Written Comments of the European Roma Rights Center

Concerning the Republic of Croatia


For Consideration by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

at its 60th  Session,  March 4-5, 2002



Executive Summary


The European Roma Rights Center (“ERRC”), an international public interest law organisation, respectfully submits written comments concerning racial discrimination and violence against Roma in Croatia, for consideration by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (“the Committee”) at its 60th Session, March 4-5, 2002.


            We are aware of the efforts undertaken by the Government to comply with its obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (the “Convention”) as detailed in its report to the Committee.[1] To date, however, these measures are insufficient to ensure the effective implementation of the Convention, particularly with regard to Articles 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.


As to Article 2, high levels of discrimination and violence against Roma remain a serious problem in Croatia while legal protection against discrimination and racially-motivated violence is inadequate. The problem of insufficient criminal, civil, and administrative provisions aimed at combating racism and discrimination is further compounded by the failure to ensure their effective implementation. The Government has failed to amend the Citizenship Law which contains discriminatory provisions and has a discriminatory effect on Roma and other persons who are not ethnic Croats.


As to Article 3, governmental policies towards Roma, most notably in the field of education, amount to racial segregation and place the Romani children in a disadvantaged position vis-ŕ-vis their non-Romani peers.


As to Article 4, the failure of Croatian Criminal Law to penalise all acts of violence or incitement to such acts against racial or ethnic groups is in breach of the Government’s obligation under the Convention. Anti-Romani speech by public officials in Croatia has frequently been reported and no legal action against persons disseminating such speech has ever been undertaken.


As to Article 5, the Government has failed to ensure Roma equal protection of the law. Roma in Croatia suffer widespread discrimination in the justice system, and are the victims of an unchecked wave of violence at the hands of law enforcement authorities, skinheads and others. In addition, Roma are commonly discriminated against with respect to a broad range of rights, most egregiously and systematically, housing, healthcare, education, employment, and access to public goods and services.


As to Article 6, notwithstanding the numerous breaches of the Convention perpetrated against Roma in Croatia, protection is lacking or ineffective, and remedies non-existent or inadequate.


Taking into account the Committee’s General Recommendation XXVII on Discrimination against Roma[2], which calls on States, inter alia, to:


·         review and enact or amend legislation, as appropriate, in order to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination against Roma as against other persons or groups, in accordance with the Convention;

·         ensure that legislation regarding citizenship and naturalization does not discriminate against members of Roma communities;

·         take appropriate measures to secure for members of Roma communities effective remedies and to ensure that justice is fully and promptly done in cases concerning violations of their fundamental rights and freedoms;

·         ensure protection of the security and integrity of Roma, without any discrimination, by adopting measures for preventing racially motivated acts of violence against them; to ensure prompt action by the police, the prosecutors and the judiciary for investigating and punishing such acts; and to ensure that perpetrators, be they public officials or other persons, do not enjoy any degree of impunity;

·         take measures to prevent the use of illegal force by the police against Roma, in particular in connection with arrest and detention;

·         prevent and avoid as much as possible the segregation of Roma students, while keeping open the possibility for bilingual or mother-tongue tuition; to this end, to endeavour to raise the quality of education in all schools and the level of achievement in schools by the minority community, to recruit school personnel from among members of Roma communities and to promote intercultural education;

·         act firmly against any discriminatory practices affecting Roma, mainly by local authorities and private owners, with regard to taking up residence and access to housing; to act firmly against local measures denying residence to and unlawful expulsion of Roma, and to refrain from placing Roma in camps outside populated areas that are isolated and without access to

health care and other facilities;

·         ensure Roma equal access to health care and social security services and to eliminate any discriminatory practices against them in this field,


            the ERRC, recommends the following measures to be undertaken by the Government:


·         eliminate statelessness among Roma in Croatia in particular by amending the Law on Croatian Citizenship in order to grant citizenship upon request to all Roma who can demonstrate that they had real and effective ties to Croatia at the time of state succession; abolish provisions which have a disparate effect on Roma and other individuals who are not ethnic Croats with regard to the acquisition of Croatian citizenship;

·         initiate measures to insure that all Roma in Croatia who are currently stateless are provided with clear guidance in acquiring Croatian citizenship;

·         amend its criminal law to penalise acts of racially-motivated violence;

·         adopt a comprehensive body of legislation prohibiting discrimination in all fields of public life and providing civil, criminal and administrative remedies for breach thereof;

·         establish an effective enforcement body empowered both legally and through the provision of adequate resources, to effectively secure full compliance with the country’s international obligations regarding racism and racial discrimination;

·         abolish the practice of race-based educational segregation of Romani children in segregated classes within the regular schools;

·         investigate promptly and impartially incidents of racially-motivated violence against Roma and duly prosecute perpetrators of such crimes, whether committed by law enforcement officers or private parties; make public guidelines to law enforcement and judicial authorities on identifying racially-motivated crime; publish yearly statistics on the number of racially-motivated crimes occurring and prosecuted;

·         legalise Romani dwellings and ensure that Romani neighbourhoods have equal access to public facilities;

·         adopt effective measures to prevent and punish manifestations of racial bias in the judicial system;

·         at the highest levels, speak out against racial discrimination against Roma and others, and make clear that racism will not be tolerated.




Expertise and Interest of the ERRC


The ERRC is an international public interest law organisation which monitors the human rights situation of Roma in Europe and provides legal defence in cases of abuse. Since its establishment in 1996, the ERRC has undertaken first-hand field research in some twenty countries, and has disseminated numerous publications, from book-length studies to advocacy letters and public statements.


The ERRC believes that the upcoming session of the Committee offers an opportunity to highlight some of the most significant respects in which the Government has failed to fulfill its commitments under the Convention. We submit that our extensive factual research concerning Croatia and our substantial experience in litigating on behalf of Romani victims of abuse warrant the attention of the Committee to our written comments.






Article 2


To date, the Government has failed to comply with its obligation under Art. 2(1) to “pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms […]”. In particular, the Government has not complied with its obligation under Art. 2 (1)(c) to “amend, rescind or nullify any laws and regulations which have the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination wherever it exists” as well as under Art. 2(1)(d) to “prohibit and bring to an end, by all appropriate means, including legislation […] racial discrimination […].”


