Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights Criticises Croatian Government

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The Commissioner strongly criticises the government due to status of the media and national minorities.

“In Croatia, social cohesion and pluralism are threatened. I appeal to the government to initiate and ensure an open dialogue with all societal stakeholders in order to protect pluralism and avoid further polarization of the society. In addition, political leaders should send a clear message against violence, discrimination, intolerance, especially against members of ethnic minorities and journalists”, said Nils Muižnieks, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, following his five-day visit to Croatia, reports on April 29, 2016.

Commissioner Muižnieks was very concerned about the rise of ethnic intolerance, hate speech and other forms of intolerance directed against members of ethnic minorities, especially against members of the Serbian, Jewish and Roma communities. Croatia has a legislative and institutional framework for the protection of minority rights, but the implementation of this model for solving problems has been endangered with a decrease by 11 percent in public funds for associations of national minorities. The authorities should re-consider their financial decision, said the Commissioner.

When it comes to media freedom, the Commissioner was deeply concerned about the inadequate response of the government to cases of physical attacks, death threats and intimidation of journalists. “Journalists play an important role in any democratic society and the state is responsible for ensuring their safety. The state must also operate effectively in cases of impunity for crimes committed against journalists, and attacks on journalists must be severely punished to send a clear message that such behaviour is unacceptable. Public discourse that justifies attacks on journalists is dangerous for media freedom and democracy”, said the Commissioner.

The Commissioner was particularly concerned about the number of sudden dismissals in management and editorial positions in the public media (Croatian Radio Television), including the government’s proposal for the dismissal of Mirjana Rakić ​​as the head of the Agency for Electronic Media. The Commissioner called on the government to ensure pluralism in the media and the independence of regulatory authorities, which are considered to be crucial elements of pluralism and freedom of the media.

The Commissioner also stressed the need to address a series of unsolved cases of serious human rights violations and war crimes from the 1990s, to ensure effective and adequate compensation to all victims of the war, to find out and publish the truth about the people missing from the war, and to create necessary conditions for sustainable return of refugees. The Commissioner praised the State Attorney for his openness to regional cooperation in the prosecution of war criminals, and strongly supported initiatives to improve and strengthen this cooperation. He also warned that more than 2,800 people, most of whom were Roma, still did not have citizenship or were at risk of deportation and called on Croatia to urgently address this issue.

As for the human rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, despite the fact that only a few people requested international protection in Croatia, the Commissioner urged the authorities to develop comprehensive and long-term policies aimed at integration of migrants into society, especially because of commitments undertaken by Croatia in the framework of the European plan for accommodating refugees.

In meetings with the authorities about the amendments to the Law on Foreigners, the Commissioner was pleased to note the introduction of alternatives to detention of asylum seekers. However, he called on the government to respond to the concerns of NGOs about the criminalization of providing humanitarian assistance to migrants. The Commissioner also urged Croatia to end the practice of charging the costs of accommodation to migrants who are facing deportation.


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