|Thursday, 16 September 2021|
CROATIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993
AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE: JANUARY 31, 1994
The Republic of Croatia declared its independence from the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991. The Yugoslav National Army (JNA), assisted by paramilitary forces from Serbia/Montenegro and from Serb-inhabited areas of Croatia, then attacked Croatia, ultimately establishing control over a quarter of Croatia's territory. A cease-fire went into effect in January 1992. The February 1992 peace plan, negotiated by former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and approved by the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) as Resolution 743, aimed at normalizing life in the Serb-occupied areas through a multistage process including demilitarization, the return of displaced persons, reconstitution of police forces based on prewar ethnic proportions, and negotiations leading to reintegration of the areas into Croatia. The United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) was deployed in March to serve as peacekeepers and implement the Vance Plan. The areas of Croatia seized during the war were designated U.N. Protected Areas (UNPA's) and identified as Sectors North, South, East, and West. Adjacent to some UNPA's are "Pink Zones," Croatian-controlled territory in which UNPROFOR has a limited peacekeeping role.
The UNSC extended UNPROFOR's mandate six times in 1993, including Resolution 801, which for the first time identified the UNPA's as "integral" parts of the Republic of Croatia. The most recent UNPROFOR mandate extension, UNSC Resolution 871, expires on March 31, 1994. Little progress was made in implementing the Vance Plan in 1993. The 15,000-troop UNPROFOR mission was not able to prevent the outbreak of armed conflict between Croats and Serbs in January and September, as well as the almost daily shelling of Zadar and other areas along the Dalmatian coast from the Serb-controlled areas of the UNPA's. Apart from the above exceptions, UNPROFOR's presence significantly abated the fighting in the UNPA's. UNPROFOR, however, was unable to demilitarize the UNPA's or begin repatriating persons displaced from their homes in the UNPA's.
Although JNA forces left Croatia by the end of 1992, the UNPA's (except for part of Sector West) were under the control of heavily armed, aggressive Serbian elements, defying UNPROFOR and continuing the "ethnic cleansing" of non-Serbs.
Two major outbreaks of fighting occurred in 1993. The Croatian army in January launched an offensive to reestablish road connections between northern and southern Dalmatia by seizing a key area around Maslenica. In September Croatian forces launched a second offensive to capture several Serb-held villages near Medak, allegedly in retaliation for Serbian mortar fire against the town of Gospic. They destroyed 11 Serbian villages and killed at least 67 Serbs, including civilians. In October the Government suspended several officers pending an investigation. Serbian forces responded with rocket and artillery attacks against Karlovac, several Zagreb suburbs, and the Sisak oil refinery, killing many civilians. (See also Section 1.g.)
The Constitution provides for a parliamentary system headed by a president invested with considerable powers. Dr. Franjo Tudjman, elected President in August 1992, is in the second year of a 5-year term. He serves as the Chief of State, chairs the influential National Defense and Security Council, and appoints a Prime Minister who leads the Government. Dr. Tudjman's party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), holds a majority of seats in both houses of Parliament.
The Ministry of Defense oversees the armed forces, which include an army, a small air force, a small navy, and a national guard reserve. The President is armed forces commander in chief. The Ministry of Interior manages the police. The once formidable Office for the Defense of the Constitution was disbanded in 1993. Some of the office's functions were incorporated into the Interior Ministry, and some were subsumed by a new National Intelligence Service. The armed forces were guilty of violations of humanitarian law during the year. Law enforcement agencies were criticized for severe human rights abuses.
In the occupied UNPA's, "authorities" of the self-proclaimed and internationally unrecognized "Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK)" controlled all military and police functions. The Krajina Serb forces, numbering some 15,000-18,000 men, were organized into an army and various "police" forces, with large amounts of weaponry at their disposal. These forces were heavily augmented from time to time by "volunteers" provided by the Government of Serbia/Montenegro and by Serbian criminal warlords from other parts of the former Yugoslavia. In the immediate aftermath of both the Maslenica and Medak pocket incidents, the authorities in Serbia were reliably reported to have dispatched substantial numbers of "volunteers" to Sectors North and South to fight against the Croats. The firing of the FROG rockets on Croatian cities in September is almost certain to have been carried out with at least the implied consent of Serbian authorities. More fundamentally, Sectors North and South, as well as the southern portion of Sector West, are economically cut off from trade or supply with or from any source except Serbia--via the northern corridor--or, for certain items, the Bosnian Serbs. All these forces were directly involved in a continuing pattern of serious human rights abuses against non-Serbian populations as well as other Serbs.
According to statistics compiled by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of October 1993, there was a total of 247,000 Croatian and other non-Serbian displaced persons coming from areas under the control of the "RSK" and 254,000 Serbian displaced persons and refugees from the rest of Croatia, an estimated 87,000 of whom were inhabitants of the UNPA's.
The aftereffects of the 1991 war, the massive refugee burden, the spillover from the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the absence of significant international financial assistance, the loss of export markets in the former Yugoslavia, and other factors continued to stymie Croatian economic recovery. The Government made little progress toward privatization and a free market economy. Inflation ran at 25 to 30 percent per month until a stabilization program was introduced in October, and the average standard of living stood at less than 50 percent of its pre-1991 level.
There were continued serious human rights abuses in areas of Croatia under government control in 1993, although physical violence against Serbs declined. Abuses occurring near frontline areas were aimed at citizens of Serbian nationality and included killings, disappearances, physical abuse, illegal detention, harassment, destruction of property including house bombings, loss of employment, and summary eviction from dwelling units. Other human rights problems included limitations on freedom of the press, arbitrary detention, and discrimination against minorities, especially Serbs.
In the Serb-controlled portions of the UNPA's, there was no evident commitment to ending human rights abuses against Croats, Hungarians, Slovaks, and other non-Serbs. Some of the Krajina Serb "authorities" continued to be among the most egregious perpetrators of human rights abuses against the residual non-Serb population, as well as Serbs not in agreement with nationalistic policy. Human rights violations included killings, disappearances, beatings, harassment, forced resettlement, or exile--all part of the systematic campaign of "ethnic cleansing" designed to ensure Serbian dominance of the areas.
Following the UNSC's establishment of a War Crimes Commission in 1992 to investigate possible war crimes, the UNSC in February 1993 passed a resolution to create a War Crimes Tribunal. By year's end, all the judges had been sworn in, and a chief prosecutor had been appointed. The Tribunal is to assess the culpability of alleged perpetrators of atrocities and to issue a comprehensive report on violations of human rights and humanitarian law. From September 1992 through June 1993, the United States Government submitted to the United Nations eight separate reports summarizing thousands of instances of killings, torture, rape, impeding deliveries of food and medical supplies to civilian populations, mass forcible deportations of civilians, and other violations of humanitarian law. In addition, the U.S. Government provided the United Nations with 400 refugee reports totaling over 1,000 pages. Illustrative examples of these abuses appear in appropriate sections of this report.
