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UPR of Croatia: Post-war, minority rights remain cause for concern
Thursday, 18 November 2010 12:44

 

On Monday 8 November 2010, Croatia participated in the process of universal periodic review (UPR). The country's delegation was led by Mario Nobilo, the Director for Multilateral Affairs, and Andrej Plenkovic, the State Secretary of European Integration, both from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

 

From the outset, the delegation sought to emphasise the importance of the promotion of human rights to Croatia and its government, particularly in light of its history of conflict. The delegation provided figures to back up their assertions, pointing out that over 50 different areas of legislation in Croatian law were dedicated to human rights issues. It was added that the State report for Croatia's review had been compiled with the wide participation of civil society, and, the current review was being streamed live in the state capital, Zagreb, for the benefit of non-governmental organisations located there.

 

Croatia assured the Working Group on the UPR that it was committed to bringing to justice all perpetrators of war crimes. In relation to this commitment, the delegation said it had complied with 883 different requests from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and had only left one request partially unfulfilled. Domestically, the delegation insisted that war crimes trials were being conducted as transparently as possible. They were also free from discrimination, with 42percent of convicts being Croatian, it said.

 

Turning to other issues, Croatia's representatives discussed measures taken to deal with the refugee situation in the country, saying that today there are less than 1000 refugees in Croatia, where there had once been over one million. Improvements had also been made regarding minority rights: 22 different minorities in the country are now officially recognised, even though Serbians are the only such group to represent more than 1.5 percent of Croatia's overall population. There was also a national action plan in place, running until 2015, to help integrate Roma in Croatia, and efforts were also being made to promote anti-hate programs in defence of the Serbian minority in Croatia, as well as LGBTI people. Furthermore, the delegation described Croatia as 'a leader' in protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The State said it has introduced a three-month deadline for Croatia's higher courts to make decisions, thus shortening the length of pre-trial detentions and reducing prison overpopulation.

 

Croatia's efforts in these various spheres of human rights protection were applauded by a number of States. Serbia was amongst the States that expressed approval of the reconciliatory approach adopted between the two countries, adding that it was crucial that the process be based on a human rights-centric approach.[1] Progress in the areas of gender equality, rights of the child, and minority rights were also met with appreciation by States.[2] Plans to set up a national human rights institution (NHRI) were also endorsed.[3] Some States expressed enthusiasm for Croatia's application to be admitted to the European Union.[4]

              

However, some concerns remain. Canada expressed worry over the absence of certain documents that have been requested by the ICJ and are seen as crucial to some of the war crimes trials being conducted. It was recommended that efforts to locate and submit these missing documents should be strengthened.[5] Croatia's delegation insisted the Government was doing its best to retrieve the documents in question. In addition, contrary to the delegation's claims, many States worried that discrimination against Serbs persisted in Croatia's domestic war crimes tribunals.[6] Serbia itself claimed that its own national minority remained unequal in many sectors, noting that Serbians still had relatively little representation in local government and in the police service, and that a minority's right to use its own language was still not secured. Indeed, a number of States questioned whether minorities enjoyed full human rights in Croatia, including on issues such as citizenship.[7]

 

Croatia rejected the majority of these suggestions. On the issue of participation in government, for example, the delegation pointed out that minorities made up about 5 percent of the country's civil service, a tally equal to the proportion of the population represented by minorities. Nevertheless, the delegation gave assurances that concerns in this area would be looked into and addressed.

               

Recommendations made by States included requests to include human rights teaching in the national school curriculum,[8] to implement the rights contained in the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance,[9] to increase efforts to combat human trafficking,[10] and to look into allegations of continued discrimination against people with disabilities.[11] The most common recommendation was to increase efforts to integrate minority groups, through steps such as enacting tougher anti-hate crime laws and increasing minority representation in the public sector.[12]

               

In total, 116 recommendations were made, of which Croatia supported 94. It assured States that the remaining 22 recommendations would be looked at in greater detail and responded to in due course. However, the delegation added that, of the recommendations which it supported outright, it considered 86 as having already been implemented, meaning that out of 116 recommendations, only 8 new commitments were made.

 

[1] Canada and Morocco also praised reconciliatory measures.

[2] Belarus, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba

[3] Azerbaijan, China, Turkey

[4] Austria, Italy

[5] Canada, United Kingdom

[6] Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Serbia

[7] Austria, Finland, Germany, Norway, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, United States of America

[8] Finland, Morocco

[9] France, Slovakia, Spain

[10] Azerbaijan, Belarus, Chile, Ghana, Moldova, Nepal, United States of America

[11] Sweden

[12]Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ecuador Hungary, Mexico, Nepal, Norway, Poland, Republic of Korea, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, United States of America

 

 

Last Updated on Monday, 22 November 2010 16:33
 
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