The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.
Freedom of Expression: The criminal code sanctions individuals who act “with the goal of spreading racial, religious, sexual, national, ethnic hatred or hatred based on the color of skin or sexual orientation or other characteristics.” The law provides for six months to five years imprisonment for conviction of such “hate speech.” Conviction of internet hate speech is punishable by six months to three years imprisonment.
In December two members of parliament reported receiving death threats after they criticized a moment of silence in the parliament that honored convicted war criminals in the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) case of Prlic et al.
Press and Media Freedom: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction. Restrictions on material deemed hate speech applied to print and broadcast media. While many private newspapers and magazines were published without government interference, observers cited lack of transparency in media ownership as a challenge to media and government accountability. In several cases information regarding the actual ownership of local media outlets was not publicly available. On July 14, the Parliamentary Information, IT, and Media Committee relieved four of the five members of Croatian Radio Television’s (HRT) Supervisory Board, after the board reported on numerous alleged irregularities and possible illegalities in the HRT’s management. The HRT branch of the Croatian Journalists Association (CJA) warned that removal of these board members would endanger the independence of one of HRT’s most important bodies and threaten HRT’s transformation into a responsible and credible public service.
Violence and Harassment: In January state prosecutors in Zlatar indicted Ivan Goluban for hate crimes and threats against Sasa Lekovic, president of the CJA. Police had arrested Goluban in November 2016 for threatening Lekovic.
In February the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) supported the CJA in denouncing an attack against freedom of speech and the rights of ethnic minorities by the NGO In the Name of the Family. On February 13, In the Name of the Family in a press conference called for a ban on state funding for Serb National Council weekly magazine Novosti and for criminal prosecution of Novosti journalists, editors, and publishers for “insulting the Republic of Croatia and spreading hatred and intolerance towards the majority of Croatian people.” The CJA and the EFJ called upon political leaders to condemn the attack.
On September 13, the CJA condemned a September 12 public burning of copies of Novosti by members of the far-right Autonomous Croatian Party of Rights (A-HSP) in front of the Serbian National Council headquarters, demanding the state cease cofinancing of Novosti. The CJA demanded Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic clearly condemn threats to Novosti and other journalists. On September 14, Prime Minister Plenkovic condemned the incident during a government session.
On May 12, the CJA condemned an attack against Mladen Mirkovic, a journalist at the Pozega-based web portal 034portal.hr, by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) mayor of Pozega, Vedran Neferovic. The CJA called upon police to investigate reports that Neferovic physically attacked Mirkovic and threatened to kill him and other journalists at the portal. Prime Minister Plenkovic condemned the attack and barred Neferovic from running in local elections as a member of the HDZ.
On October 16, the International Federation of Journalists and EFJ joined their affiliate, the CJA, in condemning the physical attack of Index.hr journalist Drago Miljus by members of the Split Police Department. Miljus was covering a crime scene when police beat him and threw his cell phone into the ocean. Following the incident the Split Police Department opened an investigation into the incident.
On December 10, Natasa Bozic Zaric, a journalist for N1 TV, reported receiving death threats after a televised discussion about the Prlictrial at the ICTY, during which Zaric asked a guest if military medals for Croatian generals convicted of war crimes should be revoked. Zaric reported the incident to police, but there were no arrests or charges brought as of year’s end.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: A number of journalists continued to report that publishers, media owners, and journalists frequently practiced self-censorship to avoid reporting negatively on advertisers or those politically linked to key advertisers. There were reports of self-censorship by journalists who feared losing their job for reporting on certain topics.
In February the CJA reported the Office of the President refused to answer questions submitted under the freedom of information law by journalists at Index.hr, claiming that the number of questions in the inquiry was excessive. In the same report, the CJA noted that the government did not hold regular press conferences and only half of all ministers had appointed a spokesperson.
The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. According to Eurostat, 74 percent of the population used the internet in 2016.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
Human Rights in Croatia: Overview of 2018
Some 10 years since it was established, Human Rights House Zagreb held its annual conference for 2019, marking the anniversary and presenting a report of the human rights situation in Croatia.
