ZAGREB, December 19, 2018 – A Facebook group called “Against a judiciary which protects criminals” held a peaceful protest rally in the coastal city of Zadar on Wednesday in support of an 18-year-old girl brutally beaten in June by her former 31-year-old boyfriend, who was released last week after six months in investigative custody.
The rally in downtown Zadar brought together about 1,000 people who carried banners with messages of support for and solidarity with the victim.
Protesters demanded that the local prosecutor’s office change the charge against Darko Kovačević from grievous bodily harm to attempted murder because in that case investigative custody lasts up to 12 months and not six.
The victim’s mother, Ana Gurlica, addressed the rally, saying her daughter was locked up at home while her abuser was drinking coffee on main street.
Protesters rallied outside the local courthouse, reading out testimonies of abused women.
Kovačević was released from custody last Friday after his attorneys failed to show up in court. The hearing could not be held and the judge had to release him given that the six-month deadline for keeping him in investigative custody on the charge in question had run out.
The Croatian Helsinki Committee on Human Rights (HHO) said today “the fundamental human rights of both the defendant and the victim have been infringed by the (in)action of the court in Zadar, given that ‘the institutions haven’t done their job’ in time.”
Commenting on statements by government and judicial officials on Kovačević’s release, the HHO said that “in promoting human rights and the law in society, the solution is not in reducing the rights of the defence of the accused because some social institutions don’t act responsibly or efficiently enough.”
Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday the Kovačević case was a “horrific case of violence in which it’s more than clear, and the evidence is on the Internet, what exactly happened” and that he was outraged by the developments in this case.
Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković visited Zadar on Sunday for talks with the presidents of local courts and prosecutors to review the facts and the timeline in the case after Kovačević’s release from investigative custody.
The minister announced amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act and the implementation of new European Union directives, saying this case would prompt legislative amendments to improve the legal framework so that such things did not happen again.
More news on the Croatia’s judiciary can be found in our Politics section.