In its Concluding Observations on Croatia, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has recently emphasised that “measures to promote ethnic harmony appear to be inadequate and are impeded by continued application of discriminatory laws, policies and practices. [3]


Most tellingly, the Preamble of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia makes an arbitrary differentiation between national minorities. The Preamble lists ten groups as autochthonous national minorities and leaves out a number of minorities, among them Roma, despite their significant numbers in the country. [4] The omission of Roma has deprived them of the benefit of having a guaranteed representation in the present Croatian Parliament.[5] Thus there is not a single person who identifies himself as a Rom in the present Croatian Parliament.


Despite serious international criticism, the Government has failed to amend the Law on Croatian Citizenship and ensure that non-ethnic Croats, who were lawful long-term residents of Croatia in the former Yugoslavia, have equal opportunity to acquire citizenship as the ethnic Croats. The Citizenship Law has had a discriminatory effect on Roma, leaving without Croatian citizenship many Romani individuals who have been long-term residents of Croatia (see discussion below under Art. 5 (d)(iii)) As a result many Roma in Croatia are stateless.


The lack of an adequate legal framework for combatting racial discrimination renders ineffective the Government’s efforts in this area. Notwithstanding the existence of constitutional provisions which establish the principle of equal treatment and guarantee the enjoyment of all rights and freedoms regardless of, inter alia, race, the Government has yet to follow through on these constitutional promises by adopting comprehensive implementing legislation prohibiting racial discrimination. The Government has not adopted civil and administrative legislation prohibiting racial discrimination in various fields of life such as education, health, housing, provision of goods and services, and social security. In addition, the prohibition of discrimination in Croatia’s Labour Code does not contain racial or ethnic origin among the listed grounds. The ERRC is of the view that the wide-spread patterns of racial discrimination affecting Roma in Croatia, are closely linked to the lack of anti-discrimination legislation. 


Several international monitoring bodies have noted the Government’s failure to address adequately the problem of racial discrimination and have urged it to adopt effective legislation for combatting racial discrimination. In its Concluding Observations on Croatia, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights urged the Government “to undertake a comprehensive review of the phenomenon of all forms of discrimination” and recommended that “the necessary measures, including legislative reforms, be taken to ensure that the rights of all minority groups are enjoyed throughout the territory, without discrimination […]”.[6] Similarly, the Council of Europe European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has recently noted the lack of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in a number of fields, “although members of ethnic and national minority groups may face discrimination in all of these fields”. ECRI urged the Croatian authorities to adopt “a body of anti-discrimination legislation covering discrimination in several fields of life” and “ensure that more effective judicial and administrative means of redress are established.[7]








Article 3


The Government’s policies towards Roma in the area of education amount to racial segregation in breach of Article 3 of the Convention which states that “States Parties particularly condemn racial segregation […] and undertake to prevent, prohibit and eradicate all practices of this nature in territories under their jurisdiction.”


The majority of Romani children in the primary schools in Croatia are relegated to substandard segregated classes. Romani children attend segregated classes primarily up to the fourth grade; such classes also exist in the higher grades but they are significantly fewer in number due to the fact that many Romani children drop out after the fourth grade. Although the Romani students in the separate classes were never classified as mentally-retarded, they are nevertheless taught according to an “adjusted curriculum”, focusing primarily on the acquisition of language skills. School authorities claim that the separate classes help Romani children integrate into the school system. In fact, the effect of the segregated classes is to exclude Roma from the educational system at a very early stage. Reliable data has recently revealed that the number of Romani children who attend school after the fourth grade drastically diminishes.[8] In its 2000 report on Croatia, the U.S. Department of State expressed concern that “Romani children face serious discrimination in schools, and nearly all drop out by grade 8.”[9] In December 2000, in a statement before the Croatian media, the Deputy Ombudsman of Croatia condemned the practice of teaching Romani children according to special programs and said that this practice was the main reason for the Romani children’s failure to achieve the same results as their non-Romani peers.[10]


ERRC research in Croatia in May 2001 revealed that out of five primary schools, which we visited in the Međimurje County, four had separate classes for Roma. According to information provided by the Međimurje County Department of Education, Culture, Sports, and Technical Education, out of the 865 Romani children enrolled in the twelve schools of the County, 511 are educated in separate classes. The practice of segregating Romani children at school was noted by the Croatian Ombudsman in his 2000 Annual Report which stated that “discrimination [towards Roma] finds expression in the segregation of Romani children in most of the schools in the Međimurje County under the pretext of lack of hygiene habits and poor command of Croatian language by the Romani children.”[11]   


Patterns of school segregation exist in other places in Croatia. For example, in 2000 the Croatian Ombudsman condemned the segregation patterns in the schools of Varaždin County, calling the practice of segregating Romani children at school “apartheid” and emphasising that the Croatian Constitution prohibits all kinds of discrimination.[12]


Public statements on the part of the Croatian authorities have indicated that the segregation of the Romani children in school is in many instances motivated by deep-seated racial prejudice. For example, according to an article in the Croatian press, the Director of the primary school Macinec in Međimurje County stated that she had to separate the Romani children from the rest because they did not conform to the hygiene and behavioural habits of the majority children.[13] According to the same article, around 192 Romani children attending this school are subjected every day to humiliating treatment: They reportedly enter the school building from a separate entrance and before going to the class-room, they are required to take a shower.[14]


The segregation of Romani children in Croatian schools has recently been noted by the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, which expresed concern “about reports that in certain schools, Roma children are placed in separate classes and school facilities are organised and operated in a manner that appears to stigmatise Roma pupils.”[15] The Council of Europe European Commission against Racism and Intolerance also emphasised that the “[e]ducation of Roma/Gypsy children is a serious problem in Croatia. Many Roma/Gypsy children do not go to school, having either dropped out or having never attended. According to Roma/Gypsy representatives, there are regions where not a single Roma/Gypsy child attends school.”[16] Concerns about segregated school patterns in Croatia have also been voiced by international non-governmental organisations. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights has noted that, "In some schools they [Roma] were subjected to segregation. The school principle of the settlement of Strmec near Varaždin decided that Roma pupils were put into a special department and had to attend special courses."[17] 