The report “Human Rights in Croatia: Overview of 2018” is prepared by Human Rights House Zagreb in cooperation with civil society organisations focused on human rights. It provides insight into the violations, problems, challenges and controversies in the field of human rights protection and promotion that occurred during 2018.
Covering a wide array of rights in Croatia, the report gives an overview of media freedom and the judiciary, rights related to education, healthcare, standard of living, homelessness, and the environment, and the situation for human rights defenders and civil society, Further, it addresses the rights of women, children, persons with disabilities, LGBT, refugees, and minorities.
Read the full report in English and Croatian.
At the conference, civil society representatives joined for two thematic panel discussions .
The first panel focused on socio-economic rights, justice, asylum-seekers and refugee rights, media freedoms and sexual/reproductive rights. It included Ana Vračar (BRID), Luka Mitrović (Croatian Journalist Society), Sara Kekuš (Center for Peace Studies), Tea Dabić (Human Rights House Zagreb) and Sanja Cesar (Center for education, counselling and research).
The second part of the conference addressed the issues of human rights and rule of law in European Union, including the negative consequences of populist and illiberal policies on the rule of law and human rights in the EU. On the panel were David Vig (Amnesty International Hungary), Malgorzata Szuleka (Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Poland) and Antonio Moreno Diaz and Marina Škrabalo, members of the European Economic and Social Committee.
Also in March 2019, Human Rights House Zagreb joined the European Implementation Network (EIN). This represents an important step to enhance the House’s work monitoring the full and timely implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights that refer to Croatia.
Human Rights House Zagreb was established in 2008 with a goal to contribute to building a democratic, pluralistic and inclusive society based on the values of human rights, social justice and solidarity. Today, HRH Zagreb is renowned as the centre of expertise on human rights in Croatia. The House works on research, monitoring, advocacy and education within three programs: democracy and human rights justice and human rights and socio-economic rights.
Thumbnail photo: Human Rights House Zagreb
NEWSLETTER FROM HUMAN RIGHTS HOUSES AND HRHF
This article was published as part of the March newsletter from the Human Rights Houses and HRHF.
Human Rights Jobs in Croatia
Croatia has a two decades long history of civil society, which began to develop slowly from the early 1990s when citizens became aware of the opportunities and ways in which human rights organizations might function. However, the development of the civil society in the country was not encouraged until the late 1990s and the early 2000s when the government passed the Associations Act and established the National Foundation for Civil Society Development.
The human rights organizations and other civil society initiatives in Croatia have greatly contributed to the country’s transition to democracy by putting pressure on the government to adopt democratic values and policies. This led for the country to successfully become the European Union member in 2004. Today, Croatia has around 20.000 registered civil society organizations that are mostly concerned with human rights violations of vulnerable groups, health, humanitarian aid, child protection, youth policies and civil war victims. Therefore, this article offers an overview of the ten most active and publicly recognized human rights organizations in Croatia that are open to share their expertise and knowledge in the fields they are mostly concerned about.
The human rights organization B.a.B.e was founded in 1994 with the purpose of promoting and protecting women’s human rights. During the years of active work, B.a.B.e has been recognized publicly for the uncompromising struggle for the respect of human rights of all citizens in the country as well as for its commitment in advocating gender equality. The focus of the organization is put on ensuring equal opportunities for all genders in all areas of social life by acting as an expert center for gender equality issues.
Documenta was founded with a goal to encourage the process of dealing with the past and establishing truth and objective facts about massive violations of human rights on the territory of Croatia during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Documenta actively contributes to the development of individual and social processes of dealing with the past. The goal of the organization is to build sustainable peace in Croatia and the Western Balkans region by deepening dialogue, initiating public debates, collecting data, publishing research on war events and crimes and monitoring war crimes trials at the local and regional levels. The organization is also active in advocating the establishment of Regional Commission for establishing the facts about war crimes in the territory of the former Yugoslavia (RECOM) and in order to achieve this goal it cooperates closely with associations of families of the missing persons, civic initiatives, governmental institutions, the media and international organizations.
