Thursday, 23 January 2020

EU Justice Ministers Gather for First Ministerial Meeting of Croatia's EU Presidency

ZAGREB, January 23, 2020 - An informal meeting of the EU's ministers of justice and internal affairs, the first EU ministerial meeting to be held in Zagreb during Croatia's presidency of the EU, started on Thursday with a discussion on ways to strengthen judicial cooperation and the rule of law in the EU.

EU justice ministers are meeting on Thursday, while the ministers of the interior will meet on Friday.

Attending the informal meeting, at which no decisions will be adopted, are also European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders and EU Public Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi.

The meeting is chaired by Croatian Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković.

The ministers will discuss ways to further strengthen judicial cooperation among EU member-states, progress on the European Council’s Guidelines for the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, ways to strengthen education in judicial matters, and the importance of judicial networks in civil and commercial legal cases.

Dutch Minister Sander Dekker said before the meeting that the rule of law would probably also be a topic.

Citing alleged degradation of the rule of law, Brussels has activated mechanisms defined by Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union against Poland and Hungary. If the two countries are found to be violating European values, it could result in the suspension of their voting rights in the EU.

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

Friday, 3 January 2020

Report on State of Prisons and Correctional System Presented

ZAGREB, January 3, 2020 - The government on Friday adopted a report on the state and functioning of prisons and the correctional system in 2018.

Croatia has 14 prisons, seven correctional facilities and two juvenile correctional facilities with a total capacity of 3,900 prisoners. Over 11,000 prisoners passed through the prison system in 2018, Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković said while presenting the report.

A total of 4,119 prisoners were serving prison terms, over 4,000 were held in investigative custody, while the others were held in connection with minor offences.

"It is important to note that these 11,000 prisoners were subjected to only 56 coercive measures. That means that the conditions in our prisons are not such as would require the use of physical force, but that the system is well organised and functioning," Bošnjaković said.

He said that 18 inmates had died in prison in 2018 for various reasons, such as heart attack, and there was medical documentation for each case. "We are trying to give the best service we can, and if that is not enough, we refer them to other hospitals," the minister added.

The report shows that prisoners were mostly serving time for crimes against life and limb (36.59%), crimes against property (32.98%), crimes against values protected by international law (9.79%), crimes against sexual freedom and sexual morality (7.73%), crimes against security of payment and business transactions (2.92%) and crimes against public security of people and property (2.74%).

It also shows that the number of attempted prison escapes fell to five from six in 2017.

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

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Establishment of High Criminal Court Delayed by Constitutional Court

ZAGREB, December 19, 2019 - Constitutional Court President Miroslav Šeparović said on Wednesday that a decision on whether the establishment of the High Criminal Court, which should start operating on 1 January 2020, was in line with the Constitution, would be delivered within a reasonable period of time, in a few months.

Commenting on the decision to launch the procedure to determine if legal provisions envisaging the establishment of the High Criminal Court are in line with the Constitution, Šeparović told Hina the decision was made in order to prevent serious or irreparable consequences.

The Constitutional Court will therefore investigate whether the establishment of the High Criminal Court, as the highest court in the country, violates the constitutional status of the Supreme Court.

"The delay should not last longer than a few months," Šeparović said.

After on Tuesday it decided to temporarily postpone the implementation of legal regulations concerning the establishment and inauguration of the High Criminal Court, the Constitutional Court notified the State Judicial Council and the Supreme Court of its decision.

The decision will most probably be published on Friday, Šeparović said, explaining that the decision was not adopted unanimously and that the three dissenting opinions had to be written first.

Until the final decision by the Constitutional Court on the complaint of unconstitutionality, submitted by Social Democrat MPs Peđa Grbin and Orsat Miljenić, the 11 judges of the High Criminal Court will not be sworn in.

Šeparović underlined that that solution did not prejudge the final decision of the Constitutional Court.

