Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Supreme Court Orders New Retrial of JNA General for Blowing Up Peruća Dam

ZAGREB, 31 May 2022 - Croatia's Supreme Court has quashed a guilty verdict in the case of ex-JNA general Borislav Đukić, who was sentenced to ten years in prison for war crimes against civilian population by Split County Court in late 2020, and has ordered a new retrial.

The second retrial against this Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) general, who was tried and convicted of blowing up the Peruća dam in 1993 during the Homeland War, will again be held in the Split County Court.

The Supreme Court has sustained the defendant's appeal, explaining that the first-instance ruling, delivered by the Split Court, contained contradictory and incomprehensible arguments.

Đukić was arrested in Montenegro in July 2015 and handed over to Croatia in March 2016.

In the first trial which ended in the late 2018, he was sentenced to nine years for war crimes, and in a retrial in 2020 he was sentenced to ten years.

During the 1991-1995 war, Đukic served as commander of a Yugoslav army motorised brigade and Croatian Serb paramilitary forces operating near the border with Bosnia. Evidence presented during the trial showed that in 1993 he had ordered 30 tonnes of explosives to destroy the Peruća dam, located about 50 kilometres inland from the southern coastal city of Split.

The explosion caused damage valued at a total of about 130 million kuna (17.5 million euros). The direct damage was 90 million kuna (120 million euros), while 10 million German marks was spent on repairing the dam.

Although the damage done was severe, workers managed to prevent a major flooding of the areas downstream, which would have endangered the lives of some 50,000 people.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

Supreme Court Makes Two Important Decisions for Consumers and Banks

ZAGREB, 9 Feb 2022 - The Supreme Court said on Wednesday that it had made two decisions "relevant for a large number of ongoing cases against banks launched by bank clients", which the Franak association welcomed, saying it expected the highest court to rule by Easter on the nullity of contracts on CHF-pegged loans as well.

The Franak association brings together former holders of loans pegged to the Swiss franc.

The Supreme Court said that in one of its two decisions, it allowed a review motion against a second-instance court ruling related to the following legal issue, whether "in an appeal against an enforcement ruling and the subsequent proceedings, to have the enforcement declared impermissible, one can insist on the circumstance that points to the nullity of the notarial act (consumer contract), which constitutes the enforcement order in the enforcement proceedings."

"This is a legal matter that requires the Croatian Supreme Court to adopt a legal position in line with the Court of the EU in the application of the Unfair Contract Terms Directive, which should result in the evolution of law through legal practice," the court said.

Franak believes this means that the Supreme Court will decide whether enforcement may be carried out if implemented on the basis of an invalid contract, but also on the basis of a contract containing invalid contractual provisions, i.e. on the basis of a partially invalid contract.

"That decision will apply to all loans with the CHF currency clause, but also to euro and kuna-denominated loans with contractual provisions on invalid interest rates," the association said.

In the other decision, the Supreme Court refused a review motion by a bank, upholding decisions by lower courts and taking the position that as the plaintiff, the bank must compensate the consumer for litigation costs regardless of the fact that the client had withdrawn the lawsuit.

Franak said this decision is not related to a decision on consumers' right to compensation after the conversion of CHF-pegged loans to euro loans, which it expects the Court of the EU will make by May.

"If, however, the Court of the EU decides that our case is not within its jurisdiction, the decision on conversion and compensation will be made by the Croatian Supreme Court, but this specific review motion has nothing to do with that either," the association said.

It expressed satisfaction that the Supreme Court president "is doing what he promised to do" and that it expected "the issue of nullity of contracts on CHF-pegged loans to be resolved by Easter."

The position of Supreme Court president is held by Radovan Dobronić, who on 4 July 2013, as a Zagreb Commercial Court judge, delivered a ruling in favour of the Consumer Protection Association which had sued eight banks with regard to the Swiss franc foreign currency clause and their unilateral decision to increase interest rates.

Dobronić said at the time that the banks had violated consumers' rights by failing to fully inform them about all the parameters necessary to decide on taking loans.