The CCHR was established in 1992 as a response to massive human rights violations in Croatia. Since then, it has grown into respectable and internationally recognizable non-governmental organization for the protection of human rights as well as for delivering humanitarian aid. The organization has been very active in organizing searches for missing and displaced persons in Croatia. The organization also established SOS telephone line in its office in Zagreb, which is opened for anyone whose human rights have been violated. The goals of the CCHR are promotion of human rights standards and civic freedoms in Croatia and the region while building and sustaining an open and democratic society.
The CHCH was founded in March 1993, first as a branch of the International Helsinki Federation. Since April 2003, the CHCH acts as local non-governmental organization run by independent intellectuals, artists, lawyers and journalists committed to the protection and promotion of human rights. The organizations is committed to promoting and implementing the principles of the Final Act of Conference of Security and Cooperation in Europe since 1975, which encompasses development of democratic institutions, promotion of the rule of law, detection of human rights violations and assistance to victims of violations of human rights and those whose rights are threatened.
The HRH is a network of civil society organizations that was founded with an aim to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. During the seven years of active work, the HRH has become the center of expertise on human rights and it has been recognized as a central organization for the protection of human rights by the public. The HRH participates in the protection, promotion, development and advancement of human rights through research, monitoring, advocacy and education while paying special attention to implementation of the regional and international declarations, covenants and conventions on human rights.
The Women’s Network Croatia gathers organizations, groups and initiatives that recognize women as socially discriminated and politically marginalized group. The Network opposes the patriarchal system and all forms of gender discriminations. It works on the basis of the already agreed feminist principles which include the recognition of the fundamental rights of women, women’s solidarity, antimilitarism, non-discrimination on the grounds of sex, gender, race, religion or national origin, age, sexual orientation and mental or physical differences. The network also actively advocates for recognition of the right of women to decide about their bodies and reproduction, abortion rights as well as ensuring the availability of contraception.
The Croatian Youth Network was established since there was a need for cooperation and improved communication among youth non-governmental organizations in Croatia, regardless of their political, national, sexual, religious and cultural identities as well as identities of young people they represent. The Network advocates for the interests and needs of young people in Croatia and builds partnerships with governmental institutions in order to reach correct implementation of youth policies.
The APEO is concerned with meeting the needs and protecting human rights of people with disabilities by providing educational activities and technical support. The organization works on improving the quality of life of persons with disabilities while being involved in social and humanitarian activities and generating of systematic solutions for attainment of human rights of this vulnerable group of people.
GONG was established back in 1997 with a goal to encourage citizens in Croatia to actively participate in the political processes. The goal of the organization is to elevate and promote civil and other human rights by celebrating and encouraging culture of dialogue, responsibility and transparency in the public areas through research, advocacy and education while collaborating with individuals and other organizations that share the same or similar values.
Domino is a non-profit organization based in Zagreb. Its mission is to question the traditional and opressive norms in transitional societies by examining cultural values, media and public policies through cooperation with local and international organizations. The organization’s task is to detect norms that disable the freedom of art and queer expression while providing an adequate social environment that enables individuals to freely express themselves. The four major programs through which the organization realizes its mission are arts and culture, media, education and politics.
Violence against women and girls
In January, legal amendments harmonizing the definition of rape in criminal legislation with international standards and increasing penalties for crimes of gender-based violence entered into force. According to government statistics, the number of reported rape cases more than doubled as a result of the changes as they significantly expanded the scope of the offence. Proceedings continued to be lengthy, lasting between three and five years.
Due to the reclassification of domestic violence offences, the number of criminal prosecutions for such offences rose sharply. Nevertheless, in the majority of cases, domestic violence continued to be treated as a minor offence attracting minor penalties. Police and courts remained reluctant to enforce protective measures.
GLAS for Enabling Life, Informal Partners to Provide Foster Care
ZAGREB, February 14, 2020 - MPs of the GLAS opposition party said on Friday they had tabled amendments to the Foster Care Act whereby life and informal partners too would be included in the definition of a foster family.
Referring to a recent Constitutional Court decision that life partners should be able to become foster parents, Anka Mrak Taritaš said the court had pointed out that everyone had the duty, in their everyday activity, to abide by the constitution which, she added, banned discrimination and guaranteed that everyone was equal under the law.
"The Constitutional Court also reminded us that in foster care, it's not important what kind of union foster parents live in, but that they give their best to the child or adult they foster," she told reporters.