Article 4


Notwithstanding the Government’s obligation under Article 4(a) to “declare an offense punishable by law […] all acts of violence or incitement to such acts against any race or group of persons of another colour or ethnic origin […],” Croatian law does not contain specific provisions penalising acts of racially-motivated violence or incitement to racially-motivated violence. Article 174 of the Croatian Criminal Code is limited to the prohibition of incitement to racial discrimination and dissemination of ideas claiming superiority or inferiority of race, ethnic or religious community. [18]

As regards Article 4(c), obliging States Parties to not “permit public authorities or public institutions, national or local, to promote or incite racial discrimination”, the ERRC notes that speech against Roma by public officials in Croatia is common. In one recent case, the Head of the Međimurje County administration, Mr Branko Levačić, in an interview with the Croatian media made the following comments regarding the Roma in the Međimurje County: “I feel threatened in my own town because they [Roma] harass me when I go to have a coffee; I feel threatened because they [Roma] harass me in my neighbourhood; I feel threatened when I go to the hospital -  there they [Roma] are loud and quarrel with the staff and finally get better treatment than I do. Sooner or later, the Međimurje County will have a big fight because of the Romani population.” Mr Levačić added, “All citizens of the Međimurje County feel threatened to send their children to school together with the Romani children” and that “the residents of Međimurje County do not deserve such treatment by a marginal group.”[19] In another interview for the Croatian media, Mr Levačić stated that “Several raids per year in the Romani neighbourhoods are not enough.”[20]


Article 5


High levels of anti-Romani violence and discrimination against Roma in most areas of social life raise serious concerns about the Government’s compliance with the Convention. In its Concluding Observations on Croatia, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights voiced concerns about reports that “private acts of discrimination and ethnically-motivated violence are frequently not adequately addressed by the competent authorities”.[21]



Article 5(a) - The right to equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice



            ERRC research has revealed a pattern of discrimination against Roma in the judicial system. In the overwhelming majority of cases, Romani victims of human rights violations are unable to secure legal redress for such violations. Complaints filed by Romani victims of racially-motivated violence and discrimination are not adequately investigated by law enforcement and judicial authorities; on many occasions such complaints are simply ignored by the competent authorities.


Some examples illustrating the discrimination of Roma in the judicial system follow:


·         On January 24, 2001, five young men stopped an eighteen-year-old Romani man, Mr Ševko Šečić, outside the “Cool” café in Zagreb. The men swore at Mr Šečić and said that they would kill all “Gypsies”. Mr Šečić ran and the skinheads chased him, but he managed to escape. The victim filed a criminal complaint against unknown perpetrators claiming a number of offenses, including racial discrimination, with the County Prosecutor’s Office on April 26, 2001. As of February 2002, criminal proceedings into the case have not been initiated.[22]


·         On April 23, 2000, Mr Darko Beganović, a twenty-five-year-old Romani man, was attacked and beaten by seven persons near Zagreb, suffering numerous injuries. The forensic certificate issued to Mr Beganović on April 25, 2000, qualified his injuries as "serious bodily injuries."[23] Following a report on the incident submitted by the Zagreb police, the Public Prosecutor of Zagreb opened criminal investigation. In the course of the investigation, the Public Prosecutor concluded that Mr Beganović’s injuries qualify as “injuries”[24] and not as “serious bodily injuries”. Pursuant to the Croatian Criminal Code, the infliction of an injury constitutes a criminal offense which is not prosecuted by the Public Prosecutor but by the victim himself. On these grounds, the Public Prosecutor terminated the criminal proceedings against the attackers on June 16, 2001. After the Public Prosecutor terminated the investigation, Mr Beganović was left practically without recourse to judicial remedy. He was not able to file a private complaint with the court due to the fact that the attackers were below the age of 21, and pursuant to the Croatian Law on Youth Courts, criminal investigation against them can be initiated only by a Public Prosecutor and not by a private person.[25]


·         On April 29, 1999, three non-Romani men beat Mr Šemso Šečič, a thirty-six-year-old Romani man, in Zagreb, while he was collecting scrap iron at a rubbish dump. One of the attackers hit him with a wooden plank, knocking Mr Šečič to the ground. Another man put his foot onto Mr Šečič’s chest, and the others continued beating him with wooden planks as a result of which he lost consciousness. A passer by chased the assailants away and called the police and an ambulance. Mr Šečič was first taken to the Merkur hospital in Zagreb, where the doctors on duty declared that none of his bones were broken, and dismissed him after giving him an anaesthetic injection. As pains kept Mr Šečič awake the whole night, his wife took him to the same hospital once more early in the morning, where he again received only anaesthesia. With the assistance of a Romani organisation, Mr Šečič went to another clinic the same day, where it was discovered that he had two broken ribs and had to be hospitalised for treatment. On July 15, 1999 the Public Prosecutor of Zagreb initiated an investigation against unknown perpetrators. For almost two years, authorities were unable to identify the perpetrators. In April 2001, Mr Šečič filed a complaint with the Croatian Constitutional Court claiming that the inaction of the Public Prosecutor breached his constitutional rights as well as rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights to which Croatia is a State Party. As of February 2002, the Constitutional Court has not issued a decision on the complaint.[26]



Article 5(b) – The right to security of person and protection by the State against violence or bodily harm, whether inflicted by government officials or by any individual, group or institution



Roma in Croatia are regularly subjected to unremedied violence and other forms of abuse by law enforcement officials as well as skinheads and other private parties.



