Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Justice Minister Unveils Project to Modernise Judicial System

ZAGREB, 28 June 2022 - Justice and Administration Minister Ivan Malenica on Tuesday unveiled a project aimed at improving the quality of the judicial system through its further modernisation.

The project will include an upgrade of the criminal records system, an upgrade of the court register, and the modernisation and digitisation of judicial bodies by launching e-courtrooms, getting new equipment and further developing the probation system, Malenica said.

The value of the project is HRK 48.7 million (€6.5m) and it is co-financed by the European Social Fund.

Malenica said that the e-Courtroom pilot programme would make it possible for court hearings to be held remotely, while electronic surveillance of persons remanded in pre-trial custody would considerably ease the burden on the prison system.

New medical equipment will be purchased for the prison hospital, training courses will be held on the administration of first aid and the prevention of infectious diseases inside the prison system, and a survey on the recidivism rate would be carried out inside the prison and on probation system. To improve the use of IT technology in the judicial system, 140 sets of speech recognition software, 500 desktop computers and as many laptops will be purchased.

Malenica said that court presidents would undergo further training in court management.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 28 April 2022

Courts Received 158,000 More Cases In 2021 Than In 2020, Minister Says

ZAGREB, 28 April 2022 - Justice Minister Ivan Malenica said on Thursday that last year Croatian courts received 1.3 million cases, 158,000 more than in 2020, and that in terms of cases per 100,000 population, Croatia was near the top in the EU.

Last year, the courts closed 98,000 more cases, he said in parliament, presenting amendments to the Civil Procedure Act aimed at stepping up, simplifying and modernising proceedings.

The amendments are part of a set so that our judiciary becomes more efficient and so that citizens can solve their disputes as quickly as possible, the minister said.

The amendments stipulate that first instance proceedings should be over in three years and second instance proceedings in one. In disputes when small amounts are involved, proceedings must end in the first instance and six months in appeal. A preparatory hearing must be held within three months and the main hearing in six at the latest.

The amendments also envisage the mandatory audio recording of the proceedings.

For more, check out our politics section.

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.

Friday, 12 March 2021

Parl. Parties Endorse Ratification of Classified Information Agreement With Spain

ZAGREB, 12 March, 2021 - Croatian parliamentary parties on Friday endorsed the proposal to ratify the Agreement on Mutual Protection of Classified Information between the governments of Croatia and Spain.

During the discussion, Zvonimir Troskot (Bridge) noted that Croatia and Spain had had good bilateral relations since the 1990s, sharing the same principles and goals.

"Both countries are facing the same challenges - migration, the fight against terrorism, climate change, Spanish companies are already present on our market, so why are we ratifying this agreement only now?" Troskot asked.

Juro Martinović, State Secretary at the Ministry of Justice and Administration, said that "there is nothing spectacularly new" in the Agreement. "States always regulate such matters. Under international law, Croatia is a successor to many agreements concluded by (former Yugoslavia)," he added.

Martinović said that the Agreement had been signed on 15 December 2020 and that it established a legal framework for the protection of classified information that is generated or exchanged between the parties, and designated competent authorities for the implementation of the Agreement. The Agreement also determines equivalent classification levels, national measures to protect classified information and mechanisms for transmission of such information.

Independent MP Marijana Petir asked Martinović if Croatia had similar agreements with other EU countries and whether there had been any violations of those agreements, to which he said that he had no knowledge of any violations.

Ivan Budalić of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) said that Croatia had similar agreements with many countries, including Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Sweden and Italy. 

Dalija Orešković (Centre party) was interested to know who had decided on concluding the Agreement, who had appointed the delegation and whether the President of the Republic was involved in the process, to which Martinović said that the Agreement enters into force after it is signed by the President of the Republic and published in the Official Gazette and the two governments exchange notes.

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

Monday, 27 April 2020

Bošnjaković Does Not reveal Nominee for Attorney General

ZAGREB, April 27, 2020 - Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković on Monday did not say when the new Attorney General could be appointed nor whether the Croatian government had decided, having interviewed six candidates, on whom they would propose for the office to the parliament.

"We will see. We will analyse everything these days," Bošnjaković told reporters in front of Government House where a commission in charge of selecting a nominee for the position of Attorney General on Monday interviewed six candidates who had submitted their application.

Applications had been submitted by Deputy Attorney General Zlata Hrvoj Šipek, Split-Dalmatia County Deputy Prosecutor Nikša Wagner, attorneys at law Veljko Miljević, Mladen Dragičević, Marija Cvitanušić and former attorney Marko Bonifačić.

The commission included, in addition to Bošnjaković and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, also Interior Minister Davor Božinović, Finance Minister Zdravko Marić, Public Administration Minister Ivan Malenica and State Assets Minister Mario Banožić.

Until the appointment of the new Attorney General, the Attorney General's Office is being run by Deputy Attorney General Zlata Hrvoj-Šipek, tipped by the media as the new head of the State Prosecutor's Office.

"There were interesting responses. We will analyse everything in the coming days... to consider everything carefully, and then we will commence with the selection procedure," Bošnjaković told reporters.

Once the government decides on the nominee, the Croatian parliament will appoint the Attorney General for a four-year term, following a prior opinion by the Judiciary Committee.

Former Attorney General Dražen Jelenić stepped down on February 19, following revelations of his membership of a Masonic lodge.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Croatia Likely to Get New Attorney General in Two Weeks' Time

ZAGREB, April 23, 2020 - Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković said on Wednesday that the procedure of the selection of the new Attorney General could be completed in two weeks' time.

The minister told the commercial broadcaster NOVA TV last night that the government would now set up a commission tasked with interviewing the six candidates that are running for the position of Attorney General after Dražen Jelenić stepped down on February 19 following revelations of his membership of a Masonic lodge.