The court warned us that when the Foster Care Act was moved and adopted, which is in the remit of the government and parliament, neither convincing nor objective arguments were put forward that would justify its restrictiveness, stressing that same-sex partners have the status of a family union and all the rights that entails, Mrak Taritaš said.
"The Constitutional Court reminded us that, regardless of our cultural, religious or any other views of the world, we should have more respect and understanding for one another," she added.
Health problems, ethnicity, number of siblings make adoption of a large number of children more difficult
Goran Beus Richembergh said more than 1,000 children were growing up in homes instead of foster families. For a large number of them, because of various health problems, ethnicity, mostly Roma, or number of siblings, it is not easy to find foster parents, he added.
We find it necessary to amend the Foster Care Act as soon as possible to include life or informal partners in the definition of a foster family, which would prevent any interpretation of the law at the expense of life partners, the MP said.
More news about human rights in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.
Asylum and Migration
The number of people seeking asylum in Croatia increased as the country moved closer to EU membership. There were 704 asylum applications in the first 9 months of 2012, compared to 807 applications in 2011. Croatia had granted 11 people asylum in 2012 and 6 subsidiary protection during that period, bringing the total granted international protection since 2004 to 64.
Croatia continued to lack sufficient reception accommodation for asylum seekers. The state does not provide free legal aid in first instance proceedings. But the main issues facing asylum-seekers and new refugees in Croatia continues to be the lack of services available for their employment, education, and integration, according to the UNHCR.
Systems to provide special assistance to the growing number of unaccompanied migrant children (173 in the first nine months of 2012) remained inadequate. Guardians appointed to all unaccompanied migrant children upon arrival in Croatia lack capacity and guidance on how to secure the best interests of their wards, with no provision for interpreters or legal assistance (other than for asylum appeals).
Key International Actors
The European Union remains the most influential international actor in Croatia, an official candidate for EU membership. In March 2008 Croatia received an entry target date of 2010. An EU Council decision in February identified among the priorities refugee return, adequate housing for tenancy-right holders, recognition of Serb wartime working time for pensions, and the reconstruction and repossession of property. In response, the Croatian authorities are developing action plans containing deadlines by which clear progress should be attained. The European Commission (through its annual progress report) and the European Parliament (through its Croatia rapporteur) reiterated the need for Croatia to address these priority issues and to ensure that legal and institutional changes on housing and pensions deliver practical benefits to affected Serbs.
In July NATO ambassadors in Brussels signed accession protocols allowing Croatia to join the alliance at a later stage, possibly as early as spring 2009.
Croatia signed the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in February 2008.
VRBANIC v. CROATIA (European Court of Human Rights)
The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting on 25 September 2018 as a Committee composed of:
Kristina Pardalos, President,
Pauliine Koskelo, judges,
and Renata Degener, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 18 January 2016,
Having regard to the observations submitted by the respondent Government and the observations in reply submitted by the applicant,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
1. The applicant, Ms Darinka Vrbanić, is a Croatian national, who was born in 1963 and lives in Zagreb. She was represented before the Court by Mr A. Šooš Maceljski, a lawyer practising in Zagreb.
2. The Croatian Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Ms Š. Stažnik.
A. The circumstances of the case
3. The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
4. On 27 March 2009 the applicant was dismissed for alleged misconduct from her employment with the Croatian Pension Fund (Hrvatski zavod za mirovinsko osiguranje).
5. On 26 May 2009 she brought a civil action in the Zagreb Municipal Civil Court (Općinski građanski sud u Zagrebu), challenging the decision to dismiss her. Her action was dismissed on 27 May 2013, and the judgment became final on 9 June 2015.
6. Meanwhile, on 2 February 2010, the applicant and her former employer concluded a new employment contract following amendments to the Job Systemisation Regulations, which came into effect on 1 February 2010. Neither party has ever disputed the validity of that employment contract.
7. On 18 October 2012 the applicant returned to work after an extended period of sick leave. She was informed verbally that the contract of 2 February 2010 had been concluded just as a formality and that her employment had terminated on the expiry of the notice period, on 18 October 2012, in accordance with the dismissal decision of 27 March 2009.