This section of the Country Reports addresses human rights within the territory of Croatia. Croatian responsibility for human rights abuses on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina is addressed in the report on Bosnia and Herzegovina.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial KillingCompared to 1992, there were fewer substantiated reports of politically motivated or other extrajudicial killings in 1993. One controversial murder case was resolved on October 13 when four policemen were convicted of the 1991 killing of Croatian Party of Rights (HSP) Vice President Ante Paraga. They received jail sentences of from 5 to 7 years. However, the December 1992 murder of former trade union leader Milan Krivokuca remains unsolved despite reported continuing police investigation.
Killings continued to occur in the UNPA's as part of the Belgrade-backed Serbs' program of "ethnic cleansing." In Sector South, for example, an elderly Croat woman who refused to flee the area was found with a meat hook through her neck and hand. Krajina Serb elements are credibly reported to have planted a bomb which killed 3 Croatian policemen and wounded 18 others on September 8 in Pakrac.
In October a U.N.-sponsored forensic team, with the cooperation of the Croatian Government, excavated a mass grave site in Sector West thought to contain corpses of Serbs murdered during the 1991 fighting. Nineteen bodies were exhumed. All but two suffered gunshot wounds to the head. The Government opened criminal investigations, but by year's end no charges had been submitted to the court. The same forensic team attempted to excavate a mass grave at Ovcara near Vukovar but was prevented from doing so by Serbian obstructionism. (Some critics claimed that if UNPROFOR had asserted the right of the forensic team, the excavation would have been allowed.) This site is believed to hold the remains of over 170 wounded Croatian soldiers who had been taken from Vukovar hospital when the city fell and summarily executed by JNA troops.
b. DisappearanceThere were fewer reported new cases of missing persons in 1993, but there was little progress in solving previously reported cases. The Croatian Government's Office for the Victims of the War lists 7,857 persons "missing or forcefully disappeared in the territory of Croatia" as of the end of 1993.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or PunishmentThe Constitution prohibits torture or cruel or degrading punishment. In practice, Croatian detention facilities generally meet accepted standards of order and amenities. It appears that treatment of combatants may also generally meet international standards. Croatian prisons generally appear to meet international standards of cleanliness and nutrition. Prisoners receive regular meals, adequate if not appetizing. Jails are crowded but not to excess Family visits and access to counsel are available. Medical care is provided. There were allegations of mistreatment and physical abuse of some prisoners by guards.
Conditions in prisons within the Serb-controlled UNPA's are reliably reported to be abysmal. Harsh treatment of non-Serbs is commonplace and unpunished. There were reports of torture and abuse in Serb-run prisons in the UNPA's. In a prison compound in Knin, for example, 10 Croat prisoners were secretly kept in a basement, without the knowledge of Red Cross officials, and forced to sleep on concrete floors. One released prisoner reported being beaten upon his arrival at the prison and then being registered with the Red Cross 8 days later. Prisoners at the compound were always kept inside and fed only twice daily.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or ExileThe Constitution contains provisions to protect the legal rights of all accused, but there were credible reports of abuse of pretrial and investigative detention. For example, nine members of the Dalmatian Action Party, including the husband of the party president, were placed in investigative detention after being accused of bombing their own party office on September 28. One of these detainees later was beaten by other prisoners. All were released by the end of November.
Under Croatian law, police normally seek arrest warrants by presenting evidence of probable cause to an interrogating magistrate. A suspect may be arrested without issuance of a warrant if police believe the suspect might flee, attempt to destroy evidence, or commit other crimes. If the suspect is arrested without a warrant, the police have 24 hours to inform the local interrogating magistrate and must justify its decision to arrest without a warrant.
After arrest, persons must be given access to an attorney of their choice within 24 hours; if they have no attorney, one will be appointed by the interrogating magistrate from a list of public defenders. The interrogating judge must, within 3 days of the arrest, decide whether sufficient cause exists to hold the arrestee in custody pending further investigation. The judge must justify the decision in writing, including the length of detention ordered. These decisions are appealable, either immediately or later in the detention period. The usual period of investigative detention varies from a few days to a few weeks but by law may be as long as 2 years. Accused persons have the right to have their attorney present during the entire investigation as well as during any appeal against investivative detention. In practice, arrestees are almost always bound over for investigation unless it is clear no case against them exists. Once the investigation is complete, the usual practice is to release the accused persons on their own reconizance pending trial, unless the crime is a major offense or the accused is considered a public danger. There are no provisions for posting bail, although police will sometimes retain the accused's passport to prevent them from leaving the country.
In the Serb-controlled areas of the UNPA's, virtually no safegurds exist against arbitrary detention. The use of detentions to intimidate non-Serbs continued in 1993. Even politically moderate Serbs in the UNPA's were subjected to arrest and harassment. Three such individuals, who were active in an UNPROFOR-brokered dialog with the Croatian Government, were imprisoned for a second time in 1993.
Exile is constitutionally prohibited. However, the Croatian Helsinki Committee (a local oragnization with no links to Helsinki Watch) asserted that since 1991 as many as 10,000 houses, many owned by Croatian Serbs, have blown up or razed. In some cases, the residents were killed. In most cases, Croatian Serbs fled the country (see Section 5).
Exile, in the form of "ethnic cleansing," was employed aggressively and with the blessing of UNPA Serbian "officials" against Croats, Hungarians, Slovaks, Czechs, and other non-Serbs. For example, on July 19, 4 Croatian women were expelled from Sector South, and, during the week of August 6, 16 Croats were forced out of Sector East. UNPROFOR estimates that fewer than 400 Croats remain in Sector South. The leader of the Democratic Union of Hungarians from Croatia stated on June 28 that 8,000 citizens of Hungarian nationality had been forced to flee to Hungary, largely from Sector East, while another 2,000 had been displaced to other parts of Croatia because of Serbian "ethnic cleansing."
e. Denial of Fair Public TrialThe Croatian legal system consists of municipal and district courts, a Supreme Court, and a Constitutional Court. The High Judicial Council (with a president and 14 members from all parts of the legal community) appoints judges and public prosecutors. The House of Parishes nominates persons for membership on the Council, and the House of Representatives elects members to 8-year terms. The judicial process is not yet free of ethnic bias or political influence.
A defendant has the constitutional right to a fair trial by a competent court, to attend the trial, and to be represented by an attorney. The defendant must be informed of the charges and the evidence against him and may not be forced to admit guilt. Illegally obtained evidence is inadmissible. Counsel is provided to indigent defendants.
In practice, the prosecuting attorney has leeway in deciding whether to bring a case against an individual. In cases considered "political," both the bringing of charges and the conduct of trials may be subject to outside influence. The arrest of leading members of the Dalmatian Action Party (see Section 1.d.) and the case brought against Croatian Party of Right (HSP) leader Dobroslav Paraga raised questions about the Government's motivation. Paraga and other senior party officials were brought to trial in 1993 for alleged activities endangering the Croatian State committed in 1991 and 1992. The charges arose from the fact that, when the war broke out, in the absence of an organized Croat army at the time, various groups formed paramililtary organs to fight the Serbs. One of the most active of these was the HSP's "Croatian Liberation Movement" or HOS, which operated in Slavonia (headquartered in Osijek) and contributed to the defense of Vukovar. When Croatia established its army, these groups were required to become part of the Croatian army or disarm. Refusing to do so, some HOS fighters continued to maintain their separate identity (if not actual military operations) well into 1992. To compel the dissolution of the HOS paramilitary forces, the Government brought Paraga and his chief lieutenants to trial, even though Paraga in the meantime had lost control of the "offical" HSP. Paraga, new official HSP leader Ante Djapic, and HOS commander Ante Djopic all were acquitted of the charges against them late in 1993.
