ante šprlje.jpg
Ante Sprlje, Croatian Justice Minister
Photograph: HINA/ Daniel KASAP/ ua

Justice Minister Ante Sprlje is confident that the Constitution may be amended by the end of this year so as to enable the removal of a statute of limitations on white-collar crimes and murky dealings during the process of privatisation and war profiteering.

Sprlje has said in his interview with Hina that during 2017 the Justice Ministry intends to make further steps in the overhaul of the system of courts, which was launched by his predecessor Orsat Miljenic.

Asked about plans for amending the Constitution in order to enable the punishment of crimes committed during privatisation of state-owned assets in the 1990s after Croatia gained independence, Minister Sprlje confirmed that the justice ministry would like to ensure the removal of a statute of limitations on war profiteering and criminal offences in the process of privatisation and "we are open to discussions on removing a statute of limitations on first-degree murders“.

"I think that it is possible to amend the Constitution this year. We can hear from all sides that all political options are willing to get the Constitution amended and that they want changes at least in segments where we agree that there are general values such as no statute of limitations on war profiteering  and crimes committed during privatisation."

Asked about the first concrete reform move given that the Bridge party that nominated him for the minister, had promised the reform of the judiciary in the election campaign, the minister said that "there will be a series of measures, including the activation of a council for the implementation of the reform of the judiciary, and enabling faster process of informing judges of court practice.“

He has said that the results which will be produced by those measures "will become evident in the middle of our term or towards the end", but „rest assured that some things will become evident in six months' time."

Asked about his opinion on the reform of reducing the number of municipal courts and municipal offices of State Prosecutor, which was launched by his predecessor, Sprlje said  he believed that such a reform was necessary and useful.

"However, the process is still under way and a comprehensive analysis of results of the reform is still lacking."

If such an analysis proves that the reform has been successful, we will no longer cope with that matter but continue monitoring the entire system, Sprlje said.

I am the fourth or the fifth minister who will deal with the rationalisation in the judiciary. I hope that the efficiency and the quality of the system will be tangible in the coming period, he added.

According to findings of a survey conducted by a judicial network of the Council of Europe, Croatia is among top European countries in terms of the ratio of judges to population, however, Croatia's justice system is marked by a high number of backlog cases. Asked to comment on that assessment, the new minister said that Croatia had a specific issue, that is the negligence of ownership and proprietary relations in the last 98 years, while other European Union memebr states were not burdened by this problem.

The introduction of socially owned assets and the system in the former Communist state undermined the order in ownership and proprietary relations established during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Sprlje said adding that many ownership disputes lasted too long and that Croatia had not managed to resolve this problem during the last 25 years since its independence.

As for his promise about crackdown on corruption, the minister said that he had already conducted talks with Chief State Prosecutor Dinko Cvitan on models for enhancing the prosecutorial authorities.

As for the problem of corruption that halts the economic growth, the minister said that the justice system could contribute to efforts to eradicate corruption by making procedures shorter and reducing backlog cases.

The minister said that corruption was at a very low level in the judiciary but perception of corruption in that system was high.

He announced measures to bring more order to the field of land registers and registers kept by land survey offices.

"Currently data in land books and in land survey books are being networked,“ Sprlje said adding that this would be also beneficial to the economy.

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