8. The applicant brought a civil action in the Zagreb Municipal Labour Court (Općinski radni sud u Zagrebu). She claimed that by denying her to continue working, her employer had breached her rights under the employment contract of 2 February 2010. The defendant disputed the claim, alleging that its intention had not been to conclude a new contract, but rather to regulate the applicant’s employment status during the notice period.
9. In a judgment of 28 March 2013 the Zagreb Municipal Labour Court found for the applicant, holding that the employment contract concluded on 2 February 2010 contained all the basic elements required under the relevant provisions of the Labour Act. Moreover, it found that the contract was legally binding in view of the fact that neither party had ever challenged its validity. The relevant part of that judgment reads as follows:
“It is disputed between the parties whether the cancellation of the earlier employment contract by the decision of 27 March 2009 affects the existence and validity of the employment contract of 2 February 2010.
It appears from the employment contract of 2 February 2010, signed by the plaintiff on 18 March 2010, that the plaintiff commenced her employment with the defendant, and that, as of 1 February 2010, she was to perform the work of a control officer … at the Croatian Pension Fund…
It appears from the statement of claim and the reply to [it], as well as the observations of the parties given during the proceedings, that the plaintiff went to work, in accordance with clause 3 of the employment contract of 2 February 2010. However, the defendant did not allow her to perform her work, and sent her home.
This court finds that the employment contract of 2 February 2010 contains all the mandatory elements required under section 12 of the [Labour Act].
The fact that clause 1 of the contract provides that the parties [to the contract] agree that they concluded an indefinite employment contract before signing the one at issue, which means that the earlier contract exists, is irrelevant to this legal situation because, between the parties, the latest contract is in force. For that reason, it is irrelevant that the earlier employment contract was cancelled by the decision of 27 March 2009 because, afterwards, the defendant undisputedly offered a new contract which the plaintiff accepted and signed on 18 March 2010.
The objections made by the defendant concerning the reasons for the conclusion of the employment contract of 2 February 2010 are not legally relevant because the defendant did not challenge that contract, which is still in force and legally valid.”
10. Following an appeal by the defendant, by a judgment of 9 October 2013 the Zagreb County Court (Županijski sud u Zagrebu) reversed the first-instance judgment, dismissing the applicant’s claim. It held that the contract of 2 February 2010 had been concluded just as a formality with a view to aligning the applicant’s employment status with the new systemisation of jobs during the notice period, that is to say it had no legal effect. It further held that the defendant had not violated the applicant’s employment rights by not allowing her to work. The relevant part of that judgment reads as follows:
“… the first-instance court, on the well-established facts, misapplied the relevant law when allowing the plaintiff’s claim.
That is to say, it appears from the employment contract of 2 [February] 2010 that the parties to the proceedings undisputedly agreed that they had already concluded an indefinite employment contract and that the contract [of 2 February 2010] was concluded in accordance with the amendments to the Job Systemisation Regulations of 18 January 2010.
Given that the earlier employment contract of 29 June 2001 was cancelled due to misconduct, that the proceedings concerning the legality of this dismissal are pending and that during the notice period [the plaintiff’s] employment had to be aligned with the new systemisation of jobs, while it is to be stressed that the indefinite employment had already started, the plaintiff’s employment rights were not violated when she was verbally informed that her employment had terminated on the expiry of the notice period.
After the notice period regarding the cancellation of the employment contract of 29 June 2001 had expired, the defendant informed the plaintiff that her employment had terminated because, at that time, her employment had really terminated. Such action was legally correct and the conclusion of the employment contract of 2 [February] 2010 was just a formality with a view to aligning the applicant’s employment status with the new systemisation of jobs during the notice period.”
11. In an appeal on points of law lodged subsequently, the applicant complained, inter alia, that the findings of the Zagreb County Court that the contract at issue had been concluded as a formality were legally unacceptable, arbitrary, with no legal basis, contrary to the mandatory provisions of the Labour Act and in breach of the principle of the rule of law. In addition, she referred to the judgment of 14 May 2013 in which the same court had ruled in favour of her colleague in factually and legally identical case.