Observers have criticized cases of government prosecution of Serbs under Section 236(f) of the Criminal Code, which prohibits "rebellion," arguing that some have been convicted on insufficient evidence. Tens of such trials took place in 1993, with many of the accused tried in absentia. Virtually all the accused were found guilty after trials before military courts. Many of these summary convictions, however, have been quietly expunged.
According to the U.N. Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights, an ethnic Serb working for the United Nations was arrested on September 1 on a charge of "armed rebellion," despite his having previously received clearance from the Croatian police. The Special Rapporteur reported that no indication of the specific accusation against him was given and that his lawyer was denied access to any evidence or witnesses against him. He was tried in camera by a military court and on October 24 was released after being granted an "amnesty" for his alleged activities.
The Special Rapporteur's field staff investigated the case of a Croatian citizen of Serbian origin, arrested on December 12, 1992, in Zagreb on charges of having tortured Croatian prisoners of war (POW's) in the Glina camp. On February 18, the District Court of Zagreb found him guilty and sentenced him to 12 years' imprisonment. although no substantial evidence was produced against him. Furthermore, in spite of being convicted as a civilian, he was exchanged under duress as a POW before his appeal could be heard by the Supreme Court.
The six-court military legal system tries cases involving members of the armed forces and national security matters. Civilians may be tried in this forum on certain security charges. Defendants have the same legal rights as those tried in civilian courts.
Observers have decried the legal system in Serb-controlled UNPA's as a sham, describing kangaroo courts which serve those in power as operating with bias and prejudice and outside of any semblance of the rule of law.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or CorrespondenceThe Constitution declares homes inviolable. Only a court may issue a search warrant, and justification for the search of a home or other premises must be stated. Police may enter without a warrant or the owner's consent only if necessary to enforce an arrest warrant, apprehend a suspect, or prevent serious danger to life or important property. In practice, Croatian authorities do not always adhere to these constitutional requirements. Throughout 1993, military police carried out illegal evictions from state-owned apartments without prior legal proceedings and in some instances using excessive force. The Croatian Defense Ministry insisted that it had inherited ownership of these properties, while tenants often insisted on their right to the dwelling based on purchase or sublease. The Housing Commission of the Ministry of Defense often refused to address individual complaints. The military police also apparently ignored court rulings for the reinstatement of tenants. While authorities of the Housing Commission acknowledged that illegal evictions took place, they stated that many illegal evictions were committed by displaced persons from the UNPA's who "take matters into their own hands" and that the authorities "must demonstrate understanding for those whose families have suffered from the Serbs," especially "when it is well known that the tenants are active on the enemy side."
The Constitution guarantees the secrecy and safety of personal data, but it is unclear if such guarantees are adhered to in practice.
Serbian "authorities" in the UNPA's showed no compunction in interfering with the rights of non-Serbs. In Sector South, UNPROFOR had to provide 24-hour protection for a small Croatian village after local Serbian "authorities" announced they could no longer "protect" the inhabitants from the depredations of armed bands. A series of arrests of politically moderate UNPA Serbs in September, ordered by certain Krajina Serb leaders, reportedly included scores of violations of privacy rights, including fire-bombings. Another serious abuse was the practice of forced resettlement which the Krajina Serbs continued to utilize in Sector East. They housed so-called Serbian refugees with local non-Serb or mixed marriage families against the occupants' will. After often severe harassment by their "guests," the rightful occupants moved out, thus "abandoning" their property to the Serbian immigrants. Ethnic Croats remaining in the Serb-controlled areas of the UNPA's, along with some Serbian native residents of these areas, reportedly have become targets for the many gangs of criminals which have emerged among the Serbian immigrant population in the UNPA's, particularly Sector East.
g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal ConflictsThe January 1992 cease-fire between Croatian forces and the JNA and other Serb-led forces was accompanied by a peace plan negotiated by former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. This plan aimed at normalizing life in the Serbian-occupied areas through demilitarization, the return of displaced persons, the reconstitution of police forces, and negotiations for the reintegration of these areas into Croatia. The UNSC deployed UNPROFOR as peacekeepers in four U.N. Protected Areas (UNPA's), which were under the control of Serbian military and paramilitary forces. No progress was made in implementing the Vance Plan during 1993, and no general and complete cease-fire was agreed upon.
Exchanges of fire and shelling between the Croatian army and Serbian forces in the Krajina area continued along the cease-fire lines at a low level throughout 1993. Krajina Serb artillery attacks were a daily fact of life for many Croatian communities near the cease-fire lines thoughout 1993. Two major outbreaks of fighting occurred, with widespread loss of civilian lives and destruction of property. In January the Croatian army attacked Maslenica, in order to try to reestablish a transportation link between the northern and southern Dalmatian coast and attempted to drive Krajina Serbian forces outside of artillery range of the area so that a bridge to the coast road could be built. The Serbian forces responded by stepping up their shelling of the bridgehead the Croats were trying to secure and of neighboring Croatian areas. When the fighting spread to the Peruca area, the Serbs critically damaged the Peruca dam by setting off charges they had placed in the dam many months earlier. Although the fighting caused civilian, principally Serbian, casualties, there are no reliable figures on either side.
The U.N. Special Rapporteur received reports of the deaths of seven elderly ethnic Serb civilians who were found dead following an attack by Croatian government forces against the village of Mirlovic Polje in the UNPA Sector South on September 6. Four of the victims were reportedly executed, and three were apparently burned to death.
In September, following reportedly sustained Serbian mortar fire on Gospic from several Serb-held villages in the Medak area, Croatian forces launched an attack to seize three such villages whose inhabitants were predominantly Serb. This area is situated in a "Pink Zone" near UNPA Sector South. After negotiating a cease-fire and the withdrawal of Croatian forces, the field staff of the U.N. Special Rapporteur reported that 67 bodies were recovered, while another 25 persons were missing. Medical experts reported that several victims were shot at close range. Some of the bodies were mutilated and showed signs of possible torture, including serious burns. Most of the victims appeared to be civilians, including a number of elderly persons. At least nine were women, seven of them elderly. None of the victims were children, and it was assumed that they had been evacuated before the attack occurred. Witnesses to the Croatian attacks reported that Croatian armed forces shelled civilian targets and, upon entering the villages, continued systematically to destroy the villages with explosives, including grenades and mines. While denying the charge of atrocities, Croatian authorities relieved the military district commander and two subordinate commanders of their positions and launched their own investigation. The results had not been made public by year's end.