Ivan Turudić, a newly-elected judge of the new court, who was previously entrusted by the justice minister with founding the High Criminal Court, told Hina that the Constitutional Court's decision was such due to its conclusion that the two pre-holiday weeks is too little time to make a competent decision.

Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković said before a government session on Wednesday that the Constitutional Court's decision to launch the procedure to determine if the legal regulations on the establishment of the High Criminal Court are in line with the Constitution is a procedural decision and noted that the establishment of the new court was good for standardising court practice.

More news about Croatian judiciary can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Croatian Ministers to Present Croatia's EU Presidency Priorities in Washington

ZAGREB, December 11, 2019 - Croatia's Interior Minister Davor Božinović and Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković will attend in Washington on Wednesday an EU-US ministerial meeting on judicial and security matters at which they will also present the priorities of Croatia's Council of the EU presidency in the first half of 2020.

The meeting will discuss police and judicial cooperation, notably e-evidence, combating terrorism, better cooperation between European Union and United States agencies, dealing with hybrid threats and the application of new technologies (5G, drones, artificial intelligence), all of which will be high on the list of priorities of the presidency.

Therefore Croatia, alongside current Council of the EU chair Finland, is at the centre of attention in Washington, Bošnjaković told Hina, adding that a meeting like this one in Washington would be held in Dubrovnik next year.

On Tuesday, Bošnjaković and US Attorney General William Barr signed agreements whereby Croatia and the US regulate mutual legal assistance and extraditions, which is also important for waiving US visas for Croatian citizens.

The Croatian and US governments have been intensively cooperating on that since Minister Božinović last visited the US in early 2018. Alongside security criteria and an effective implementation of previously concluded agreements, it has been said recently that the number of rejected visa applications has dropped to a record 4.02%, the threshold being 3%, which is the last condition for including Croatia in the Visa Waiver Program.

Božinović will talk about that also with US Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.

Over the past two years, the Croatian police, the FBI and the DEA have undertaken numerous successful operations, notably Nana, Nexus and Familia. Future cooperation will be discussed at Quantico and the DEA Training Academy.

On Friday, Božinović will hold meetings at the State Department as well as with representatives of leading US companies from ACEBA with whom he recently discussed possible cooperation in joint projects in Zagreb.

More news about relations between Croatia and the USA can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Harsher Penalties for Parents Not Vaccinating Their Children?

ZAGREB, October 4, 2019 - Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković said on Thursday that after an analysis and public consultation, he would take a stance on a proposal by the children's ombudsman that parents not vaccinating their children be convicted and sent to prison, saying however that harsher penalties were more effective.

Speaking to reporters after the cabinet meeting on Thursday, Bošnjaković said that public consultation on amendments to the criminal law had just ended and that he was yet to analyse all the proposals, objections and suggestions that have arrived including the proposal by the ombudsman.

"We will consult the medical and legal profession, faculties and see where we are," he said, adding that it was too early to comment on the ombudsman's proposal.

Commenting on a statement by Health Minister Milan Kujundžić that drastic penalties were not necessary and fines were enough, along with informing parents, Bošnjaković said that he is not familiar with the medical aspect, however he would talk with everyone and see what the best solution was.

"We already had amendments to the criminal law whereby we increased penalties for those committing crimes toward children and minors. I think that harsher penalties are more effective than lenient ones which do not deter possible perpetrators. I think that harsher penalties are a better message to those who might want to commit a crime," said Bošnjaković.

More vaccination news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Stricter Penalties for Domestic Violence and Violence Against Women

ZAGREB, September 12, 2019 - The government will send into public procedure law amendments introducing stricter penalties for domestic violence and violence against women, including the qualification of sexual intercourse without consent as rape, which will be punishable with three to ten years' imprisonment, Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković said on Wednesday.

He was speaking to the press after representatives of organisations and institutions protecting domestic violence victims met with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

Bošnjaković said the amendments would be put up for public consultation soon and then to government and parliament. "They are envisaged to enter into force on January 1 next year."

