Despite pressure from the international community, progress prosecuting crimes committed during the 1991-1995 war continued to be slow. Many crimes allegedly committed by members of the Croatian Army and police forces remained unaddressed. Some political efforts were undertaken by the President to deal with the wartime past. However, both the government and the judicial authorities failed to take targeted action to resolve the issue of war crimes. Discrimination against Roma, Croatian Serbs and LGBT people continued.
Accession negotiations with the EU progressed and several negotiation chapters were successfully closed. In June, negotiations on justice and fundamental rights were opened and specific benchmarks were set by the EU.
In the December report to the UN Security Council, the Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (the Tribunal) stated that Croatia continued to fail to submit all outstanding military documents related to “Operation Storm”, a large-scale military operation conducted by the Croatian Army in 1995.Top of page
Progress prosecuting crimes committed during the 1991-1995 war continued to be slow.
The capacity of the Croatian justice system to prosecute war crimes remained low. On average, fewer than 18 cases were completed each year. Hundreds of cases, especially those in which the victims were Croatian Serbs and those allegedly responsible were members of the Croatian Army and police forces, remained unaddressed.
The courts adjudicating in those cases continued to apply the 1993 Basic Criminal Code which was not in accordance with international standards. The Code lacked clear definitions of crucial criminal concepts such as the principle of command responsibility, war crimes of sexual violence and crimes against humanity. Its application resulted in impunity for many crimes.
Witness intimidation in the courtroom continued. Measures to provide victims and witnesses with support and protection remained inadequate. Only four courts in Croatia had the facilities and staff to provide witness support.
Legislation adopted in 2003, aimed at addressing the issues that prevent war crimes prosecutions, remained largely unimplemented. The political will to implement justice system reforms and tackle impunity was largely missing.
The authorities failed to provide victims of war crimes and their families with access to reparation.
Previously in May 2009, Branimir Glavaš, who held a Bosnian passport, had fled to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). In September 2010, the July verdict of the Supreme Court of Croatia was confirmed by the State Court of BiH, which resulted in the arrest of Branimir Glavaš on 28 September. In October 2010, an investigation was launched by the Office for the Suppression of Corruption and Organized Crime against five people, including a member of the Croatian Parliament. In June and July, the group had allegedly tried to recruit people to bribe judges adjudicating in the Branimir Glavaš case in order to secure a more favourable sentence.
In June, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Croatian authorities to take effective measures to ensure that war crimes cases were prosecuted in an unbiased manner, independent of the alleged perpetrator’s ethnic or other background and in accordance with the general prohibition of discrimination. He concluded that service in the Croatian Army or police forces should not be drawn on as a mitigating circumstance for serious human rights violations.
In November the European Commission, in its progress report on Croatia, observed that impunity for war crimes remained a problem, especially when victims were ethnic Serbs and alleged perpetrators were members of the Croatian Army.
Several cases related to crimes under international law committed on Croatian territory during the 1991-1995 war were pending before the Tribunal in The Hague.
Controversy remained around Croatia’s willingness to co-operate with the Tribunal Chief Prosecutor’s Office. In July, the Trial Chamber emphasized that the Croatian authorities were obliged to co-operate yet it had rejected the Tribunal Prosecutor’s application for an order to the authorities to produce evidence relating to the case. The Trial Chamber observed that due to the nature of the proceedings it was unable to establish whether the authorities were in a position to comply with the order if it had been issued. The Trial Chamber also refrained from deciding whether the documents sought existed.
Concerns were raised about the right to freedom of assembly when at least 140 people were detained for a short time during a peaceful demonstration in Zagreb on 15 July.
The protests were organized by the civil society initiative Pravo na Grad (Right to a City) in order to protect Varšavska Street in the historic part of Zagreb from being partially destroyed during the construction of a shopping centre entry-exit ramp. The construction works involved cutting down several trees and turning a public walkway into an entry to a private property.Top of page
Roma continued to face discrimination in access to economic and social rights, including education, employment and housing. Measures undertaken by the authorities remained insufficient.
In March, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights announced its judgement in the case of Oršuš and Others v. Croatia. The Grand Chamber concluded that the placement, in 2002, of 14 Romani schoolchildren in separate classes based on their command of the Croatian language amounted to discrimination on the basis of ethnicity.
In particular, the Grand Chamber concluded that rather than assessing their language skills as the government had claimed, the tests that were supposed to determine the placement of children in Roma-only classes assessed only their general psycho-physical conditions. Once placed in Roma-only classes the children were not provided with any measures to address their alleged lack of knowledge of the Croatian language. Subsequently, there was no system in place to monitor the children’s progress in learning Croatian. The curriculum taught in Roma-only classes was significantly reduced and had 30 per cent less content than the curriculum followed in mainstream classes.
In June 2010, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe reported that “de facto segregation” of Roma pupils persisted in some schools in the country.
In July, the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing visited Croatia and concluded that the current housing situation was strongly shaped by the legacy of armed conflict and by the transition from a socially owned housing model to the private market. This affected the most vulnerable groups, including Roma and Croatian Serbs. The Rapporteur also expressed concern at the living conditions in Roma settlements. Furthermore, she observed that more than 70,000 Croatian Serbs were still refugees residing in neighbouring countries, at least 60,000 of whom were in Serbia.
On 19 June, the Zagreb Pride took place. Some 500 people who participated were protected by the police and no major incidents were recorded. However, when the main event had finished two participants were physically attacked by a group of young men. An investigation was opened to identify those responsible but, at the end of the year, it had failed to yield results.Top of page