After this Croatian attack, Krajina Serbian forces dramatically increased rocket and artillery attacks on several Croatian cities and towns. They shelled downtown Karlovac for several days, killing 7 and wounding 23 on September 10; they hit the Zagreb suburb of Lucko, nearby Samobor, and Jastrebarsko with rockets on succeeding days. They also shelled the Sisak oil refinery on September 9. During this largely indiscriminate shelling, dozens of civilians were killed, scores were injured, and many houses and buildings were destroyed.
In addition to the deliberate shelling of the villages in the Medak pocket, the Special Rapporteur received reports that Croatian forces also engaged in deliberate shelling of civilian areas in the villages of Baljci, Vrlika, and Biljane Gornje.
Krajina Serb forces continued a deliberate and indiscriminate campaign of artillery attacks on major Croatian cities and economic targets throughout 1993. There were numerous civilian deaths and injuries and extensive damage to schools, hospitals, and refugee camps, as well as houses and apartments. Gross violations of human rights remained commonplace in the UNPA's. Krajina Serb forces, operating with impunity and under the direct guidance of Krajina Serb "authorities," were directly implicated in a continuing series of murders, rapes, bombings, and arson. The Serbian terrorist and wanted war criminal, Zeljko ("Arkan") Raznjatovic, a member of the Belgrade Parliament, operated in Sector East with the open support of local "authorities," setting up terrorist training facilities and a gas station and casino complex and traveling to and from Serbia with no hindrance. On October 9, a party of 16 armed "VIP (very important persons) guards" from Arkan's units forced their way across the bridge from Serbia into UNPA Sector East. UNPROFOR peacekeepers who were guarding the crossing were beaten when they confronted the intruders, and three were injured. UNPROFOR's protest to Serbia was not answered.
In the areas under the control of the "Republic of Serbian Krajina," the organized and massive "ethnic cleansing" of Croats and other non-Serbs is largely a fait accompli. A climate of hostility and abuse against the few remaining ethnic minorities exists, and they continue to leave the UNPA's. Serbs who show any inclination toward or involvement in reconciliation with Croats are considered spies and traitors and are subject to harassment and intimidation by Serbian "authorities."
In Sector South and the Pink Zones, home to 44,000 ethnic Croats in 1991, there were reportedly only 1,161 ethnic Croats by year's end.
On September 21, two former high-ranking members of the Knin authorities were accused of cooperation with Croats and arrested because of their participation in a social reconstruction project cosponsored by the United Nations and a nongovernmental organization. A Serb who was the manager of the project was also arrested.
In UNPA Sector East, most of the Croats have been driven out, and ethnic Hungarians, Slovaks, and Gypsies were threatened. The Croatian population has dropped from 46 percent of the total in 1991 to approximately 6 percent, whereas the Serbian population increased from 34 percent to approximately 73 percent. The Hungarian population of the area dropped by approximately 44 percent. There were reports of murder, rape and pillage, as well as brutal beatings against the remaining non-Serbs and the forcible recruitment of non-Serbs into the armed forces. In several reported cases, those who refused recruitment were beaten, imprisoned, and even killed.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and PressThe Constitution guarantees freedom of thought and expression, specifically including freedom of the press and other media of communication, speech and public expression, and free establishment of institutions of public communication. The Government continued significantly to limit the exercise of certain of these rights. It used its ownership interest in print media and its near monopoly over distribution to limit media independence. The official Croatian news agency sometimes issued distorted reports about the fighting in Bosnia. In the Serb-controlled portions of the UNPA's, freedom of speech and press virtually does not exist.
The Constitution states that "any call for or incitement to war, or resort to violence, national, racial, or religious hatred, or any form of intolerance shall be prohibited and punishable." There is an active and vocal political opposition which conducts a broad-ranging and open public debate in the print media and occasionally in the electronic media.
Critics have charged, however, that local variations of slander and false information statutes constitute an infringement of free speech. One of the most prominent such cases in 1993 resulted in the conviction of an individual who claimed that large numbers of Serbian civilians were being held in Croatian POW camps. The defendant received a 6-month suspended sentence after an on-site investigation by the Russian Ambassador and a government team determined the charge was false.
The Croatian Helsinki Committee alleged that Croatian authorities brought politically motivated legal proceedings against top officials and activists of two minor opposition parties, which the Committee feared demontrated a tendency to inhibit political pluralism. Under various pretexts, these cases were brought before the Military Solicitor's Office, which resulted in a significant restriction on defendants' rights. The head of the Military Solicitor's Office is also the chairman of a political party, which means that he is conducting trials of the chairmen or activists of rival parties. Members of the Dalmatian Action Party were arrested and accused of planting explosives on their own property. Contacts with the detainees were not allowed, and the Helsinki Committee reported that some of them were physically abused (see Section 1.d.).
The Government controls all national television broadcasting and all (save one) national radio stations and retains a controlling interest in two of the four news dailies. Although these state-controlled or heavily state-influenced media, particularly the press, frequently carry reportage critical of the Government, government control nonetheless ensures an overall editorial slant generally favorable to the Government and the ruling HDZ. The emergence of more independent mass media is hampered mainly by the absence of a clear commitment by the Government and the ruling party to that objective.
A few newspapers continued to guard their independence. Novi List, a daily published in Rijeka, was privatized in 1993 and asserted a strongly independent editorial line. The highly popular, independent, semitabloid weekly Globus continued to feature articles based on investigative journalism. The weekly Nedjeljna Dalmacija retained widespread respect for its independent orientation. A new intellectual bimonthly journal entitled Erasmus, launched in May and financed in part by the International Media Fund and the Open Society Foundation, provided another forum for topical public debate of sensitive political issues.
The irreverent satirical weekly, Feral Tribune, was resurrected, although Feral's editor reportedly received a lecture at the Ministry of Culture for the tabloid's persistently crude, grossly personal attacks on Croatia's President. In early 1994, the editor in chief, a reservist who had already undergone military training, was confined to barracks for several weeks after failing to respond to a military callup. He appealed his induction and was released, and the Government stated that an exemption from further military service might be granted. Nevertheless, some observers felt that the mobilization order was politically motivated as it happened immediately after the Feral Tribune ran a piece attacking Tudjman.
The Government's politically inspired decision to compel the reprivatization of the respected Split daily Slobodna Dalmacija generated criticism. The new owners fired a number of prominent Slobodna journalists and shifted the paper's editorial stance closer to the Government's position on certain issues.
The President of the Croatian Journalists' Society complained about the gap between the principle and practice of press freedom and said that, while Croatia accepted the principle of freedom of speech and information, in practice journalists were attacked for their views when they differed from state policies. For example, there were reports that military police assaulted several journalists covering an attempted eviction, dragging a female reporter away by her hair and hitting a cameraman in the face. The President of the Society said that privatization of the media was not leading to greater media freedom. State purchase of shares allowed the Government to continue to have a "controlling" voice in media. He also said that the Government exploited the extremely weak financial position of most newspapers to manipulate and pressure them. His remarks were nonetheless reported by all the government- controlled papers.
The International Federation of Journalists in March suggested that Croatia's admission to the Council of Europe should be delayed because it was "very concerned" about freedom of the press in Croatia. The Federation specifically mentioned the privatization process and the question of the approriateness of having well-known ruling party members in charge of state television and newspapers.