Three laws will be amended - the Penal Code, the Protection from Domestic Violence Act and the Criminal Procedure Act.

We are increasing the severity of the penal policy for crimes related to domestic violence because we have made penalties stricter, and we also want to deter potential perpetrators, the minister said.

Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act envisage solutions aimed at stepping up the procedure and preventing it from taking too long and being obstructed, he added.

He highlighted the "redesign of the crime of rape", saying that until now this qualification required the use of force and there was a separate crime - sexual intercourse without consent. He said the amendments qualified the latter crime as rape and stipulated stricter penalties.

Bošnjaković said all proposals and remarks made during the public consultation would be analysed for inclusion in the amendments.

Maja Maula of the Women's Room said the qualification of sexual intercourse without consent as rape and imprisonment of three to ten years for rape were very significant changes for all those who worked with sexual violence survivors whereby the legislator was clearly saying that this behaviour would no longer be tolerated.

She said the crime of sexual intercourse without consent had been problematic, notably with regard to rape committed in marriage.

Nova Tolle of the Autonomous Women's House Zagreb said the amendments achieved a lot, improving the Penal Code, but that she was not too happy with the Protection from Domestic Violence Act and that she expected more significant changes during the next step they agreed today.

Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy Minister Vesna Bedeković said a road map had been made for establishing safe houses in the six counties without any.

More news about status of women in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Minister Promises Easier Entry for New Companies into Business

ZAGREB, September 11, 2019 - Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković on Tuesday announced that his ministry in cooperation with the Economy Ministry would facilitate efforts of new companies entering the business world.

Unlike the current process of starting up a company where business people are faced with several obstacles, the Start project, which is being implemented by the Economy Ministry, will enable companies to be established from their own home, Bošnjaković said during a business lunch organised by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Zagreb

"That is part of the Start project and we want to facilitate entering the business world for people which means that all administrative red tape will be simplified as much as possible," Bošnjaković said.

The current complex process to establish a company envisages a series of steps from going to a public notary, signing various documents that need to be submitted to the court and then waiting for a court decision after which they have to go to the bureau of statistics, open an account and procure a certificate of having met all the requirements.

The intention is to speed up the process which means that it will be possible to register a company from your own home by completing a form online which will be sent to the court digitally and the court will decide on registering the company and everything will flow much easier, Bošnjaković said.

More business news can be found in the dedicated section.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina Solve Problems in War Crimes Cases

ZAGREB, May 25, 2019 - Bosnia and Herzegovina's Justice Minister Josip Grubeša and Chief State Prosecutor Gordana Tadić met in Zagreb on Friday with their Croatian counterparts and agreed future procedures in war crimes cases thus removing obstacles that existed in the referral of those cases, Bosnian judicial institutions in Sarajevo have reported.

Minister Grubeša and Chief State Prosecutor Tadić visited Croatia on the occasion of an event marking the national day of prosecutors.

Bosnia's justice ministry said in a press release that the Bosnian officials met on the margins of that event with Croatia's Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković and Chief State Prosecutor Dražen Jelenić.

The talks focused on outstanding issues in cooperation between the two countries' prosecutorial authorities and justice ministries, and the importance of referring war crimes cases, which is regulated by an international agreement and protocols, was underscored.

"In that regard it was necessary to resolve certain issues concerning the procedure itself in order to enable more efficient prosecution, which we indeed did today," a press release said.

Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina do not extradite their citizens accused of war crimes, however, an agreement signed by the two countries envisages the possibility of referring war crimes cases to the other country to be prosecuted.

Numerous people accused of war crimes have exploited their dual citizenship to avoid trial.

More news about relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Zdravko Mamić's Extradition Can't Be Made Conditional on Ex-Judge's Extradition

ZAGREB, May 24, 2019 - Justice Minister Drazen Bošnjaković said on Friday that the extradition of former Dinamo football club executive Zdravko Mamić from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Croatia could not be made conditional on the extradition of former Sarajevo judge Lejla Fazlagić to Bosnia and Herzegovina because those were two separate cases.