Cases of unremedied or inadequately remedied racially-motivated violence against Roma by state authorities:


Police abuse of Roma takes various forms, ranging from insults and arbitrary arrests to severe physical mistreatment. In some cases documented by the ERRC the victims of abusive treatment by law enforcement officials were minors. The following cases are illustrative and do not purport to constitute a comprehensive survey:


·         On April 26, 2001, according to the Croatian media, police officers from the Mursko Sredisce police station reportedly took Srdjan Orsos, a Romani minor, to the police station in relation to a reported theft of money. After a confrontation between Srdjan Orsos and the woman who had reported the theft, Srdjan was reportedly not recognised as the thief of the money. The boy, however, was not released from custody. Police officers reportedly made him kneel and then started hitting him all over his body. After the boy’s release from custody, his parents took him to a doctor, who established that the injuries were caused by a blunt object.[27] 


·         On June 16, 2001, according to the Croatian media, Ms Hanca Masic, 31-year-old Romani woman, five months pregnant, verbally confronted a police officer, who wanted to prevent her and her husband from disposing a piece of asphalt outside the Romani neighbourhood Kozari Put in Zagreb. The police officer reportedly slapped Ms Masic in the face. She fell to the ground, hitting her head on a stone and losing consciousness. The police officer reportedly called his station, and informed his superiors that Ms Masic had hit him first and then reportedly drove off. Ms Masic’s husband then called for an ambulance, as his wife was still lying on the ground. When the ambulance arrived, Ms Masic - who had regained consciousness in the meantime - refused to leave with them until a press team arrived. A doctor from the medical team reportedly called this “Gypsy business” and insulted Mr and Mrs Masic with racist remarks, after which the medical team left at the request of Mr Masic. Another medical team arrived around 1:55 PM. According to Mr Masic, the paramedics said that his wife was bleeding, which is not safe for a woman in the fifth month of pregnancy. Ms Masic was then taken to the local hospital. The Zagreb police reportedly investigated the case but maintained that that Ms Masic scratched a police officer on the face and threw herself on the ground. The ERRC is not aware of any disciplinary measures taken against the police officers.[28]


·         On June 22, 1998, according to the Croatian media, 35-year-old Ešef Mujkanović, a Romani man, was beaten by the police during arrest in a Zagreb bar. According to the statements of one of the police officers who arrested him, Mr Mujkanović, who was under the influence of alcohol, failed to present his ID, and instead, offered a drink to the police officers, which they refused. At that moment, according to the statement of one of the officers, Mr Mujkanović swore at them and became violent, so reinforcements were called in, which subdued Mr Mujkanović by force. According to witness’s testimony, while still in the bar, during the arrest procedure, five to six police officers beat Mr Mujkanović severely, after which he was taken to the police station. Medical reports indicated that after the arrest, Mr Mujkanović was diagnosed with a concussion and a pain in his left ear, with hearing impaired due to a visible perforation of the tympanum. The statements of three witnesses summoned to testify in court were contradictory. Nevertheless, the Magistrate Court in Zagreb concluded on June 24, 1998, that their statements were “logically connected and therefore convincing”, and found Mr Mujkanović guilty of violating public order, insulting police officers while performing their duty, not having identification documents with him, and not reporting his address change of three years ago to the authorities. Mr Mujkanović was fined with 1072 kuna (approximately 300 German marks) or twelve days in prison. The ERRC is not aware of any disciplinary measures taken against the police officers.[29]


·         ERRC research in Croatia in May 1998 revealed that a common situation in which Roma are subjected to police mistreatment is when Roma are apprehended for lack of legal documents for residence in Croatia. Mr A.R. from Rijeka lived in Croatia since he was 9 years old. He had applied several times for citizenship and had been turned down. He claimed that each time the police detained him - at least twice a month - he was mistreated in the police station for not having legal documents. According to him the police mistreat Roma for the mere fact of being Roma. He told the ERRC about an incident on June 1, 1998, whereby the school near the Romani neighborhood, attended by both Romani and non-Romani students, had been vandalised. Since this incident, Mr A.R. reported that police had gone regularly into the Romani neighbourhood, detained Roma, and interrogated them at the police station. Over thirty young Romani men had been brought at various times to the police station to testify about the incident and, according to A.R., all of them had been beaten there. He asserted that no Croats had been detained to be interrogated about the incident.[30]                           



Cases of unremedied or inadequately remedied racially-motivated violence against Roma by non-state actors


 Roma in Croatia are currently targeted by a wave of racially-motivated violence. The Croatian authorities have not undertaken sufficient measures to protect the rights recognised in the Convention with respect to Roma. Most cases of racist violence against Roma by non-state actors go unpunished. The reluctance of the police to qualify crimes as ethnically-motivated was noted by the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities which stated that “the performance of the police on issues related to national minorities continues to merit attention, bearing in mind, for example, that police still appear to be overly hesitant to qualify alleged crime as motivated by ethnicity."[31]


Despite the seriousness of this problem, the Government makes virtually no reference to it in its report under the Convention. Furthermore, unlike other governments in Europe, notably the Czech and the German, Croatian authorities have never made public data on the number of racially-motivated crimes occurring in Croatia. The ERRC is concerned that the Government’s failure to adequately address the systematic violence targetted towards  Roma in Croatia and to inform the Committee about the measures it has undertaken to counter this alarming problem, suggest that it does not consider these issues of relevance for its reporting obligations flowing from the Convention.


Some recent cases of racially-motivated violence against Croatian Roma follow:


·         On the morning of May 4, 2001, a group of four skinheads attacked Ms Mirsada Šarić, a 16-year-old Romani girl, as she was selling calendars in front of the Zagreb cathedral. The group surrounded Ms Šarić and began pushing her; one of the skinheads slapped her across the face, then one of the group slashed her across the stomach with a knife. An ambulance was called and took the girl to a hospital where she was treated for a surface wound and released the same day. As of May 9, 2001, according to a statement by Mr Šime Lučin, the Minister of Internal Affairs, quoted in the Croatian daily Večernji List, the perpetrators had still not been apprehended.[32]


·         In an incident of mob violence, a group of around thirty non-Romani villagers armed with bludgeons and axes attacked five Romani men at a weekend resort in northeastern Croatia on April 30, 2001. The non-Romani group approached the five Roma, who were fishing, and swore at them, saying that “all Gypsies should be killed.” The non-Roma attacked the Romani men, severely beat them with bludgeons and oars, and then threw them into the river. The Roma managed to board a boat but as they had no way out, they rowed towards an area that was mined. They did not strike a mine, but did get stuck in the mud. After more than half an hour, as the men waited for the mob to disperse, three police officers arrived at the scene. They took one of the Roma to the police station, while the other Roma were taken to a local hospital. According to information in the Croatian media, the nine non-Roma were charged for the attack, and the five Romani men were also charged with disturbing the peace. According to the Roma, non-Roma have attacked them on previous occasions in the same town.[33]


