Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Justice Minister Ivan Malenica: Obliging Judicial Officials to Declare Memberships to be Considered

ZAGREB, 28 Sept, 2021 - Justice Minister Ivan Malenica said on Tuesday amendments to the laws on courts and the State Attorney's Office would soon be put to public consultation, adding that obliging judicial officials by law to say if they were members of any organisations was being considered.

He was asked by the press about the possibility of introducing that obligation for judges and state attorneys following the case of former attorney general Dražen Jelenić.

Jelenić resigned from that post in February 2020 after it was discovered that he was a member of a Masonic lodge. His successor Zlata Hrvoj Šipek requested disciplinary action against Jelenić and that he be suspended as her deputy.

"There is no such obligation now. There is a code of ethics which sets certain principles. State attorneys and judges should certainly remove any possibility which might influence their impartiality or jeopardise their independence," said Malenica.

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

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Justice Minister Ivan Malenica: Croatia Hasn't Disgraced Itself by Not Appointing Supreme Court Head

ZAGREB, 21 July, 2021 - Justice and Public Administration Minister Ivan Malenica said on Wednesday that Croatia has not disgraced itself before Europe by failing to appoint a Supreme Court president, adding that he expected the best candidates to apply for the post and the president to recommend a new candidate as soon as possible.

"The European Commission clearly said in this year's rule-of-law report on Croatia that there are certain controversies and that there is a certain disparagement of some judges. We know who that comes from, it certainly didn't come from the government," Malenica told the press.

He said the Commission's report was measured and that, to a large extent, it provided a fair overview of the situation, recognising certain shortcomings and confirming certain improvements.

Malenica said the shortcomings concerned the length of proceedings and backlogs.

"However, the report says that certain progress has been made in that area by shortening court proceedings and gradually reducing backlogs," he said, adding that the Commission highlighted as improvements an increase in transparency via the publication of officials' declarations of assets, further investment in the digitalisation of the justice system, and the gradual strengthening of judicial bodies' capacities.

The investigation and prosecution of corruption crimes have also been highlighted as an improvement, the minister added.

After last year's report, he said, the Justice Ministry undertook certain activities to amend legislation with a view to reducing backlogs and the length of proceedings.

Croatia has no problem with rule of law, but there is room for progress

"Croatia is not ranked among countries that have problems with the rule of law and it is not being discussed in the European Parliament nor has it been exposed to special resolutions being adopted, as is the case with Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia," Malenica said, adding that room for progress existed.

"We are confident that, through the National Resilience and Recovery Plan, in which we envisaged 13 reforms and six investments, the image of the situation in the Croatian judiciary will additionally improve."

Asked about the dismissal of SLAPP lawsuits against journalists, Malenica said they should be viewed in a broader context.

"The Culture and Media Ministry has formed a task force to deal with that issue... This government and the Culture and Media Ministry are willing to consider the issue of SLAPP lawsuits in a wider task force."

He said that last year there were 250 of these lawsuits but he could not say how many were upheld.

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

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Malenica: Sexual Harassment Will Be Prosecuted Ex Officio

ZAGREB, 1 July 2021 - Amendments to the Criminal Code envisage ex officio prosecution of sexual harassment for all categories of victims and introduce a new offense, the misuse of a sexually-explicit video, Justice Minister Ivan Malenica said in parliament on Thursday, presenting the amendments.

Besides strengthening protection mechanisms for victims of domestic and sexual violence and harassment, the amendments envisage punishment for revenge pornography.

All those who share with others intimate videos made consensually for personal use without the consent of the person filmed, thus violating their right to privacy, would now be penalized.

Deepfake pornography, i.e. the use of modern technology to manipulate explicit content to violate someone's privacy, is also defined as a criminal offense.

Those offenses are punishable with up to one year in prison, or three if a video becomes available to a larger number of people.

To more strongly counter gender-based violence and better protect victims, the amendments extend the "close person" category to include current and former intimate partners, not just family members, former spouses, life partners, informal life partners, or persons with whom a victim has a child or lives in the same household.

All criminal offenses committed by a close person will be prosecuted ex officio, and the list of offenses without a statute of limitations will now include serious sexual abuse and harassment of children.

Extending the "close person" category requires amending the domestic violence protection law.