Applications have been submitted by Deputy Attorney General Zlata Hrvoj-Šipek, Split-Dalmatia County Deputy Prosecutor Nikša Wagner, attorneys at law Veljko Miljević, Mladen Dragičević, Marija Cvitanušić and former attorney Marko Bonifačić, the State Prosecutors Council announced on Tuesday.

The commission that will interview the candidates will consist of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and five relevant cabinet ministers.

Upon the interviews, the commission will decide on the nominee for this office, and the nomination will be sent to the parliament to vote on that proposal.

Until the appointment of the new Attorney General, the Attorney General's Office is being run by Deputy Attorney General Zlata Hrvoj-Šipek.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Friday, 27 March 2020

Bošnjaković Calls on Split Prisoners to End Strike

ZAGREB, March 27, 2020 - Prisoners in Split's Bilice prison have started a strike, refusing to eat prison food out of fear that COVID-19 could enter the prison, and Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković called on them on Thursday to end the strike.

"Someone has told them that detainees under investigation are innocent under the Constitution and should be released," Bošnjaković said. He explained that they are innocent until proven guilty, but under the law "they have to be isolated during the investigation."

He said that care was being taken within the system to maintain hygiene and to reduce risks, adding that not one carrier of the disease had been identified in the entire prison system but that some officers were in self-isolation, which is not critical.

Bošnjaković said that there was a significant drop in the number of people being sent to prison. The recommendation is that those cases who are a danger to society should be sent to prison while misdemeanour cases will be dealt with after the crisis ends, he said.

Bošnjaković added that the courts are only handling urgent cases because of the coronavirus crisis, while other cases are being deferred.

"The primary message is that the courts are functioning. The thing that needs to be said is that they are handling urgent cases like protecting the rights of minors, violent crimes and determining prison sentences," he told reporters.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Justice Minister Expects Chief State Prosecutor to Resign

ZAGREB, February 19, 2020 - Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković said on Wednesday that he expected Chief State Prosecutor Dražen Jelenić to resign over his membership in a Masonic lodge, which he described as unacceptable.

"Membership in any civic association of this kind is unacceptable, regardless of the fact that it was registered in line with the law. Its activities are shrouded in mystery, as is its membership, so there are certain risks for the chief state prosecutor and others who are members of such organisations," Bošnjaković said after a session of the inner cabinet.

He confirmed to reporters having talked with Jelenić, saying that he expected him to resign.

"Whether he will do so is up to him. If he does not, the government will launch a procedure to relieve him of duty," Bošnjaković said, adding that the government wanted to close the matter swiftly.

He said that the government had not been aware of Jelenić's membership in a Masonic lodge when it appointed him.

"Had we known it, we would have made entirely different decisions. It is unacceptable to us, but I'm not saying that his decisions were influenced by his membership."

After the Nacional weekly published an article on the matter, Jelenić admitted to having joined the Masonic lodge of the Grand Orient of Croatia in 2018, but said that he did not believe his membership harmed the reputation of the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor because he had performed his duty entirely in line with the law.

He said that he was not considering resigning as Chief State Prosecutor as the Masonic lodge of which he was a member was a legally established association which advocated well-being in society.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Friday, 31 January 2020

MPs Warn About Prison Overcrowding

ZAGREB, January 31, 2020 - During a parliamentary debate on the report on the work of prisons in 2018 on Thursday, members of parliament warned about prison overcrowding and poor prison conditions as well as poor working conditions of judicial police.

In the period covered by the report, 11,352 persons were imprisoned and the total prison capacity was 3,900 places. Of the total number of persons arrested in 2018, 4,119 were serving their terms, a drop of one percent from 2017, said the State Secretary at the Justice Ministry, Juro Martinović.

The report also shows a significant increase in the number of foreign nationals in the prison system of close to 73% compared to 2017.

"That is mostly due to the migrant crisis," said Martinović.

Vesna Pusić of the opposition GLAS party said that the figures in the report indicated overcrowding, notably in investigative custody facilities, with three prisoners sharing one place, she said.

Ante Babić of the ruling HDZ party wanted to know if it was true, as stated by the Ombudswoman, that some prisoners do not have access to health care services while illiterate prisoners cannot exercise the right to legal protection because they cannot write their requests.

"Individual omissions are possible but... as far as health care is concerned, I state responsibly that inmates undergo more medical check-ups than some groups that are outside the prison system," said Martinovic.

Stjepan Curaj of the HNS party said that electronic bracelets could help reduce prison overcrowding, and he proposed interviewing prison personnel and inmates on prison conditions.

MPs also warned about job vacancies in the prison system, with slightly more than 2,600 persons employed in 2018 and a total of 3,558 jobs available.

More news about prisons in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 24 January 2020

Justice Minister Regrets Croatia's Fall in Corruption Perceptions Index

ZAGREB, January 24, 2020 - Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković on Thursday expressed regret over Croatia's fall in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, but added that this was "solely an impression".

Global corruption watchdog Transparency International on Thursday released the Corruption Perceptions Index for 2019, ranking Croatia 63rd among 180 countries and territories, three spots down from the previous year. This is the fourth year in a row that Croatia has been stagnating or slipping in the ranking.

"I have to express my regret that we fell again in the ranking, although this is solely an impression," Bošnjaković told a press conference after an informal meeting of EU justice ministers in Zagreb.

He said that during the process of its accession to the European Union Croatia had incorporated "many mechanisms that guarantee judicial independence." He recalled constitutional changes and methods of appointing judges and state attorneys, adding that "politics has been completely eliminated from these processes."

Bošnjaković expressed regret that these measures had not yet been recognised by the public. "We must insist on conscientious and responsible work and on better results than we have now. These results are improving from year to year," he concluded.

More news about corruption issues in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

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