12. By a decision of 13 January 2015 the Supreme Court (Vrhovni sud Republike Hrvatske) declared the applicant’s appeal on points of law inadmissible. The Supreme Court first stated:
“The present case does not concern [types of] judgments referred to in section 382(1) subparagraphs 2 and 3 of the Civil Procedure Act. Therefore, the financial criterion set out in section 382(1) subparagraph 1 of the Civil Procedure Act is relevant for determining the admissibility of the appeal on points of law.
The plaintiff’s claim concerns [the employer’s] refusal to allow her to [work pursuant to] the employment contract of 2 February 2010 and [her] reinstatement.
Since the plaintiff’s claim does not concern a sum of money and [she] failed to set the value of the subject matter of the dispute in [her] statement of claim … pursuant to section 40(5) of the Civil Procedure Act it is considered that the value of the subject matter of the dispute is 50,000 [Croatian] kunas.”
The Supreme Court then established that the applicant’s appeal on points of law neither met the statutory financial threshold for an ordinary appeal on points of law nor the formal requirements for an extraordinary appeal on points of law stipulated in section 382(3) of the Civil Procedure Act (see paragraph 15 below).
13. The applicant then lodged a constitutional complaint which the Constitutional Court (Ustavni sud Republike Hrvatske) declared inadmissible in a decision of 17 June 2015 on the grounds that the case raised no constitutional issue. That decision was served on the applicant on 23 July 2015.
B. Relevant domestic law
14. Section 382 of the Civil Procedure Act (Zakon o parničnom postupku, Official Gazette of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia no. 4/77 with subsequent amendments, and Official Gazette of the Republic of Croatia no. 53/91, with subsequent amendments), which has been in force since 1 July 1977, provides for an appeal on points of law (revizija), a remedy allowing the parties to civil proceedings to contest second-instance judgments before the Supreme Court. Paragraph 1 of that section specifies the cases in which parties may lodge an (ordinary) appeal on points of law. Paragraphs 2 and 3 set out procedural requirements under which parties may nevertheless lodge an appeal on points of law (therefore called an “extraordinary appeal on points of law”) even if their case does not fall into any category of cases specified in paragraph 1. The relevant part of section 382 reads as follows:
“(1) Parties may lodge an appeal on points of law (revizija) against a second‑instance judgment:
– if the value of the subject matter of the dispute of the contested part of the judgment exceeds HRK 200,000
– if the judgment was delivered in a dispute instituted by an employee against the decision on the existence of the employment contract or termination of employment relationship, or with a view to establishing that the employment relationship exists
– [if the second-instance court assessed the evidence and/or established the facts differently from the first-instance court or held a hearing].
(2) In cases where the parties are not entitled to lodge an appeal on points of law under paragraph 1 of this section, they may [nevertheless] do so if a decision in the dispute depends on the resolution of a substantive or procedural legal issue [that is] important for ensuring uniform application of the law and equality of citizens, for example:
– if the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on that issue … in respect of which there is divergent case-law of the second-instance courts
(3) In an [extraordinary] appeal on points of law … the appellants must specify the legal issue about which they are lodging the appeal and give reasons as to why they find that issue important for ensuring uniform application of the law and equality of citizens.
15. The applicant complained under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention of a violation of her right to a fair hearing on account of divergent case-law of domestic courts.
16. The applicant complained that the fact that the Zagreb County Court’s judgment in her case was contrary to second-instance judgments adopted in factually and legally identical cases, had rendered the proceedings unfair. The applicant referred, in particular, to an earlier judgment of the same court, of 14 May 2013, and to the judgment of the Split County Court of 4 December 2013. She relied on Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, which in its relevant part reads as follows:
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations … everyone is entitled to a fair hearing … by [a] … tribunal …”
17. The Government disputed the admissibility of the application, arguing that the applicant had failed to exhaust domestic remedies and that the application was, in any event, manifestly ill-founded.