Marija Selak Raspudić of the opposition Bridge party warned about an 81% increase in domestic violence during the pandemic. Malenica said he expected the amendments to result in changes in behavior.

Nikola Grmoja (Bridge) pushed for a package of anti-pedophilia laws and stricter punishment of pedophiles. Malenica said pedophilia was socially unacceptable and that the Criminal Code would be further improved.

Ružica Vukovac of the opposition Homeland Movement said penalties were too lenient. Malenica said he hoped security measures such as removing the abuser from the family would result in better protection.

Vesna Bedeković of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) said the extension of the "close person" category would strengthen the legal protection of domestic violence victims.

Katarina Nemet of the opposition Istrian Democratic Party called against exchanging punishment for domestic violence with community service.

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

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Ivan Malenica: "We Won't Amend Constitution Over Selection of Supreme Court President"

ZAGREB, 5 May, 2021 - Minister of Justice and Administration Ivan Malenica said on Wednesday that at the moment he was not considering the possibility of amending the Constitution with regard to the selection of Supreme Court President, commenting on a proposal by Supreme Court Vice-President Marin Mrčela under which judges should elect the chief justice themselves.

Mrčela believes that the dispute over the selection of Supreme Court President could be avoided if judges themselves elected the court's president, similarly to the election of the president of the Constitutional Court.

"In amending the Courts Act we acted in line with the recommendations of GRECO - Group of States against Corruption which is the Council of Europe's anti-corruption body, where we additionally analysed the entire process of selecting the President of the Supreme Court. The procedure is defined by the Constitution itself and at the moment that is not on the cards nor has any consideration been given to changing the Constitution regarding the selection of Supreme Court President," Malenica said ahead of an inner cabinet meeting.

Malenica doesn't think that Mrčela has overdone it with his proposal or that he is meddling in politics.

"I wouldn't say that he's overdone it nor that he is meddling in politics. He expressed his opinion. I don't think that was a political statement. That is an opinion he has as a Supreme Court judge and president of GRECO. I don't see it as political meddling," said Malenica.

Malenica said that, as part of the anti-corruption package, which is based on the National Resilience and Recovery Plan, the ministry foresees 13 reform activities aimed at improving the work of the courts. The objective is to reduce the duration of court proceedings and the number of unresolved cases.

"We have certain tools within the framework of the anti-corruption package that we are putting at the disposal of the State Judicial Council and the State Prosecutorial Council with regard to checking declarations of assets by judges and state attorneys, and we are considering introducing security checks for judges," said Malenica.

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

 

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Justice Minister Ivan Malenica Asks Supreme Court and State Attorney About Measures For Convicted Felons

ZAGREB, 22 April, 2021 - Justice Minister Ivan Malenica on Thursday asked the Supreme Court and the Chief State Prosecutor to say whether the existing law is sufficient for adopting decisions on precautionary measures for convicted persons, after Zoran Mamić requested to serve his sentence in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"I'm writing you with the wish to continue the joint cooperation with the aim of building a better judicial system and an effective normative framework in the area of criminal law," Minister Ivan Malenica wrote in a letter a day after the prime minister claimed that it is necessary to clear up whether the existing legal framework is good enough for issuing precautionary measures or whether omissions are made.

"These days we have witnessed a situation where a convicted person, prior to being sent to serve his sentence, left the territory of the Republic of Croatia and is asking to serve his sentence in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This refers to Zoran Mamić, who was convicted to 4 years and 8 months in prison, in a case in which his brother Zdravko Mamić was sentenced to prison too. I remind you that one day prior to the delivery of a trial verdict, Zdravko Mamić too left Croatia and since then he is unreachable to Croatian authorities," Malenica wrote in the letter.

He underscored that this isn't the only case where convicted felons with dual citizenship have managed to avoid serving their sentences in Croatia.

Situations which undermine citizens' trust in the system 

"From the above it transpires that this is a systemic problem, that is situations which recur and which will probably occur in the future," said Malenica, adding that these situations justifiably undermine the trust of citizens in the judicial system and of the perception of the judiciary's efficiency and equity.