In May the Parliament responded to criticism from opposition party spokespersons of the lack of media freedom by appointing a five-person multiparty commission to investigate the situation and report to the legislature at its next session. By year's end, no report had been issued, but local press reports indicated a seven-member council for protecting the press was established in December.
International papers and journals remained available throughout government-controlled areas.
Croatia has three major television channels, as well as regional stations in Zadar, Rijeka, Split, and Osijek. Zagreb-based Channels One and Two are part of the official Croatian Radio and Television (HTV) enterprise. The third, OTV-Youth Television, with a signal that reaches only the capital district, has an uncertain legal status and operates at the sufferance of the Government. Channel Two's popular, late night HTV show, "Frame by Frame," continued to carry interviews with major public figures as well as extensive replays of Western television coverage of events in the former Yugoslavia.
HTV also began a periodic prime-time program featuring live, face-to-face debates between senior government and opposition figures, in which some of the most sensitive political issues of the day were hotly debated.
There are private local radio stations operating under provisional licenses in Croatia, but their legal status is open to question in the absence of a national media law. Croatian radio on at least eight occasions refused to broadcast informational programs prepared by UNPROFOR. However, regular, lengthy, unedited interviews of senior UNPROFOR figures were prominently featured in the government-controlled and independent press throughout the year.
Privatization of television and radio was a hotly debated topic in 1993 and has yet to be implemented. A government draft broadcast law providing for the allocation of radio and television broadcast frequencies to new, private outlets is pending in Parliament.
The House of Representatives' Committee for Human Rights and National Minorities expressed its dissatisfaction with television broadcasts on minorities. Members of the Committee who represent minority groups in Parliament criticized the television program for minorities "Prizma," which they considered to be unfocused and of no use to minorities. They proposed to Parliament that a minority representative be included on the television administration board.
The Croatian Helsinki Committee in July issued its first document about media freedom in Croatia, criticizing the Government's policy regarding freedom of the media. The document, presented to the Prime Minister, alleged that higher taxes were imposed on private newspapers than on dailies owned by persons connected to the Government. It said that the Government's monopoly of distribution, sales, and printing of newspapers hindered the development of a pluralistic press and was an indirect form of censorship. For instance, it cited different treatment of different papers regarding sales and distribution and the lack of access to television advertising as methods used to restrict the independence of newspapers. It criticized the Government's failure to change the law that establishes the State's monopoly on Croatian radio and television and prevents the development of pluralistic private electronic media. It pointed out that the Government violated the Information Law, which prohibits a person with immunity from charges of libel from being a chief editor, when both the chief editor of the daily Vjesnik and the Director General of Croatian Television are parliamentarians who are thereby immune from libel suits. Finally, it criticized the Government's failure to implement the law calling for democratic institutions, such as the constitutionally mandated Court for Human Rights and the Council for the Protection of Public Information, established by the Information Law passed in April 1992. Among its recommendations, the Committee said the process of privatizing the dailies Slobodna Dalmacija, Glas Slavonije, and Vecernji List and the weekly Danas should be reexamined. It also recommended the establishment of oversight and coordination bodies to prevent discrimination, correct irregularities, and secure equal treatment for all publications on the market.
In the Serb-controlled areas of the UNPA's, martial law remains in effect, and there are no guarantees of press and other freedoms. Radio, television, and newspapers published elsewhere in Croatia are available in the Croatian-controlled portion of Sector West. In the Serbian-controlled UNPA areas, Serbian papers, usually published in Belgrade, are generally available, although the supply is sometimes sporadic. Lacking a functioning civil government, these Serb-controlled UNPA areas are effectively under martial law. There is one small paper published weekly or bi-weekly in Serbian in the Serb-controlled area of Sector North.
There are a few low-powered local radio stations broadcasting from Serb-held territory in some of the UNPA's, and Croat radio and television signals are received in these areas as well. The Serbian "TV Krajina," whose studios are in Petrova Gora and Knin, broadcast daily. Two other Serbian mobile studios also operate out of Beli Manastir and Plitvice.
Academic freedom is generally respected in Croatia, but ethnic considerations reportedly led to some dismissals of academics of Serbian nationality. A recently enacted university reform law established a revised curriculum and created a government Council for Higher Education. There is apprehension within the academic community about the effects of this measure on faculty and programs.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and AssociationThe Constitution provides that all citizens shall be guaranteed the right to peaceful assembly and association for the protection of citizens' interests or the promotion of social, economic, political, national, cultural, and other convictions and objectives. Citizens may freely form, join, and leave political parties, trade unions, and other associations. In practice, the rights of peaceful assembly and association are respected in Croatia. Permits are required for rallies but are granted routinely.
During 1993, political parties, refugee associations, women's groups, and others held peaceful rallies and demonstrations without hindrance or incident. These rights are also granted to other citizens, including members of the Serbian and Muslim communities. In Serb-controlled areas, however, these rights are not respected.
c. Freedom of ReligionThere is no state religion. The Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and religion and free public profession of religious and other convictions. All religious communities are equal before the law and separate from the State. Religious communities are free to conduct public services and to open and run schools and social and charitable institutions.
Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and Islam are the main faiths in Croatia. The majority of practicing Croats are Roman Catholic. The Government provides an option of Catholic religious education in schools. There is also an active Jewish community in Croatia. The main mosque in Croatia is located in Zagreb, where it serves not only as a religious center but also as a social aid office. There are no formal restrictions on religious groups. Croatian Protestants from a number of denominations as well as foreign clergy actively practice and proselytize in the country.
Religion was so closely identified with ethnicity that religious institutions continued to be targeted. An Orthodox Church in Osijek was damaged by an explosion. The regional governor immediately deplored the attack and promised state financial assistance to repair the damages. The Serbian Orthodox cathedral in downtown Zagreb remained open, and several other Orthodox churches and monasteries operated freely in government-controlled northern Croatia. Although the majority of the Orthodox clergy left at the start of the war in 1991, a few Orthodox priests, most of them retired, remained to carry out religious duties.
Most Catholic churches in the Serbian-controlled UNPA's have been destroyed. On December 24, the unoccupied residence of the Serbian Orthdox Eparchy in Karlovac was blown up. The act was immediately condemned by Cardinal Kuharic, the Croatian Government, and the public. The identity of the perpetrators is unknown. An investigation continued at year's end.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and RepatriationThe Constitution states that anyone who is lawfully in Croatia has the right freely to move and choose a residence. Citizens have the right to travel abroad, to emigrate, and to return home. The right to enter or leave the country may be legally restricted under exceptional circumstances, if necessary to protect the legal order, health, rights, or freedom of others.
There are restrictions on freedom of movement for all journalists and all male citizens from age 18 through 55, in the cities and areas close to the demarcation lines (Osijek, Karlovac, Zadar, and Sisak). The press has reported on such restrictions. Journalists, as well as other individuals, must request permission to enter the conflict zones. All males of draft age must also request permission from the local municipality draft board to travel abroad.