A. Exhaustion of domestic remedies
18. The Government argued that the applicant had failed to properly exhaust the available domestic remedies, for the following reasons. One of the mechanisms for overcoming inconsistencies in the case-law was an extraordinary appeal on points of law. Although the applicant had lodged such an appeal with the Supreme Court, that court could have not examined inconsistencies in the case-law because she had failed to meet the requirements set out in section 382 of the Civil Procedure Act. Consequently, the Constitutional Court could have only examined the part of her constitutional complaint relating to the Supreme Court decision, because the complaint concerning the second-instance judgment had been lodged out of time. According to the Government, the applicant could have simultaneously lodged an appeal on points of law and a constitutional complaint against the second-instance judgment, another mechanism for overcoming inconsistencies in the case-law. In that situation, the Constitutional Court would have adjourned the examination of her constitutional complaint until the Supreme Court had decided on the appeal on points of law. Therefore, the applicant had failed to provide both the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court with a genuine opportunity to examine the complaint she was now raising before the Court.
19. The applicant argued that, under the Courts Act, it was the obligation of every court, not only the Supreme Court, to ensure uniform interpretation and application of the law and equality of all before the law.
20. The Court notes that, in the Government’s own admission, an extraordinary appeal on points of law is only one of the mechanisms under Croatian law for addressing case-law inconsistencies (see paragraph 18 above). Another such mechanism is an ordinary appeal on points of law as nothing prevents the parties who are entitled to lodge it to flag case-law inconsistencies when lodging that remedy.
21. The Court further notes:
– that under section 382(1) subparagraph 2 of the Civil Procedure Act an (ordinary) appeal on points of law is always allowed, inter alia, in disputes instituted by an employee “with a view to establishing that the employment relationship exists” (see paragraph 14 above), and
– that in the present case the central issue in the civil proceedings complained of was whether the applicant’s employment relationship with the Croatian Pension Fund existed at the relevant time, having regard to the employment contract of 2 February 2010 (see paragraphs 6-10 above).
22. It would therefore appear that the applicant was entitled to lodge an ordinary appeal on points of law. She thus did not have to resort to an extraordinary appeal on points of law and comply with its rather strict formal requirements, as the Government suggested. It is true that the Supreme Court nevertheless declared the applicant’s appeal on points of law inadmissible. However, it did so by merely stating that her case did not fall into the category of disputes specified in section 382(1) subparagraph 2 of the Civil Procedure Act, without any further explanation (see paragraphs 12 and 14 above).
23. In these circumstances, and given that in her (ordinary) appeal on points of law the applicant had specifically complained that the Zagreb County Court’s judgment in her case contradicted that court’s earlier judgment in factually and legally identical case (see paragraph 11 above), that is, made the same complaint she later on raised in her application to the Court, it is to be concluded that she had properly exhausted domestic remedies.
24. The Government’s objection as to the exhaustion of domestic remedies must therefore be dismissed.
B. Whether the application is manifestly ill-founded
25. The Government, without disputing that the facts of the cases concerning the applicant’s colleagues were identical, argued that there was nothing to suggest that the Zagreb County Court judgment was arbitrary or that the applicant had not had a fair hearing. According to Government, that judgment was sufficiently reasoned and was based on the employment contract in question. The central issue of the present case was inconsistency of the applicant’s case with two other factually and legally similar cases. In this connection, the Government reiterated their above arguments that under Croatian law there was a mechanism for overcoming case-law inconsistencies, which the applicant had failed to use (see paragraph 18 above).
26. The applicant argued that the Zagreb County Court had decided contrary to its previous judgment, as well as the judgment of the Split County Court of 4 December 2013 (see paragraph 16 above), in the factually and legally identical cases concerning her colleagues. In doing so, it had provided no reasons. This had resulted in a breach of rule of law and the principle of legal certainty, which had violated her right to a fair hearing.
27. The relevant principles regarding alleged violations of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention on account of divergent case-law of domestic courts are summarised in the cases of Nejdet Şahin and Perihan Şahin v. Turkey ([GC], no. 13279/05, §§ 49-58, 20 October 2011) and Lupeni Greek Catholic Parish and Others v. Romania ([GC], no. 76943/11, § 116, ECHR 2016 (extracts)). The Court’s assessment of such complaints includes establishing whether “profound and long-standing differences” exist in the relevant case-law, whether the domestic law provides for machinery for overcoming these inconsistencies, whether that machinery has been applied and, if appropriate, to what effect (see Nejdet Şahin and Perihan Şahin, cited above, § 53 and Lukežić v. Croatia (dec.), no. 24660/07, § 52, 10 September 2013).