The ruling on the legal nullity of the currency clause in contracts on loans pegged to the Swiss franc, was later upheld by the High Commercial Court and its ruling was upheld by the Constitutional Court.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 25 October 2021

Supreme Court Head: Parl. Parties Shouldn't Have Problem With Ustasha Insignia Ban

ZAGREB, 25 Oct 2021 - Supreme Court president Radovan Dobronić told the Homeland Movement on Monday that no parliamentary party should have a problem with condemning symbols associated with the Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia (NDH).

"All parties, on the left and on the right, which participate in parliamentary life, must not have any problem with condemning symbols associated with the system that was in place during the NDH. That had nothing to do with Croatia," Dobronić told the press.

Ustasha salute

He was asked to comment on the opposition Homeland Movement's response to his stand that the "For the homeland ready" salute is unacceptable, which the party condemned and asked him who was he to judge "the insignia of fallen HOS knights."

Dobronić said he was the president of the Supreme Court and reiterated that the question of banning the Ustasha salute and insignia was a civilizational and value question, while whether someone could accept that or not was another.

He said the ban on the salute and insignia should not be additionally regulated by law because "everything is clear" and that there was no dilemma as to what the constitution and the decisions of the Constitutional Court stipulate.


As for an upcoming Supreme Court General Convention meeting on enforcement, Dobronić said he would propose that Enforcement Act provisions on the issuance of enforcement decisions based on verified documents should not apply to consumer agreements.

"The Supreme Court can deliver at the General Convention two, three positions proposing another procedure instead of that one and the matter will be solved," he said, reiterating that the current practice is in contravention of EU rights.

Dobronić said his proposal would be that when big systems such as telecoms or utility companies decide to sue citizens for failure to pay their debts, a judge would have to see the original bill and agreement so that they can check the terms of the agreement in the context of consumer law.

Public verdicts

Dobronić went on to say that he would see that all court verdicts be made public.

"So far about 60 to% of verdicts have been available and the explanation why 100% have not been available is that they've had problems with anonymization, which takes time," he said, adding that this is only a technical problem.

As for restoring people's trust in the judiciary, Dobronić said there was no quick fix and that it would occur gradually and be achieved when the public had the justified impression that the same criteria applied to all.

The availability of verdicts and a uniform court practice will certainly contribute to that, he added.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 23 October 2021

New Supreme Court President Says Wants Stronger Rule of Law, Fair System

ZAGREB, 23 Oct 2021 - The newly appointed Supreme Court President Radovan Dobronić has said in an interview with Hina that he wants to advance the justice system "in such a way to create a feeling among citizens and business people that the rule of law is stronger and the system is functioning fairly."

"At the same time, I also want to improve working conditions for judges and other staff in the judiciary," Dobronić said in the interview a few days after he was sworn in as president of the highest court.

His appointment put an end to a months-long disagreement over candidates for that post between the president as the constitutional proposer and the prime minister, who holds the majority in the parliament.

Known to the public as the Commercial Court judge who ruled in favor of holders of loans denominated in the Swiss franc, Dobronić was appointed after receiving support from a broad spectrum of political parties at a time when the judiciary is often mentioned as the weakest link in the Croatian society.

Rulings should be justified, reasonable and fair 

"The image of the judiciary will improve when courts create a well-founded feeling with their rulings that they try evenly and treat all parties equally and when rulings are not only formally legal but also justified, reasonable and fair," Dobronić said, adding that so far that had not been the case to a sufficient degree.

The Supreme Court president, who also chairs the State Election Commission, believes that he will cooperate well with all judges, the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor, and other stakeholders in the judiciary.

"The system could be described as a coalition of allies and I will act accordingly," said Dobronić, whose program was not supported by the Supreme Court General Convention,  made up of all Supreme Court judges, while the parliament supported it with 120 votes in favor and 3 against.

Judges with job norm - judicial clerks

"Judges are primarily motivated by their responsibility and not by meeting the job norm because a judge with a job norm is not a judge but some sort of judicial clerk. It seems that this is not entirely understood, that is, there is a fear that without a job norm, judges would not be doing anything," said Dobronić, for whom it transpired during the nomination period that the State Judicial Council had launched disciplinary proceedings against him for not meeting the job norm in 2019.