The Government imposed no significant restrictions on the movement of refugees, displaced persons, or national minorities already resident in Croatia, although there were several confirmed instances of refoulement of Muslim refugees. Regulations imposed in 1992 limiting the admission of new Bosnian Muslim refugees to those with assured passage to third countries remained technically in effect. In practice, however, large numbers of new refugees from Bosnia, both Croat and Muslim, entered and remained in Croatia in 1993.
As of October, according to government figures, there were about 246,000 displaced Croats in Croatia and about 278,000 refugees from Bosnia, of whom about 190,000 were Muslim and the rest ethnic Croats. Together, the refugees and the displaced persons number about 520,000, of which 80 percent, approximately 410,000, were lodged in private homes, and 20 percent, about 110,000, were in collective facilities such as camps, resort hotels, old army barracks, and schools. On the average, each day an additional 100 displaced persons and refugees are added, a slight majority of whom are Muslims and the rest Croats. An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Bosnian Muslim refugees were not registered with the Croatian authorities; they were mostly men of draft age.
There were incidents of harassment and abuse, including clandestine deportations by Croatian police into HVO hands, and bombings of Muslim refugee centers, although these rarely resulted in significant damage. There were allegations that the police and other Croatian authorities frequently refused to register newly arrived Muslim refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
To refurbish some tourist hotels in Dalmatia which had housed Bosnian Muslim refugees for nearly a year, the Government offered some 2,000 of these refugees either settlement in third countries or relocation to facilities elsewhere in Croatia. According to U.N. observers, many refugees were not happy at having to leave the hotels, although there were no recorded instances of forcible eviction. Some of them resettled abroad, alleging that their departure from Croatia had not been voluntary. U.N. officials indicated that none of these refugees were forced to depart Croatia.
The Government's treatment of Muslim refugees and other Muslims temporarily resident in Croatia became an issue as a result of a government investigation and raid on certain Middle Eastern relief agencies in Croatia in August. The police discovered evidence that some persons were involved in activities incompatible with their aid work status. This investigation led to the deportation of scores of Bosnian and other Muslims, which ended after the Government was criticized for illegally deporting refugees.
On July 29, the field staff of the U.N. Special Rapporteur received reports that Bosnian refugees in Zagreb, Samobor, Split, Pula, Varazdin, and the island of Obonjan were being expelled from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Some 1,500 refugees were arrested in camps around the country towards the end of July. Almost 500 were detained for alleged criminal activity, and 120 were deported to Bosnia and Herzegovina, in contravention of refugee conventions and commitments made by the Government to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. In one verified case, the civilian police arrested a large number of refugees in Zagreb. The Croatian authorities explained that they were conducting a police operation against "illegal" refugees without documents. However, most of those arrested had been previously registered by the Croatian authorities, while others had appropriate UNHCR documents. Fifty-two refugees were taken to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina where they were handed over to the Bosnian Croat (HVO) military police and detained. The detainees, who were predominantly Muslim, were told that they would be exchanged for Croats detained by Bosnian government forces. There were reports of abuse and torture in the detention center, as well as dangerous labor on the front lines.
There continued to be isolated incidents of individual expulsions by the Croatian police, especially in the area adjacent to Herzegovina. For instance, on August 28, a Bosnian Muslim was reportedly arrested by Croatian police in Trogir and handed over to the HVO military police, although his documents were in order. In general, however, the Government stopped repatriating refugees after the UNHCR and foreign governments, including that of the United States, publicly protested such actions.
In the UNPA's, Serbian threats against the remaining non-Serb population have produced a de facto coercive control situation for those people. Practices in the UNPA's include strict curfews, prohibition on the movement of clergy, strict limits on travel between towns and the front lines, and forced resettlement.
Despite the establishment of UNPA's in March 1992, the goals of the Vance Plan were still not met by the end of 1993. Hostile Serbian elements, sustained by links with the Serbian Government in Belgrade, still control over one-fourth of Croatia.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their GovernmentCroatia held multiparty presidential and parliamentary elections on August 2, 1992. The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) of incumbent President Dr. Franjo Tudjman won decisively, and he was returned for a 5-year term. The President exercises considerable power, authority, and influence but constitutionally is limited to two terms. In April President Tudjman appointed a new Prime Minister, Nikica Valentic, the fifth since the spring of 1990.
In elections for the second chamber of the Parliament (the House of Zupanije or Parishes), held in February, the HDZ again won a majority of the seats, and five other parties also won seats. These elections were generally regarded as free and fair. Serbian "authorities" in the UNPA's refused to allow residents to participate in these elections, just as they had in the August 1992 balloting.
"RSK" authorities held elections in the UNPA's in December which neither UNPROFOR nor any other international body has recognized as legitimate. There were no international or other unbiased observers present, making it difficult to judge the degree of freedom in these elections or the presence of fraud. In the key December race for the "RSK" presidency," no candidate reportedly won more than 50 percent of the vote, so runoff elections were scheduled for January 23, 1994.
There are no legal restrictions on participation by women or minorities in the political process, but they are represented in small numbers in Parliament, the executive branch, and the courts. Six women hold seats in Parliament, including one who serves as a vice president of the House of Representatives and two others who lead opposition parties.
The federal election law provides for representation of all minorities in Parliament, with proportional representation guaranteed for any minority that makes up more than 8 percent of the population. The Federal Election Commission designated 13 Serbs to "represent" the Serbian minority, who comprise 11 percent of the population. Eight of those 10 were elected as members of the Croatian People's Party. The remaining three parliamentarians were members of the Serbian National Party, which was constituted to promote the particular interests of Croatia's Serbs.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human RightsPeace groups in Zagreb, Rijeka, and Osijek worked to prevent forcible evictions and other human rights abuses in their respective localities and brought their concerns to the attention of the local and national authorities. Similar human rights groups in Split, however, were harassed and intimidated by local extremists, and some of their members had their personal property vandalized or destroyed. A Croatian Helsinki Committee was formed in 1993, and its members met on several occasions with government officials to discuss human rights concerns. The Serbian Democratic Forum in Zagreb and its affiliate in Rijeka continued to document violations of human rights against Serbs in Croatia. Other local human rights nongovernmental organizations include, for example, the Human Rights Committee of the Union of Serbs in Croatia. Both the Serbian National Party (SNS) and the Social Democratic Union (SDU) have human rights committees. All these have been publicly and vociferously critical of the Government on occasion, for example, on the subject of alleged ethnic discrimination in the assignment of housing, as well as in other areas where they felt human or civil rights were not fully observed.
Senior government officials, including the President, have met with international human rights experts and the local Helsinki human rights group. The Government cooperated in the excavation of suspected mass graves of Serbian victims of atrocities and in discussions of the treatment of Muslim refugees in Croatia. The Parliament's Human Rights Committee also actively considered human rights and other social issues. The Committee Chairman has defined the Committee's role as that of "analyzing legislative proposals for their democratic content before they are presented for legislative approval." The Committee, for example, was instrumental in building into the new law on registration of political parties criteria demanding that any new groups seeking registration show they are founded on "democratic values." It has also examined in detail allegations that evictions from state-owned housing were based on ethnic considerations. The Chairman also told the press earlier in 1993 that, like the UNHRC itself, his committee's mandate did not extend to consideration of individual cases of alleged human rights abuse, although, he said, more than 300 requests for such investigations had reached the Committee since its founding in November 1992.