·         On April 21, 2001, according reports in the Croatian media, Zdravko Djuran, a 17-year-old Romani boy from Valpovo, northeastern Croatia, was attacked at the train station in Zagreb at around 11 pm by a group of young men, some of whom were reportedly skinheads. They beat Zdravko Djuran with their fists as well as with beer bottles for about fifteen minutes, after which he managed to escape and call the police. Zdravko Djuran was taken to hospital, where it was established that he had wounds on the head and shoulders that required stitches, as well as damaged front teeth. Immediately after the incident, the police apprehended a group of seven young men who fit the victim’s description of his attackers, and took them to a police station, where they confessed to the attack. Subsequently, two members of the group, both minors and sons of Croatian army generals, changed their testimony and claimed that their presence near the group of skinheads arrested was coincidental and that they were not members of the group. The Zagreb Police released a press statement on April 24, 2001, supporting the change in testimony of the two young men. The press statement provoked criticism from the Ministry of Interior, which doubted the truthfulness of the latter testimony. On April 25, 2001, during official proceedings, Zdravko Djuran was able to identify two of his attackers, including one of those who had changed his testimony. The Ministry also said that the police would be pressing criminal charges against the attackers for violence in a public place.[34] As of February 2002, the investigation into the case has not been finished.


·         A group of four skinheads reportedly attacked a nine-year-old Romani boy in Split, on the evening of March 23, 2001, according to reports in the Croatian media. The skinheads reportedly threw the boy to the ground and kicked him repeatedly. The boy was saved by a group of passers by, one of whom took the boy to his parents, while other members of the public managed to catch one of the attackers. The police were called immediately, but a single officer arrived a full hour after the call for help, and reportedly, he merely checked the alleged attacker’s personal documents and then let him go.[35]


·         On March 18, 2001, a group of about twenty skinheads beat three Romani boys, 13-year-old Kristijan Alikić, 14-year-old Senad Alikić, and 14-year-old Alen Kafrić at the Zagreb discotheque "The Best". The boys, who had reportedly been cautioned by friends that a group of skinheads was waiting for them outside the discotheque,  reportedly informed the security guards and asked them to call the police, which the guards did not do. As the boys left the discotheque, the skinheads reportedly ordered them to kneel and then kicked them in their backs and about their heads. The skinheads then ordered the boys to run, threatening to kill them if they caught them; as the boys attempted to run away, the skinheads caught Alen Kafrić and beat him severely.[36] The ERRC is not aware of any legal action against the attackers.


·         Anti-Romani violence in Eastern Slavonia following the reintegration of that region into the Republic of Croatia resulted in the forced migration of local Roma who fled in large numbers to the neighbouring areas of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Romani displacement began in 1997, when previously displaced Croats began returning to their pre-war homes in the region. A wave of anti-Romani incidents followed the return of ethnic Croats. Reportedly, Croat returnees blamed Roma for taking the side of Serbs in the war and for looting which had taken place during the war. Anti-Romani sentiment reportedly became particularly intense in the village of Popovac, approximately 15 km from the town of Beli Manastir in north eastern Croatia. Roma from Popovac told the ERRC that they were verbally harassed, insulted on a racial basis and urged to leave the village by some local Croats. During the spring of 1998 there were reportedly bars and shops in the village with signs saying “Serbs and Gypsies not allowed”. A Romani man named Darko Bošković told the ERRC that every night during that period he could hear shouts such as “Gypsies go away” under the window of his family home. One night in early June 1998, at around 11:30 pm, someone fired a round of shots at the windows of their new house. All of their windows were broken, and the family later counted thirty bullets in their furniture. That night, several other shooting incidents reportedly took place in Popovac. The next morning, the Bošković family reported the incident to the Croatian police and the United Nations Police Support Group (UNPSG). Both authorities opened an investigation, but the perpetrators were never found. Other Roma from Popovac testified that following all the incidents they reported, police forces and international monitors would always arrive immediately at the spot and document the event, but that they never arrested suspects, provided further protection or appeared to take action of any kind. This left the Roma with an impression that no one would offer them protection. Out of thirty Romani families from before the war, only three have remained Popovac as of the spring of 1998.[37]



Article 5(d)(iii) – The right to nationality


ERRC field research conducted in Croatia in 1998 revealed that large numbers of Roma have been denied citizenship in violation of international standards on citizenship in the context of state succession. A small number of those who did not have Croatian citizenship had acquired the citizenship of Bosnia or Macedonia. The rest were stateless.[38] The Law on Croatian Citizenship provides for automatic acquisition of Croatian citizenship for individuals who held citizenship in the Socialist Republic of Croatia in the former Yugoslavia and for those who consider themselves members of the “Croatian people” and submit a written declaration in confirmation of this.[39] The others, among them many of whom were habitual residents on the territory of what is today the Republic of Croatia, were not included in the initial body of citizens. ERRC research revealed that many Roma who had been long-term residents of Croatia as part of the former Yugoslavia had not secured Croatian citizenship and many were stateless.


Persons who do not qualify for automatic acquisition of Croatian citizenship are required to satisfy stringent criteria for naturalisation. During the ERRC field research in Croatia in 1998, it did not meet a single Romani person who had successfully claimed to be a “member of the Croatian people” and thereby been granted citizenship. Instead, all applications by Roma for citizenship had been processed by the authorities under the provisions applicable to “aliens”. Among the conditions for naturalisation under these provisions are that the applicant must demonstrate that “he or she is proficient in the Croatian language and Latin script,”[40] and that “a conclusion can be derived from his or her conduct that he or she is attached to the legal system and customs persisting in the Republic of Croatia and that he or she accepts the Croatian culture.”[41] A number of Roma whom the ERRC met in Croatia had been denied citizenship on the basis of language proficiency. In addition, the ERRC found that the requirement for adherence to the legal system and customs of Croatia allowed the police such arbitrary powers of interpretation with respect to what constitutes the acceptance of Croatian culture that Roma have been systematically turned down.[42] Roma who were not automatically recognised as Croatian citizens were denied social benefits such as medical care, free education, and employment. Croatian NGOs in contact with the ERRC report that since 1998, little has changed with respect to Roma and statelessness issues.