Depicting judges as poor workers is unacceptable and the truth in most cases is quite the opposite, he said, adding that in the short time that he had held the office he had noticed "a very small number of cases in which judges have concluded main hearings but have not made and forwarded rulings within the legally prescribed deadline."

"Such situations should definitely be avoided. Not only is there no reason for the parties not to be sent the judgment, but such conduct is contrary to the principle of immediacy," he said.

"I will insist that such situations do not recur... they create an impression of irresponsibility, which is not good," he said.

In the current atmosphere of dissatisfaction with the judiciary, he noted, it is being forgotten that a part of judges and court clerks, too, are dissatisfied with the situation in the system.

Computerization or new bureaucracy

Dobronić believes that the quantity and quality of judges' work are affected adversely by three facts - poor spatial conditions, the degree and form of IT support, and the job norm.

He noted that in terms of the physical condition of courts, Croatia has started lagging behind not only old EU members but new, Eastern European ones as well.

It is justified to insist on the computerization of the system to increase its efficiency and transparency, but if the system, instead of working better and faster, becomes slower as more users connect to it, computerization will not facilitate work but rather cause more red tape, he said.

In that context, he called for significantly and promptly improving and simplifying the system, also to make certain types of decisions immediately publicly available.

As for the job norm, Dobronić said that it was not right to deal with the problem of backlogs by continually increasing the norm, "which is unacceptable and contrary to the standard European practice."

He said that he expected support from the executive authority in removing those systemic problems, noting that the state, as the owner of numerous companies, local government units, institutes, and agencies, as well as public municipal companies do not need to engage in numerous litigation cases.

"I expect the executive authorities in that regard to make action plans for next year to withdraw at least 10% of lawsuits... and I expect court presidents to focus more on work organization in a way that will be in line with the type of cases their judges work on," he said.

In that context, he said that he would see to it that the assignment of cases was reduced to the minimum.

Dobronić supported a better model of hiring legal secretaries and pointed to the problem of court reporters and other judicial employees leaving courts because of demanding work and low salaries.

Asked about judicial appointments in line with political criteria, Dobronić said that he could not answer that question because it refers to something he has no experience with.

"It is possible that it has happened, but I do not think the model of appointment itself is so much the problem... the main problem in the way judges are appointed is that... the main criterion is evaluating their work is the number of resolved cases, that is, expediency and other statistical data. That type of evaluation does not exist in most EU countries and it has resulted in the system being fully bureaucratized, with judges thinking more about meeting the job norm than about the quality of their rulings," he said.

For more, follow our politics section.

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Debate on Đurđević Shows She Won't Be Appointed Supreme Court Chief

ZAGREB, 24 June 2021 - Social Democratic Party MP Arsen Bauk said on Thursday the incumbent parliament would not succeed in appointing a new Supreme Court president because of the "tough cohabitation" between Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and President Zoran Milanović.

MPs today debated Milanović's candidate for that post, Zlata Đurđević. The ruling majority and part of the opposition said they would not vote for her tomorrow.

The debate convinced us that she is a good candidate but will not be elected because there is no agreement between Milanović and Plenković, Bauk said, adding that the "biggest compliment" to Đurđević was that the ruling HDZ party was against her appointment.

He said she was not acceptable to the ruling majority because she was recommended by Milanović, who belongs to the opposite political group.

Bauk said it was pointless to debate Đurđević's qualities because, in the existing system, even the best candidate would be exposed to the worst criticism.

He said the "main problem" occurred when Milanović would not participate in the "consensual judiciary" established by the HDZ.

Damir Habijan of the HDZ denied that the problem was that Đurđević was recommended by Milanović, reiterating the HDZ's argument that she disqualified herself by applying for the post in an illegal procedure.

MPs said it was clear that Đurđević would not be appointed tomorrow, with HDZ whip Branko Bačić saying this would not cause a crisis and that they expected a new call for applications.

Independent MP Milan Vrkljan said the appointment of Đurđević would be "an insult to all who felt after WWII how the communist ideology works. In her job, she was not guided by the profession but ideology."

Mišel Jakšić (SDP) said the main problem was that Croatia was the worst in the EU in terms of perception of the judiciary. He said the debate should have focused on change and whether "we wish to shake up the judicial caste."

