Croatian Parliament Ratifies Istanbul Convention

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ZAGREB, April 13, 2018 – The Croatian parliament on Friday ratified the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, with 110 votes in favour, 30 against and two abstentions.

About a dozen of the 55 MPs of the ruling HDZ party were against the ratification of the document. What made the vote on the ratification of the document unusual was that a significant portion of the parliamentary majority voted against the government’s proposal to ratify the document.

The purpose of the convention is to prevent violence against women and domestic violence. According to police figures, in the period between 2013 and 2017, 195 murders were committed, and of that number 91 victims were women.

The ratification of the convention will strengthen the legal, institutional and financial framework for dealing with the socially unacceptable and punishable crime of violence against women and domestic violence, the government said. The government insists that the document does not imply any legal obligation to recognise a third sex or redefine the constitutional definition of marriage.

There is no legal obligation for Croatia to introduce into school curricula any content that would be contrary to values that I share, there are no such obligations, they do not exist, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in the parliament during the debate this week. He said that the ratification of the document was an expression of the government’s political will to strengthen the legal and institutional framework to prevent domestic violence.

Plenković has dismissed on several occasions claims that the ratification of the convention would lead to Croatia having to set aside a billion kuna a year for its implementation. Croatia has its national programme for the prevention of violence that was adopted last autumn, and for that purpose it has allocated budget funds in the amount of 70 million kuna this year. A portion of the funding is intended for the implementation of the convention, Plenkovic said.

He also sent placating messages to the public regarding GREVIO, a group of experts who are to oversee the fight against violence against women. GREVIO is not any unusual supervisory body as such bodies exist for various Council of Europe conventions, he said, mentioning in that context GRECO and GRETA, bodies in charge of overseeing efforts in fighting corruption and human trafficking.

Along with ratifying the Istanbul Convention, the parliament also adopted an interpretive statement which states that the purpose of the convention is protection of women against any form of violence, that its provisions do not contain any obligation to introduce ‘gender ideology’ in Croatia’s legal and education system, and that the convention is in line with Croatian constitutional provisions, notably those concerning protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The government and the parliament rejected an amendment put forward by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to delete Article 4 of the Act on the Ratification of the Istanbul Convention, which contains the interpretive statement.

International law provides for interpretive statements when an international treaty is signed or ratified and the content of that statement is necessary and important for the Croatian public and all social stakeholders, said Plenković.

The fact that you are explaining the amendment bears witness of how serious the situation is, SDP MP Arsen Bauk responded, claiming that with the interpretive statement the government was unnecessarily currying favour with those who were against the convention and whom the interpretive statement would not satisfy.

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