Article 5(e) – Economic, social and cultural rights


Roma in Croatia suffer marginalisation and de facto discrimination in the enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights. The Government report does not provide any account of the discriminatory treatment affecting Roma. The report merely states that, "From the reports submitted regularly to the Croatian State Parliament in previous years, a larger group of cases may be noticed, which have the characteristics of racial discrimination."[43] The report also fails to provide information as to what measures the Government undertook to redress the victims and eliminate discriminatory practices.


A number of international organisations, both governmental and non-governmental, have noted with concern the patterns of discrimination against Roma in various fields of social life. In its Opinion on Croatia the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities expressed deep concern about “the shortcomings that remain as concerns the effective participation of many Roma in social and economic life and the negative impact that these shortcomings have on the social and economic living-conditions of this minority in general and Roma women in particular.”[44] Further, the Committee found that “Croatia has not been able to secure full and effective equality between the majority population and Roma and that the situation of Roma remains difficult in such fields as employment, housing and education”.[45] Similarly, the Human Rights Watch World Report 2001 noted the “continuing difficulties faced by Croatia’s Roma population. Many of the estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Roma in Croatia lacked access to education and employment, faced discrimination in the provision of state assistance and housing, and had difficulty obtaining citizenship, as well as suffering racist attacks.”[46] The 2000 U.S. Department of State report on Croatia expressed concern that “Roma faced a host of obstacles, including language […], lack of education, lack of citizenship and identity documents, high unemployment, and societal discrimination, and lack of Government will to address such abuses.”[47]



Article 5(e)(iii) – The right to housing


Roma experience severe discrimination in housing. During field research in Croatia in 1998 the ERRC witnessed a number of segregated Romani settlements with substandard living conditions. The critical living conditions of Roma in Croatia were also noted by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance of the Council of Europe: “Several Roma villages lack basic facilities such as water and electricity. In some areas where there are rats, a lack of hygiene and drinkable water, children suffer from contagious diseases.”[48] The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance urged the Croatian government “to investigate this situation and resolve any problems identified, ensuring that Roma/Gypsies are treated in the same manner as other Croatian citizens.”[49] Many Romani families in Croatia live in areas that are outside the city regulation plans and have no legal permission for their houses. Roma who live in illegal houses are exposed to various types of abuses on the part of the municipal authorities, including forceful removal from the areas where they have lived for several decades.


Some examples illustrating abusive actions on the part of local authorities follow:


·         In May 2000, municipal authorities from Petrijanec and Cestica municipalities, Varaždin County, made a decision to “close” a Romani settlement of 420 people, located near the village Strmec Podravski, Varaždin County. Some local politicians reportedly suggested that Roma be transferred to the region of Knin, in southeastern Croatia, devastated in the recent war and abandoned by its former Serb inhabitants. The situation in the Romani settlement was reported to be very difficult: None of the Strmec Roma was employed; many of them lived in cardboard shacks; there was no running water in the village, so the Roma used well-water, which was reportedly unsafe. All of the houses in the settlement were built without permission and there were no efforts by the municipalities to legalise the settlement. At the end of 1999, state authorities from Zagreb had approved financial means for creating infrastructure for the settlement, but the plan was abandoned due to strong opposition from municipal authorities. At the same time, authorities in Petrijanec and Cestica decided to ban Roma from building any houses in the area. In 2000 the Centre for Social Work in Varaždin reportedly wanted to give the settlement two pre-fabricated rooms where Romani children could receive pre-school preparation classes and medical assistance, but the local authorities of Petrijanec refused to accept this donation, saying that the “settlement is not legal”. [50] 


·         A similar fate threatened the Roma of Moslavačka street in Popovača, in the Slavonia region of Croatia. In June 2000 local authorities started attempts to remove the Roma to the Stružec settlement in the same town. Municipal authorities justified their action by claiming that most of the local Roma had built their houses on municipal land, and promised that in the new location they would have electricity and fresh water. The Popovača Roma did not want to move. Romani activists from Popovača alleged that the authorities were pressing for the removal of the Roma, because they themselves were interested in locations near the current Romani settlement.[51]


A number of homeless Roma have found shelter in dilapidated buildings slated for demolition. Despite numerous requests addressed by Roma to municipal authorities, their housing situation has not been improved. In some cases, local authorities fail to act due to pressures from citizens who did not want Roma to move in their localities: 


·         In 2001 a proposal by authorities in the city of Zagreb to move nine Romani families from Paromlinska Street to the Pescenica municipality of Zagreb met with strong resistance by local non-Roma, including local authorities, who refused to accept Roma in their neighbourhood. Nine Romani families slated to be moved to Pescenica lived in Paromlinska Street, in the city centre, in buildings designated for demolition. The living conditions of Roma in Paromlinska Street were harsh: In June, 2001, a piece of ceiling reportedly fell off in one of the dilapidated buildings, nearly falling on a four-month-old Romani baby, Kasandra Dedić. This flat, which had no bathroom facilities and no power supply, was home to thirteen members of the Dedić and Masić families. There were altogether 56 children in the 9 Romani families to be moved. According to the inhabitants of the building, the courtyard of the building was infested with rats and was full of garbage. The local Roma also reportedly suffered from racist attacks. An 11-year-old Romani girl from the neighbourhood was allegedly attacked by skinheads shortly before the accident in the Dedić home. After the incident, the girl refused to attend school out of fear. At a September 12, 2001 meeting with the representatives of Zagreb Roma and municipal authorities, some municipal councilors and locals expressed their opposition to the Romani families moving into Pescenica, reportedly stating that Roma “beg, deal in scrap iron; minors drive cars and they are dangerous for the environment.” As of November 6, 2001, all of the Romani families concerned still resided in the Paromlinska settlement.[52]


Article 5(e)(iv) – The right to public health, medical care, social security and social services


Roma are often denied social services such as health care, social security and other state benefits to which mainstream citizens are entitled to. The ERRC is aware of al least one case in which discriminatory treatment of Roma by health care authorities had a fatal outcome.


