across Croatia on Friday afternoon stopped traffic in protest against high fuel prices, thus joining in a campaign to stop fuel price growth and warn about high fuel excise taxes.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

A-HSP Presents Its "Party Army" on the Main Square in Zagreb, Antifascists Protest

Interesting morning at the main square in Zagreb.