Bošnjaković said that the Justice Ministry would request Mamić's extradition after it obtains the necessary documentation from the court in Osijek which is in charge of the case.

The Osijek County Court earlier this week upheld a new indictment which the Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK) filed against Mamić and six more people on the suspicion that they had defrauded Dinamo of 200 million kuna from 2004 to December 2015, when Mamić held a few executive posts in that Zagreb-based football club.

Asked if he considered it to be unlawful, as Mamić's defence claims, that the court had ruled on investigative custody for Mamić two times, Bošnjaković said that that was a question for experts, the prosecutorial authorities and the relevant courts.

Reporters also asked Chief State Prosecutor Dražen Jelenić if he knew where Mamić was, to which he said that the court that had issued the warrant for Mamić's arrest was in charge of the extradition procedure.

"After it is completed, the Justice Ministry will seek Mamić's extradition from Bosnia and Herzegovina," Jelenić said, adding that the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor was not involved in the procedure.

The Croatian media have been speculating lately that Mamić's extradition could depend not only on a decision by the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina but also on whether Croatia would in turn extradite Lejla Fazlagić, a former Sarajevo judge suspected of abuse of powers, money laundering and fraud, who has been hiding in Croatia.

More news about Zdravko Mamić can be found in the Sports section.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Perception of Judiciary in Croatia Lowest in EU

ZAGREB, April 27, 2019 - In terms of perceived independence of courts and judges among the general public, judiciary in Croatia scored worst among the European Union member states, although the country has made progress in reducing the length of proceedings and the backlog of cases, according to the latest EU Justice Scoreboard released in Brussels on Friday.

A Eurobarometer survey of the perception of judicial independence, which is included in the EU Justice Scoreboard, puts Croatia at the bottom of the ranking, given that 42% of those polled in the country believe that the situation concerning independence of the judiciary is fairly bad and 34% say it is very bad. A mere 4% believe that the perceived independence of the judicial system is very good and 14% believe that it is fairly good.

Respondents said that the main reason for this situation is interference or pressure from government and politicians (68%), and interference or pressure from economic or other specific interests (62%), whereas 42% think that the status and position of judges do not sufficiently guarantee their independence.

In terms of perceived independence of courts and judges among the general public, the second to last place is occupied by Slovakia with 24% of respondents there describing that segment as very bad and 36% as fairly bad.

In the lower part of the ranking are Bulgaria, Spain, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and Romania.

On the other hand, as many as 47% of Danish respondents perceive the independence of their judiciary as very good, and 40% as fairly good, while merely 1% believe that it is very bad, and 5% that it is fairly bad.

Other EU members with better results in the perceived independence of the judiciary are Finland, Austria, Sweden, Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands.

In terms of the number of judges per 100 000 inhabitants, Croatia had 43.2 judges in 2017, as against 42.8 judges in 2010. Slovenia ranks second with 41.5 judges per 100,000 inhabitants and Luxembourg is third with 32.8 judges.

Since 2010 the number of backlog cases in Croatia has been cut by 30%. Time needed to resolve civil, commercial, administrative and other cases in Croatia was 114 days on average in 2017, as against 133 days in 2010.

After the presentation of this comparative overview of the independence, quality and efficiency of justice systems in EU member states, Vera Jourova, the Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said she was pleased to see that many countries continue to improve their judiciary.

"Sadly, some others are reversing the positive trends. There are still too many EU citizens who don't see their justice systems as independent and who are waiting too long for justice to be served," the commissioner said.

Since 2013, the EU Justice Scoreboard analyses three main elements of an effective justice system: efficiency, quality and independence. It is one of the tools in the EU's rule of law toolbox used by the Commission to monitor justice reforms undertaken by member states and feeds into the European Semester, according to information on the EC's website.

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

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