·         On February 9, 2001, in the Romani settlement of Trnovec, near Čakovec, north-western Croatia, the baby of a Romani couple, Mirko and Verica Oršuš, was stillborn after the local emergency medical team refused their calls for help. A neighbour of the Oršuš family had reportedly called the emergency medical technicians in the neighbouring town of Čakovec when 20-year-old Ms Oršuš went into labour, but was reportedly told that the team would not come, and that Ms Oršuš should be driven to the local medical centre, after which the person on the other end of the line hung up. Mr Oršuš called the same medical centre, and after he told them he did not have a car, the staff reportedly mockingly told him to put his wife into a wheel-barrow and wheel her to the medical centre. Another neighbour called the medical centre in Varaždin, another nearby town, and was reportedly told that they were not obliged to cover the settlement at Trnovec, after which the neighbour called the local police and requested that they call an emergency team. By the time an ambulance finally arrived, Ms Oršuš had given birth on the floor of their house and the child was dead. The ensuing internal investigation at the Čakovec medical centre established that they received the first call for help from the Oršuš family at 6:43 AM on the morning of February 9, and that the ambulance was finally sent out at 8:13 AM, after altogether five calls to the Čakovec medical centre for assistance. The two staff members responsible for this tragedy were reportedly merely moved to other posts within the medical centre. Criminal charges for medical negligence were brought against two persons of the medical personnel who received the calls from the Oršuš family. At a later stage, the Public Prosecutor dropped the charges against one of them. The victims took over the prosecution of the case in their own capacity as private parties. Currently there is no hearing scheduled. On March 28, 2001, the family also filed a civil suit against the state for non-pecuniary damages in the Zagreb municipal court.[53]





Article 6


As illustrated supra, the Croatian Government has failed to comply with its obligations under Article 6 to “assure everyone within their jurisdiction effective protection and remedies, through the competent national tribunals and other State institutions, against any acts of racial discrimination […] as well as the right to seek from such tribunals just and adequate reparation or satisfaction for any damage suffered as a result of such discrimination.”


Most tellingly, given the scope and severity of racially-motivated violence and abuse of Roma, the Croatian authorities have failed to ensure that the victims have access to an effective judicial remedy. In a large number of cases, complaints filed by Romani victims of racially-motivated violence and abuse are not dealt with by the competent authorities.


The ERRC notes that the Ombudsman institution does not offer effective remedies against racially motivated violence and discrimination.[54] The Croatian Ombudsman Office has been very active in raising public awareness as regards discrimination and violence against Roma as well as urging the authorities to eliminate discriminatory practices in education and provide adequate remedies for Romani victims of racially-motivated violence. However, the Ombudsman institution has limited powers, which do not allow effective protection against discrimination. For example, the Ombudsman has no power to impose sanctions for racial discrimination; and it cannot represent victims of racial discrimination in lawsuits. In addition, the Ombudsman of Republic of Croatia has general functions for the protection of human rights and is not a specialised institution for protection against racial discrimination. This fact seriously diminishes its capacity to effectively protect against racial discrimination. To date, the Government has failed to establish a specialised enforcement institution with adequate powers to secure full compliance with the country’s international obligations regarding racism and racial discrimination.








For more information, please contact:

European Roma Rights Center, 1386 Budapest 62, P.O. Box 906/93, Hungary

Tel.: (+36-1) 413 2200; Fax: (+36-1) 413 2201

E-mail: office@errc.org







[1] United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, CERD/C/373/Add.1,31 May 2001,Reports submitted by States Parties under Article 9 of the Convention, Fifth periodic reports of States Parties due in 2000, Addendum, Croatia, at: http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/898586b1dc7b4043c1256a450044f331/d6c5252e720379a9c1256b59004cebb0/$FILE/G0142512.pdf  (hereafter the “Government Report”).


[2] See Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Discrimination against Roma : 16/08/2000.                          CERD General recom. 27. (General Comments), paras. 1, 4, 7, 12, 13, 18, 31, 33, at: http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/CERD+General+recom.+27.En?Opendocument

[3] See United Nations, Economic and Social Council, Concluding Observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights : Croatia. 30/11/2001, para. 9, at: at: http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/3c2fce28602bee79c1256b18003c21ec?Opendocument

[4] According to the 1991 data on the ethnic composition of the Croatian population, provided by the Croatian State Bureau of Statistics, the number of Roma was 6.695 or 0.14% of the population. This figure, however, is widely held to be inaccurate and a more realistic number of Roma is estimated between 30,000-40,000. See Liegeois, Jean-Pierre and Nicolae Gheorghe, “Roma/Gypsies: A European Minority”, London: Minority Rights Group, 1995.  


The omission of Roma and other numerically significant national minorities was recently noted by the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, which stated that "that no undue differentiations should be made between various national minorities and therefore finds it regrettable that the preamble to the Constitution does not mention explicitly other minorities listed in the above-mentioned Constitutional Law, such as Bosniacs, Roma and Slovenes. (emphasis added). See Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, Opinion on Croatia, adopted on April 6, 2001, para. 28, at: http://www.humanrights.coe.int/minorities/Eng/FrameworkConvention/AdvisoryCommittee/Opinions/Croatia.htm#III

[5] The Constitutional Law of Human Rights and Freedoms and the Rights of National and Ethnic Communities or Minorities, adopted in May 2000, includes 22 minorities, among them Roma, and envisages also the inclusion of "others" in this list. Based on this law, Roma and other minorities listed will be able to have a designated seat in the Croatian Parliament. However, at the time of the Parliamentary elections held on January 3, 2000 Roma were not recognised as a national minority and were not entitled to a reserved seat in Parliament.

[6] See United Nations, Economic and Social Council, Concluding Observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights : Croatia, para. 20, Op.cit.

[7] See Council of Europe, European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, Second Report on Croatia, CRI (2001)34, 3 July, 2001, para. 19.


European norms on anti-discrimination law are currently in a period of dramatic expansion. On November  4, 2000, the Council of Europe opened for signature Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights. Protocol no. 12 provides that "the enjoyment of any right set forth by law shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status." See Council of Europe, Protocol No. 12 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, at: http://conventions.coe.int/treaty/EN/cadreprincipal.htm The ERRC notes with concern that as of February 27, 2002, Croatia has not signed Protocol 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights and urges the Croatian authorities to sign and ratify Protocol 12 without delay.