Serbian "authorities" in the UNPA's continued to obstruct investigations into alleged violations of human rights by their forces. In one egregious incident, Serbs prevented the excavation of the suspected mass grave at Ovcara by a team of United Nations experts.
When refugees were arbitrarily arrested and held for repatriation during the summer, U.N. officials were initially denied access to those arrested (see Section 2.d.)
In areas where fighting or military operations were taking place, both Croatian and Serbian forces denied access to international observers, although the field staff of the Special Rapporteur was able to monitor human rights violations both in areas under Croatian government control and those controlled by the Serbs.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social StatusThe Constitution specifies that all citizens shall enjoy all rights and freedoms, regardless of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, education, social status, or other attributes. It adds that members of all nations and minorities shall have equal rights in Croatia. One article provides for special "wartime measures" but states that restrictions shall be appropriate to the nature of the danger and may not result in the inequality of citizens in respect of race, color, sex, language, religion, or national or social origin.
WomenViolence against women reportedly increased in 1993. In general, it was part of the larger picture of increasing societal and family tensions as a result of economic disruptions and the unsettling effect of the continued conflict in occupied areas of Croatia. Women (and children) were especially subjected to violence at the hands of men, including demobilized soldiers, acting out their frustrations and stresses. Womens' groups, however, are devoting more attention to this issue, but there are social inhibitions against making "family" issues a subject for the courts.
A center for the psychological and medical care of abused women was founded in Varazdin for 30 women and their families. A similar center was scheduled to be opened in Makarska, Dalmatia. A center for urgent psychiatric and medical aid for the victims of abuse was opened in Zagreb's Medvescak Medical Center and includes a 24-hour "hot line" which reportedly is well used. The French humanitarian organization "Medecins du Monde" will also finance a program in Croatia for abused mothers and their children.
The Croatian health service reportedly has established new, special protocols to insure comprehensive and effective treatment of female victims of rape, spousal abuse or other violence which apply both to hospitals and to outpatient clinics throughout the Republic. There are a number of other centers and programs offering psychological and medical care for abused women and others who have been traumatized or tortured in the course of the war, offered both by local institutions, voluntary agencies, and international organizations. The list of agencies that are part of a working group for social services and psychosocial services for those affected by the war has some 48 entries, including the "Society for Psychological Assistance," "Women's Help Now," "Evangelische Frauenarbeit," "The Center for Women War Victims," "Marie Stopes International," and "Biser." In November Tresnjevka opened its center to assist abused women.
Women do not face legal barriers or discrimination in inheritance, marriage, family laws, and property rights.
Gender-based support groups are relatively new, but Zagreb and several other large cities have started family crisis associations. An association of the "Women of Vukovar," who have missing relatives from the war in the east, and "Mothers for Peace" are active and operate without hindrance.
Spousal abuse is present in Croatian society and is a subject of considerable public interest, freely discussed. One of the more popular late-night call-in radio programs here, for example, frequently features abused spouses (or their neighbors) calling in to present their problems. Local newspapers in late 1993 reported in detail the case of the wife of one of President Tudjman's physicians, who divorced her husband following a beating so severe that several of her ribs were broken. The police reportedly respond willingly to calls from neighbors regarding domestic disputes, for example if the neighbors indicate the likelihood that physical harm will occur. A well-established procedure for prosecuting cases of spousal abuse exists and is apparently effectively used, with the usual result being payment of large damages by the abusing spouse.
Educational and job opportunities are generally available without regard to sex. Mothers are entitled to special protection at work. "Special protection" means employed mothers whose children become ill may, upon presentation of a doctor's certificate to that effect, take paid leave (not counted against their own vacation time) to care for the sick child. Working mothers receive 180 days of paid leave after the birth of a child and may take up to an additional 30 months of unpaid leave without jeopardy to their employment. Pregnant women, mothers of handicapped children, and nursing mothers cannot be transferred to other work without their consent. Mothers of handicapped children also have the right to work only half-time (at half-pay, however) without jeopardizing their employment. All these provisions are well established, accepted by employers, and routinely observed.
ChildrenThere is no documented pattern of societal abuse or discrimination against children. Schools provide free meals for children. Day nurseries are available in most communitites even for infants and, while their primary purpose is to support working single-parent mothers, they also provide an early education and societal base for the children. Medical care for children is free, as are prescription medications. They receive obligatory periodic medical examinations without charge. Children younger than 15 years are prohibited from employment and, as noted in Section 6.d., safeguards apply to the employment of children above that age.
National/Racial/Ethnic MinoritiesOther sections of this report address serious human rights abuses suffered by persons based on their nationality, including cases of government abuse of ethnic Serbs.
Constitutionally, Croatian Serbs enjoyed the same protection as other self-identified ethnic groups in the country. In practice, however, there continued to be ever-present, subtle, and sometimes open discrimination against Serbs in such areas as the administration of justice, employment, housing, and the free exercise of their cultural rights.
The U.N. Special Rapporteur received several reports of the killing of Serbs and allegations that the Croatian authorities failed to conduct a proper investigation or to prosecute those responsible. For instance, it was reported that an elderly Serb woman was murdered and mutilated in her apartment in Sisak on July 30. The police did not conduct a full investigation nor inform the family of any results. The neighbors of the victim were afraid to disclose information about the identity of the perpetrators, especially after the police approached them. There are credible reports of organized Croatian gangs, such as the so-called Black Legions, which single out Serbian civilians for criminal attacks.
Government sources report criminal proceedings were initiated against 126 persons of Croatian ethnic origin, 13 ethnic Serbs, and 8 persons from othe ethnic groups. Nevertheless, the Special Rapporteur stated that the authorities have not demonstrated a serious willingness to suppress such acts.
In 1993 the police force was made up almost exclusively of ethnic Croats. The vast majority of cases involving violence against Serbs and mistreatment of Serbian prisoners went unpunished. Meanwhile, the Government filed thousands of criminal charges against Serbs accused of "war crimes."
The founder of the Serbian National Party, Milan Dukic, claimed that one of the main problems was that the Croatian and Serbian communities saw each other in terms of negative stereotypes fostered by media and nationalists on both sides.
Criticism continued of the Government's performance in issuing citizenship papers, new passports, and residence permits. The Interior Minister insisted that there had been no discrimination based on nationality in the processing of 550,000 applications for Croatian citizenship. However, many who are not ethnic Croats felt that the delay in processing their cases or the refusal to grant them citizenship was due to discrimination. There were credible reports that citizenship applications of persons not born in Croatia, or who held significant positions in such federal institutions as the JNA, were occasionally delayed or refused for reasons of nationality. Foreigners and stateless persons may obtain asylum, unless it is sought in connection with the commission of criminal offenses or violations of international law.