28. In the present case the applicant alleged that the impugned Zagreb County Court’s judgment of 9 October 2013 (see paragraph 10 above) was contrary to that court’s earlier judgment of 14 May 2013, and the judgment of the Split County Court of 4 December 2013, both adopted in factually and legally identical cases brought by her colleagues (see paragraphs 16 and 26 above).
29. Given that all three judgments were adopted in a rather short period between May and December 2013, the Court considers that the judgment in the applicant’s case, which may seem to contradict the other two second‑instance judgments, is not sufficient for a conclusion that there were “profound and long-standing differences” in the case-law of the domestic courts.
30. The Court also finds that the contested judgment of the Zagreb County Court of 9 October 2013 is satisfactorily reasoned and cannot be considered arbitrary. Moreover, there is nothing to suggest that the proceedings leading to it were otherwise unfair.
31. It follows that the present application is inadmissible under Article 35 § 3 (a) of the Convention as manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected pursuant to Article 35 § 4 thereof.
Authorities Must Prosecute People Spreading Fake News about Migrants
ZAGREB, November 10, 2018 - Human rights ombudswoman Lora Vidović said on Saturday the authorities must do much more to prosecute those spreading fake news about migrants and to create a feeling of security by giving citizens true and objective information.
"Fake news about violence committed by migrants and their conflicts with the local population show how important it is to communicate with citizens in a timely manner. I believe the authorities have missed many opportunities there," Vidović said on Croatian Radio.
She said the security of citizens was very important and wondered in whose interest it was "to spread fear in the media without any arguments, in which some politicians are participating too." "The information in question can often be checked and once one checks it, one can see that it's not true," she added.
Speaking of the Global Compact for Migration, Vidović said the document was about migrants and not refugees, that it was not legally binding or signed, and that it gave countries political commitments.
"In terms of human rights, it is a very good and welcome document. which answers many questions and can help a lot in protecting migrants' rights, while at the same time not encroaching on any country's sovereignty. It recognises and confirms the countries' right to regulate this matter themselves, even what is called irregular migration," Vidović said, adding that she was glad the Croatian government supported the Global Compact.
She reiterated that security was very important but that it was imperative to manage migration by respecting the human rights of all migrants.
She also reiterated that there was no effective investigation of migrants' complaints about police brutality and that it was worrisome that the Interior Ministry was nor giving concrete answers. "The answers we have received from the ministry aren't convincing and we haven't been told what exactly happened to a specific person in a specific place at a specific time. The ministry only replies that it respects human rights and that police are trained, but there's been no concrete answer."
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Human Rights in Croatia
As a newly elected member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Croatia is promising to protect human rights and fight against discrimination. Considering the unfair treatment of minorities and hate crimes that were written of in the Human Rights Practices report for 2016, the country has a great deal of work to do.
Out of the 24 reported hate crimes in 2015, 15 were related to racism and xenophobia. A recent example of xenophobia in the nation can be seen through the way policemen have been treating asylum-seekers from Serbia. Out of the 10 Afghani asylum seekers who were interviewed, nine reported that the Croatian police were physical with them. Not only did they punch them, but they also seized some of their possessions. After doing all of this, the Croatian police officers forced them out of the country and back to Serbia.
Another large issue in Croatia is the segregation of people with disabilities. People with disabilities in Croatia tend to lack control in their lives because they are placed into institutions rather than communities.
Although human rights in Croatia still need to improve greatly, the people are still making a conscious effort to fix the problems they are faced with. For example, the Humans Rights House Zagreb addresses the country’s issues and introduces solutions to help them. In 2016, they partnered with Gong to explain both the importance of and how to combat hate speech.
To combat segregation of people with disabilities, de-institutionalization has begun in Croatia, in an attempt to legally give those with disabilities their rights. So far, 24 percent of institutions have begun de-institutionalization. While this number may be small, it is a start to a solution.
Croatia, like every other country in the world, is nowhere near perfect. However, with the help of citizens and activists who advocate for what they believe is morally right, human rights in Croatia will continue to progress.