"They are also in contradiction to the objective of the criminal procedure which is carried out to determine, as stipulated by the law, whether a crime was committed and if it was, to punish the perpetrator or apply another appropriate measure. In situations like this, that purpose, from the aspect of applying punishment, is brought into question and it is not certain whether it will be met entirely or at all," said Malenica.

In his letter, Malenica asks what the executive authority can do to enable the judiciary to ensure that convicted felons cannot leave the country to avoid serving their sentence.

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

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Justice Minister Ivan Malenica: "Sorting Out Situation in Judiciary is in Everybody's Interest"

ZAGREB, 24 March, 2021 - Justice Minister Ivan Malenica said on Wednesday that it was in everybody's interest to have the situation in the judicial system sorted out as soon as possible.

Also, if the accusations made by convicted former Dinamo football club boss Zdravko Mamić against some judges prove to be well-founded, necessary proceedings should be expedited, Malenica told the RTL broadcaster on Wednesday evening.

Considering this case, Malenica said that the depositions of the judges concerned had been submitted and would be forwarded to the relevant bodies, including the DORH and USKOK prosecutorial authorities.

Furthermore, the State Judicial Council is expected to decide on disciplinary measures against the judges from Osijek County Court next week, he added.

Considering Zdravko Mamić's accusations against the Supreme Court President Đuro Sessa, Malenica said that Sessa had stated that his last contact with Mamić was some 15 years ago.

He added that there were currently no indications hinting at the possibility of launching proceedings against Sessa.

Malenica announced that an inspection would be conducted at Osijek County Court following the latest developments.

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

 

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Judiciary Committee to Call Thematic Session on Situation in Judiciary

ZAGREB, 23 March, 2021 - The parliamentary Judiciary Committee on Tuesday unanimously supported a proposal to call a session focusing on the situation in the Croatian judiciary.

The schedule and the list of guests is to be defined by the end of the week, after which the date for the thematic session of the committee will be set, Committee chair Mišel Jakšić of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) said.

He said the committee could invite Justice Minister Ivan Malenica, Supreme Court President Đuro Sessa and State Judicial Council (DSV) President Darko Milković.

"It is clear from the public perception that people do not trust the judiciary, they believe that corruption in state institutions is widespread," Jakšić said, stressing that it is necessary to start a discussion about that and put forward concrete proposals for improving the situation in the judiciary.

Jakšić said that he would not want former Dinamo football club boss Zdravko Mamić, recently sentenced to six and a half years in prison for siphoning money from the club, to be the main topic of the committee session, stressing that his case should be dealt with by judicial bodies.

As for media reports alleging former president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's involvement in corruption, Jakšić said he expected those reports to be investigated, calling the accusations horrible and "an attack on the judiciary and the foundations of the state."

Dražen Bošnjaković (HDZ), chair of the parliamentary Committee on the Constitution and Standing Orders and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said that problems that had lately escalated required a special committee session to discuss them.

He said that he did not have information that Mamić had co-financed Grabar-Kitarović's presidential campaign, adding only that the law on the financing of political parties and political campaigns envisaged very transparent publication of all information and the opening of separate accounts to see what is being financed and who finances what.

"Zdravko Mamić can say anything he wants, but all those statements have to be checked," he said.

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

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Minister Ivan Malenica Expects State Attorney to Investigate Football Mogul Zdravko Mamić's Judge Bribe Claims

ZAGREB, 17 March, 2021 - Minister of Justice and Public Administration Ivan Malenica said on Wednesday that he expects the State Attorney to urgently investigate claims made by football mogul Zdravko Mamić who has accused Supreme Court Chief Justice Đuro Sessa and Osijek County Court judges of corruption.

"I trust that the competent bodies will urgently check Mr Mamić's claims and the content of the (USB) stick which I am not familiar with at the moment, and that they will quickly determine whether the accusations, which I consider grave and serious, are founded," said Malenica, adding that Mamić said that he had given a USB stick with the material to the competent bodies.

Malenica told reporters that that case was now with the State Attorney, who had received the material and would now check it to determine if the claims were authentic after which certain procedures would be launched accordingly.

Asked whether it would be appropriate for the county court judges and chief justice whom Mamić mentioned to be temporarily suspended until the investigation was completed, considering the gravity of the accusations, Malenica said that that was up to the State Judicial Council.

"The accusations are grave, but if we were to react to all the accusations against individual judges and suspend them, I don't know where we would be," said Malenica.

