State Department says social discrimination Croatia's biggest problem

The most important human rights problems in Croatia in 2015 were social discrimination and instances of violence directed against members of ethnic minorities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons, the U.S State Department said in its 2015 Human Rights Practices report, adding that government corruption remained a problem.

Other human rights problems included overcrowding in some prisons; judicial delays; unresolved property restitution claims; anti-Semitism and isolated public displays of profascist sentiments; and human trafficking, the report said.

The government took significant steps to prosecute and punish individuals who committed abuses of human rights, the State Department said.

Resolving outstanding missing persons cases remained a priority, and Croatian authorities sought cooperation from neighbouring states to confirm the location of mass and individual graves. The government reported 1,573 persons remained missing from the 1991-95 conflict, the State Department said.

Government failure to provide restitution for property seized during World War II and the communist era remained a problem, although there was progress during the year, the State Department said, adding that restitution of communal property remained a problem for the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Coordination of Jewish Communities in Croatia, the umbrella organization representing the Jewish Community of Zagreb and several smaller communities throughout the country.

"The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press, and the government generally respected these rights. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of speech and press," the State Department said. The report cites two attacks on journalists in 2015 -- freelance journalist and well-known blogger Zeljko Peratovic in Zagreb and journalist Hrvoje Simicevic who was attacked in Rijeka.

The report also makes a note of several anti-Semitic acts during the year.

"On June 18, prosecutors filed misdemeanor charges against the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) and multiple HNS officials after a swastika was bleached into the grass on the playing field in advance of the June 14 Euro qualifying match between Croatia and Italy in Split. President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, and Minister of Interior Ostojic condemned the incident and called for swift investigation and punishment of those responsible," the report read.

The report points to the cases of discrimination against ethnic Serbs and Roma. The State Department also stressed that although some individuals protested the use of Cyrillic alphabet signs on public buildings in Vukovar, the government staunchly defended the placement of the Cyrillic-script signs as prescribed for by law.

Freedom of religion and freedom of movement is respected in Croatia, the report said, adding that during the refugee crisis, the government treated migrants and asylum seekers humanely.

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government implemented these provisions effectively, the State Department said, adding, however, that corruption was a problem.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence, the report said. "The judiciary suffered from a heavy backlog of cases. The Ministry of Justice reported 559,349 unresolved cases remained before the courts as of June 30, a 16 percent decrease from 664,734 cases in 2014. The reduction of the backlog was attributable to legislative reforms and enhanced management of the caseload in each district," the report said.

The report also notes that a variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. "Government officials regularly met with human rights NGOs and often were cooperative and responsive to their views, the report said.

The State Department also notes that the Croatian Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, disability, language, social status, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, and HIV positive status or other communicable diseases. "The government generally enforced these prohibitions," the report said.

Domestic violence is a problem, according to the report. Police regularly detained both spouses for questioning in domestic violence cases, the State Department said, adding however that support for safe houses, vocational training, and financial stipends for domestic violence victims remained limited.

"The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel, and other transportation, access to health care, and in the provision of other government services, but the government did not always enforce these provisions effectively," the report said.

The report says that the law in Croatia prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It also said that police were responsive to reported violations against LGBTI individuals but noted ambiguity in the penal code regarding penalties for violent behaviour towards such individuals.

The State Department said that the treatment of prisoners in Croatia was considered to be generally humane, although overcrowding remained a problem in some prisons.

Last update: Thu, 14/04/2016 - 11:58

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