Article 30 of the Law on Citizenship defines a "Croatian citizen" as "a person who has acquired this status according to the laws valid until the taking effect of this Law." The previous laws on citizenship, valid when Croatia was part of the SFRY, provided for "republic citizenship" of the "Socialist Republic of Croatia," but, according to the U.N. Special Rapporteur, republic citizenship within the SFRY was essentially symbolic and had little or no legal effect. SFRY law provided that Yugoslav citizens enjoyed the same rights and duties throughout the republics, without regard to republic in which they had citizenship. Furthermore. republic citizenship did not necessarily coincide with the republic in which an individual was born or enjoyed permanent residence, even if that person had always been domiciled in the republic.
Thus, the Croatian Law on Citizenship had the effect of arbitrarily relegating to the status of aliens all those SFRY citizens who enjoyed lawful residence in the Socialist Republic of Croatia but who did not enjoy Croatian republic citizenship. An exception was made, however, for those deemed to be members of the "Croatian people." Such ethnic Croats who were not Croatian citizens under the SFRY laws would be accorded Croatian citizenship if they submitted a written statement that they considered themselves Croatian citizens. This exemption was available not only for Croats who had registered places of residence in Croatia but also for members of the "Croatian people" who did not have a place of residence in the Republic of Croatia or did not have previous SFRY citizenship. Those who do not belong to the "Croatian people" must satisfy more stringent requirements through naturalization in order to obtain citizenship, even if they previously were lawful residents as SFRY citizens in Croatia.
According to government sources, as of May 12, citizenship had been denied to 12,708 applicants, 7,500 of whom were ethnic Serbs. The U.N. Special Rapporteur reported several cases of procedural obstruction in which the relevant authorities refused even to consider applications, almost always on the basis of the ethnic origin of the applicant. Another cause for concern related by the Special Rapporteur was that, while an application for citizenship is pending, the applicant is considered an alien, even if that person previously enjoyed lawful residence in Croatia as a SFRY citizen, and is consequently denied rights such as social allowances, including medical care, pensions, free education, and employment in the civil service. In practice, since the applicatuon procedure may take a considerable time, many applicants have been forced to leave Croatia because of financial pressure.
The leader of the Serbian National Party complained that citizenship documents were not being granted as quickly to Serbs as to others. He also alleged that 200 Serbs who worked in the Zagreb city administration were fired in 1 day under the pretext of "rationalization."
A delegation of Gypsies complained that local shops discriminated against them, some snack bars refused to serve them, and the police did not adequately investigate their complaints. The Stranke Roma Hrvatske (Croatian Gypsy Party) in Zagreb reports there are currently about 120,000 persons officially registered as Gypsies who are resident in Croatia but say the actual figure for Gypsy residents is probably closer to 250,000 to 300,000 because "many simply do not bother to register." They say there is a "large" number of Bosnian Gypsy refugees in Croatia, but the numbers are very difficult to estimate since the Gypsy population is so fluid. A great many Bosnian refugee Gypsies, for example, have continued to move onward to relatives in Hungary, Romania, or elsewhere.
Religious MinoritiesSerious human rights abuses perpetrated against Muslims are addressed in other sections of this report.
According to the 1991 census, 43,469 persons, 0.9 percent of the population of Croatia, identified themselvesd as Muslims. The largest concentrations were in Zagreb, where the 13,100 Muslims comprised 1.4 percent of the population, and in Rijeka, where 13,340 Muslims comprised 2.3 percent of the population. The largest percentage was in Dubrovnik, where 2,866 Muslims comprised 4 percent of the population. The massive influx of refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina into Croatia since the war significantly increased the number of Muslims.
Since the intensification of hostilities between Bosnian Croat and Bosnian government forces in April, the Croatian media regularly refer to Muslims as "aggressors." Coverage of atrocities committed in the conflict between the two groups appeared to be selective and one-sided, with little regard for the truth. At the same time, incidents of discrimination and violence against Muslims in Croatia were rarely reported in the press.
On the Dalmatian coast, Muslim clerics and others in a position of authority were repeatedly harassed and threatened by local police and other authorities. In Dubrovnik, Split, and Zagreb, as well as other areas, shops and homes belonging to Muslims were reportedly damaged or destroyed, with little police response.
There were reports that many Muslims were denied citizenship, although they were either born in Croatia or had lawful residence there for several years. In the villages of Rajevo Selo and Gunja near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, almost 200 Muslims were reportedly denied citizenship. The United Nations verified many cases in which some members of a family were arbitrarily denied citizenship while others were not.
People with DisabilitiesPeople with disabilities face few legal discriminatory measures. Education and job opportunites generally are available to them The serious war-related injuries of increasing numbers of combat veterans have attracted growing attention to their needs. Although no specific legislation has mandated accessibility for the handicapped, there is a growing social awareness of this issue.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of AssociationAll workers, except military and police personnel, are entitled to form or join unions of their own choosing without prior authorization. There is an active labor movement in Croatia with three national labor federations and independent associations of both blue-collar and white-collar members. In general, unions are independent of the Government and political parties.
The right to strike is guaranteed in the Constitution and is limited only in the armed forces, police, government administration, and public services. Strikes by railroad workers, teachers, textile workers, and others occurred with increasing frequency during 1993, largely over the repeated failure of government-owned or government-run institutions or industries to pay wages on time. For example, railroad workers received paychecks from 1 to 2 weeks late throughout the year.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain CollectivelyCollective bargaining is protected by law and practiced freely in Croatia. Because of the inflation problem and in reaction to newly introduced government austerity measures, the major public service unions found themselves engaged throughout 1993 in lengthy negotiations with the Government over wages and job security. Like fellow unionists, the federations found that the Government was regularly late in meeting its payroll and in ensuring payment of minimum wages.
Many Croatian enterprises remain "socially owned," a condition of blurred ownership and managerial responsibilities which is a legacy of Socialist Yugoslavia. In the current transition to privatization and a free market economy, the unions are under pressure due to job losses, general unemployment in a weakened economy, and their own struggle to become genuine free trade unions.
There is no formal body of law or practice dealing directly with antiunion discrimination issues.
There are no export processing zones in Croatia.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory LaborForced or compulsory work is constitutionally forbidden. There were no documented instances of coerced or forced labor. The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare is the agency charged with enforcing the constitutional ban on coerced or forced labor.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of ChildrenThe minimum age for youth employment is 15 and is enforced by the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare. Under the Constitution, children may not be employed before reaching the legally determined age, nor may they be forced or allowed to do work that is harmful to their health or morality. Workers under 18 are entitled to special protection at work and are prohibited from heavy manual labor. Education is mandatory up to age 14.
e. Acceptable Conditions of WorkThere are national minimum wage standards. Public service unions are pacesetters for the rest of the work force, and they were in the forefront of continued efforts to encourage the Government to honor its commitments. The current minimum gross monthly wage in Croatia in December was roughly $96 (635,910 dinars). National regulations provide for a 42-hour workweek, overtime pay, a half-hour daily break, and a minimum of 18 days of paid vacation annually. It is standard practice to provide a 24-hour rest period during the workweek.
Health and safety standards are set by the Government and enforced by the Ministry of Health. In practice, industries are not diligent in meeting standards for worker protection.