Saturday, 16 October 2021

Croatia to Increase Prison Capacities by Additional 230 Bed Units – Jutarnji List

ZAGREB, 16 Oct, 2021 -The Croatian authorities are preparing new capacities in the penitentiary system, so that it will be able to cater for an additional 230 inmates, the Jutarnji List (JL) daily reported on Saturday.

The decision to expand the capacities was triggered off by more and more frequent cases of the state paying compensation to incarcerated people who did not have the minimum space requirements recommended by international standards.

The new rule book of the Justice Ministry on treatment of detained persons envisages at least 3-4 square metres per detainee.

For instance, inmates will have to be provided with the possibility of in-cell televisions.

The newspaper reported that in November 2020, the Osijek penitentiary's shower facilities and 22 cells were updated. In Bjelovar, the capacities were expanded to have nine more beds. In Požega, a new unit with 50 beds was set up.

Currently, the works are being conducted on preparing the space with 120 more beds in the Požega prison, while preparations are under way for adapting the Lipovica-Popovača jail building to care for 110 inmates.

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Tuesday, 5 October 2021

Pilot Project Introducing Roma Mentors Launched in Čakovec

ZAGREB, 5 Oct, 2021 - In an effort to increase employment of the Roma community in Međimurje, the Justice and Public Administration Ministry has launched a pilot project for Roma mentors, which was presented in Čakovec on Tuesday.

The pilot project is being implemented within a project to improve the protection of human rights and public security through strengthening capacities in probation services. The project is valued at €2.1 million and it is being financed from the Norwegian Financial Mechanism.

Part of the funds is earmarked for the employment of six Roma from Međimurje County for a period of 19 months as Roma mentors.

 After attending training, which will be conducted by Czech experts with experience in similar projects, the Roma mentors will provide support to probation offices, the police, employment service, public health institute, state inspectorate and other social welfare and educational institutions.

State-secretary in the Ministry, Josip Salapić, underscored that the project is aimed at totally including the Roma minority in society.

This is the first project of this kind in Croatia, the head of the prison system and probation administration, Jana Špero said.

An advisor in the Interior Ministry, Vladimir Faber, said that a lot is expected from this project.

"It will enable two-way communication between institutions and Roma communities and between institutions themselves," Faber said, adding that the biggest problem in Roma communities is poverty, social exclusion, poor education, crime among minors, which can be changed with mutual communication.

President of the Kali Sara Roma alliance in Croatia,  Suzana Krčmar, underscored that the Roma will always offer their hand and be open to everyone, especially those who are their friends.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Action Plan to Restructure, Improve Social Welfare System Announced

ZAGREB, 6 April, 2021 - The founder of the #Spasime (Save me) initiative, Jelena Veljača, said on Tuesday it was agreed at today's meeting with Social Policy Minister Josip Aladrović that an action plan to restructure and improve the system should be urgently adopted.

Speaking to the press after the meeting, Veljača said she was sorry if she had contributed to a campaign against social workers with a recent statement which she said "was prompted by the outcome of the monstrous event in Nova Gradiška."

In a recent Facebook post, she pushed for sacking and revoking the licences of the whole "expert" team from the social welfare centre in Nova Gradiška and establishing if they were criminally accountable for the death of a girl of two and a half who had been severely beaten by her mother.

Veljača said today "we must not ignore problems" and that this case "is not an incident," adding that the initiative had wanted to warn about problematic cases that did not end in death.

She said she was pleased that the initiative had been in dialogue with Minister Aladrović since November and that he had shown the political will and personal desire to improve the social welfare system.

She said child rights must come first, before parental rights. "We agreed that the ministry should draft an action plan to improve the system."

Veljača said decisions must be made within the system and that she hoped someone would be held to account for this "absolutely unnecessary death and that no one will hide behind the system."

#Spasime representatives said it was agreed with Justice Ministry officials that a register of domestic abuse cases should be made that would give access to everyone dealing with the problem - social services, courts and prosecutors.

Last week Aladrović's ministry instructed directors of social welfare centres that in cases of domestic violence, professionals must apply the Istanbul Convention and violence protocols. This means that in evaluating parental competence, a parent's history of violence is taken as an aggravating circumstance and that a child's interest must come before that of parents.

At today's meeting it was also agreed that oversight of social services' actions should be conducted regularly.

Vedrana Šimundža-Nikolić of the Justice Ministry said it was agreed to define as a separate crime when an official, through inaction or wrong action, failed to protect a child's rights and this had consequences

"The law already envisages punishing someone who does not execute a decision to protect a child's well-being and rights, but in (the Nova Gradiška case) we don't have failure to execute a decision, but to make it. That would be prosecuted as a separate crime."

The head of the Family and Social Policy Administration, Marija Barilić, said the Family and Social Policy Ministry had begun making analyses of children in foster care and care homes "so that we can see their situation, if they should stay in the system."

Minister Aladrović said the ministry was very determined to change the system and that he was confident the system could be improved through the joint efforts of everyone in society.

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