Asked whether the reaction was sufficiently prompt considering the fact that Mamić sent the USB stick last October, Malenica said that he was not familiar with the content of the documents and what sort of reaction they required from the competent bodies that need to determine their authenticity based on defined procedures before any conclusion can be released. He said that the question was for the State Attorney's Office to say how fast it should have, could have or would have to react.

"I cannot say if there is anything contentious, however, I do expect the State Attorney to react as soon as possible if there are any grounds based on those claims to launch certain proceedings, and that will certainly reflect on the status of those judges," said Malenica.

He believes that Supreme Court Chief Justice Đuro Sessa and the other judges Mamić mentioned, need to react to Mamić's claims. "I expect Sessa, as does the entire public, to react to the allegations but I think this isn't the first time Mamić has mentioned Sessa," said Malenica.

Malenica added that he can't say whether this will affect Sessa's chances of being re-elected as Supreme Court Chief Justice but he believes that accusations against him are grave and serious.

After the Supreme Court upheld a first instance ruling sentencing Mamić to six and a half years in prison, during a press conference in Mostar yesterday, Mamić accused Sessa and Osijek County Court Judges Zvonko Vekić and Darko Krušlin of corruption while calling the chief justice of that court, Judge Zvonko Vrban, a criminal.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that Sessa had no intention of reacting to the "absurd and untrue claims," whereas the USKOK anti-corruption office said that "Zdravko Mamić had sent his statement on a (USB) stick to the State Attorney on 8 October last year and as soon as the stick was received, USKOK began investigating its content and the investigation is still ongoing."

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

Friday, 18 December 2020

E-passes System Will Be Ready on Monday, Says Minister

ZAGREB, Dec 18, 2020 - Justice and Public Administration Minister Ivan Malenica said on Friday the e-passes system would be ready for use as of December 21, two days before a ban on leaving one's place of residence goes into force.

"The decision will be published today, with justified reasons for being able to leave one's permanent or temporary residence. The reasons need to be entered into the app," he said, adding that the alignment of the app and the new decision would take a few days.

Malenica said he was confident the ban on leaving one's place of residence would have a positive effect.

During the spring lockdown, he said, "we issued over two million passes but there were no more than 750,000 at any given moment." Then, the passes for mobility within the country were mainly issued for business reasons, he added.

Given the reduced economic activity at the end of the year, the number of passes issued is expected to be smaller, he said.

Thursday, 10 September 2020

The Count of Signatures to Revoke the Istanbul Convention was Public and Transparent

ZAGREB, Sept 10, 2020 - Justice and Public Administration Minister Ivan Malenica said on Thursday that the count of signatures to revoke the Istanbul Convention was public and transparent and that the procedure had been over.

Recalling that representatives of the Administration Ministry, Interior Affairs Ministry, Agency for the Protection of Personal Data, and the Apis IT company participated in the signature count, Malenica denied any doubts expressed by the civil initiative "The Truth about the Istanbul Convention," regarding the signature count for a referendum on revoking the Istanbul convention.

"The report is public and transparent and representatives of those referendum initiatives were invited for a follow-up check of invalid signatures," Malenica told reporters when asked by reporters about a demand by the initiative for the signatures to be recounted.

He said that the signature counting procedure was conducted transparently and that a conclusion has been adopted in that regard. "Hence that procedure is considered to be finished," he said.

Apart from the referendum initiative groups' activists, also opposition politician Miroslav Skoro on Thursday demanded the recounting of the signatures which had been collected in a bid to call the referendum against the Istanbul Convention.

Skoro accused the authorities of deviations and political maneuvers in that process.

Minister and county prefects to discuss decentralization next week

Asked whether a recent statement by President Zoran Milanovic that abolishing counties would not bring anything good and whether that was actually conducive to the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) policy, Malenica said this certainly supported HDZ's policy in empowering counties. "Counties that have a certain tradition are in this government's interest," said Malenica.

He announced a meeting with all county heads next week in Gospic to talk about active recovery plans, regional development, and the further process of decentralization.

Malenica did not wish to comment on whether the government was considering allowing homosexual couples to adopt children now that they have been approved as foster carers. "I would not like to comment on that for the time being," he said.

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