He said there was no stain in Đurđević's biography and that "the judicial caste needs fresh blood."

Dalija Orešković of Centre said Milanović and his rhetoric was the main reason why Đurđević would not be appointed.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 20 March 2021

Money, Property, Cars - State to Take Mamic Brothers Assets

March the 20th, 2021 - The Mamic brothers have finally faced justice at the hands of the Supreme Court, and now their cars, money and property are set to fall into the hands of the Croatian state.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, by the final verdict of the Supreme Court, the infamous Mamic brothers (Zdravko and Zoran) and members of their family, as well as former tax collector Milan Pernar, will be left without a part of their property/assets that will now belong to the state.

Pernar is thus left without 2.97 million kuna as the Land Registry Department of the Municipal Civil Court in Zagreb was ordered to delete Pernar's wife as the owner of a house of 104 square metres and a 239 square metre yard in Zagreb, with a total value of 1,715,000 kuna. The property is now to become the property of the state, and Pernar's wife Tajana, as the owner, must release it within fifteen days of the judgment becoming final, Slobodna Dalmacija reports.

The Pernars are also left without a thirteen-year-old VW EOS 2 TDI, which is worth a little less than 85,000 kuna, and the Ministry of the Interior (MUP) must register the ownership of the state in the register of registered vehicles. Pernar has to hand over the car within fifteen days and must also pay a little over 296 thousand kuna into the state budget, which is the difference between the confiscated assets and the illegal property gain according to the Supreme Court ruling.

When it comes to the Mamic brothers, fugitive former Dinamo boss Zdravko Mamic is being left without a good part of his real estate and his cars. As are members of his family. It has been legally established that the eldest of the Mamic brothers (Zdravko), gained a profit of 52 million kuna and 37 thousand kuna by a criminal offense, and this will now become state-owned money.

105,000 kuna is being deducted from his account in Hypo-Alpe-Adria Bank, while almost 31,000 euros is being deducted from his daughter Iva's account in the same bank, along with another 78,500 kuna from Iva's account with Erste bank. Over 6000 euros will also be taken from the Erste bank account owned by Zdravko's older daughter Lucija. All banks in which the Mamic family had accounts were ordered by the verdict to transfer the said payments to the state budget within fifteen days.

Zdravko Mamic's wife Marina will also be deprived of the money found in the search of their family house, in the amount of 21,270 euros and 17 thousand kuna. Mamic was also left without the seven million kuna he had in his deposit account at Postanska banka, which the bank transferred to the state budget account back in 2015.

The former Dinamo boss will also be left without an apartment in Preradoviceva street in the very heart of central Zagreb in the Cvjetni residential and business building. It is an apartment which boasts eight rooms and a terrace of 164 square metres with two garage spaces, with a total value of 6.97 million kuna, formally owned by Marina Mamic.

The Supreme Court ordered the land registry departments of the courts in whose territory the property is located to delete the previous owners and transfer them to the state, and Marina Mamic and Vanja Horvat must also hand over the real estate to the state within two weeks.

That isn't all that the state took away from Mamic. There is also a very pricey 12-metre-long boat, Bentley Continental 6.0 GTC cars from 2007 owned by Marina Mamic, and an Audi 2.0 TDI Sport car owned by Vanja Horvat that will also be transferred into the state's hands. The Port Authority of Sibenik and the Ministry of the Interior should transfer all this to the state, and Mamic must pay the difference between the value of what was taken from him and what he illegally earned to the state within a period of two weeks. That amounts to approximately another 25 million and 540 thousand kuna.

Zoran Mamic, on the other hand, will be left without the 2.69 million kuna that Dinamo should have paid him, which the state blocked from happening back in 2015, and that will also become state budget money. Furthermore, a little less than 48 thousand kuna that Ana Mamic, one of Zoran's ex-wives, had in an Erste bank account will be confiscated.

Due to the crimes of her former life partner, Ana will also be left without a 10-year-old Land Rover Evoque worth 210,000 kuna. Now, the former Dinamo coach has to pay the state within just fifteen days the massive 25 million and 894 thousand kuna difference between the value of the confiscated assets and his illegally obtained property benefits.

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