In addition, in June 2000, the Council of the European Union adopted Directive 2000/43/EC implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin” (hereinafter “The Directive"). The Directive sets forth a number of requirements in the field of anti-discrimination law: Under the Directive, European states must adopt legislation banning racial discrimination in a range of areas, including access to employment and training, education, social protection (including security and health care), social advantages and the supply of and access to goods and services, including housing. The

Directive further requires that domestic law prohibit direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation; shift the burden of proof in civil cases once a prima facie case of discrimination has

been established; and provide a common minimum level of redress through a judicial or administrative procedure, associated with appropriate sanctions, including compensation. The Council Directive 2000/43/Ec is available at: http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/en/lif/dat/2000/en_300L0043.html

Although Croatia is neither a European Union member state, nor at present a candidate country for European Union membership, and therefore not explicitly bound by the provisions of the Directive, Croatia should bring its domestic legal provisions into conformity with the requirements of the Directive, as the Directive is the standard-setting instrument for anti-discrimination law in Europe.



[8] For example, according to information from the Međimurje County Department on Education, Culture, Information, Sports, and Technical Education, in the school year 2001/2002, in four of the schools in the County (Podturen, Orehovica, Macinec, and Kuršanec), the total number of Romani children enrolled from the 1st to 4th grade was 398, while their number from the 5th to the 8th grade was 122, or more than 3 times lower. See response of the Međimurje County Department on Education, Culture, Information, Sports, and Technical Education to the Croatian Ministry of Education and Sports about the "Request for information regarding the segregation of Romani children in the primary schools of Međimurje County", Čakovec, 7 December, 2001. Document available in the ERRC archive.

According to the 2000 US State Department Report on Croatia an estimated ten percent of Romani children in Croatia begin primary school, and only ten percent of them go on to secondary school. See U.S. Department of State, Croatia, Country reports on Human Rights Practices – 2000, February 23, 2001, at: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2000/eur/716.htm

[9] See U.S. Department of State, Croatia, Op. cit.

[10] See Slobodna Dalmacija, December 29, 2001, “Roma have been driven out from many regions” (in Croatian).

[11] See Report on the Activities of the Ombudsman’s Office in 2000, p. 81 (in Croatian).

[12] See Jutarnji List, September 7, 2000, “Racial Segregation in the Varaždin Schools”, (in Croatian).

[13] See Karlovacki List, July 24, 2001, "Director of a School Justifies ‘Racial Discrimination’ by Hygiene Differences” (in Croatian).

[14] Ibid.

[15] See Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, Opinion on Croatia, para. 49, Op.cit.

[16] See Council of Europe, European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, Second Report on Croatia, CRI (2001) 34, Strasbourg, 3 July 2001, para. 41

[17] See International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, Human Rights in the OSCE Region: The Balkans, the Caucasus, Europe, Central Asia and North America Report 2001, (Events of 2000), Croatia, at: http://www.ihf-hr.org/reports/ar01/Country%20issues/Countries/Croatia.pdf

[18] The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance has also urged Croatian authorities to “send a message that racist crime will not be tolerated” and to consider introducing into their Criminal Code a specific provision prohibiting racially-motivated violence. See European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, Second Report on Croatia, para. 16, Op.cit.

[19] See Međimurje, February 27, 2001, “In the Međimurje County it is not Roma Whose Rights are Threatened but the Rest of the Citizens!” (in Croatian). 

[20] See Jutarnji list, March 13, 2001.

[21] See United Nations, Economic and Social Council, Concluding Observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights : Croatia, para. 9. Op.cit.

[22] Information on this case was provided to the ERRC by Mr Šečić’s legal representative. Documentation on the case is available in the ERRC archive.

[23] Article 99, Croatian Criminal Code.

[24] Article 98, Croatian Criminal Code.

[25] Information on this case was provided to the ERRC by Mr Beganovič’s legal representative. Full documentation on the case of Mr Darko Beganović is available in the ERRC archive.

[26] Information on this case was provided to the ERRC by Mr Šečič’s legal representative. Full documentation on the case of Mr Šemso Šečič is available in the ERRC archive.

[27] See Međimurskih novina, “Policemen Beat Up a Minor Roma” (in Coatian).

[28] For further details see Roma Rights, No 4, 2001, Snapshots from Around Europe, at: http://www.errc.org/rr_nr4_2001/snap20.shtml

[29] For further details see Roma Rights, summer 1998, Snapshots from Around Europe, at: http://www.errc.org/rr_sum1998/snap_20.shtml

[30] See Roma Rights, summer 1998, field report, at: http://www.errc.org/rr_sum1998/field_report.shtml

[31] See Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, Opinion on Croatia, para. 36, Op.cit.

[32] For further details see Roma Rights, No 2-3, 2001, Snapshots from Around Europe, at: http://errc.org/rr_nr2-3_2001/snap13.shtml

[33] For further details see Roma Rights, No 2-3, 2001, Snapshots from Around Europe, at: http://errc.org/rr_nr2-3_2001/snap13.shtml

[34] For further details see Roma Rights, No 2-3, 2001, Snapshots from Around Europe, at: http://errc.org/rr_nr2-3_2001/snap13.shtml

[35] For further details see Roma Rights, No 2-3, 2001, Snapshots from Around Europe, at: http://errc.org/rr_nr2-3_2001/snap13.shtml

[36] For further details see Roma Rights, No 2-3, 2001, Snapshots from Around Europe, at: http://errc.org/rr_nr2-3_2001/snap13.shtml

[37] For further details see Roma Rights, No 1, 1999, Snapshots from Around Europe, at: http://errc.org/rr_nr1_1999/snapsa.shtml

[38] States are obliged to work to end statelessness on their territories, a fact attested to by the existence of two international Conventions aiming to reduce it and/or ameliorate its effects  -- the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Croatia has succeeded to the former in 1992. It states, inter alia, "The Contracting States shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalization of stateless persons. They shall in particular make every effort to expedite naturalization proceedings and to reduce as far as possible the charges and costs of such proceedings." (Article 32).


Statelessness and citizenship issues have recently been high on the European agenda and, reflecting these concerns, in 1997, the European Convention on Nationality was adopted. The Convention importantly sets down that conditions regulating the acquisition and loss of citizenship in the context of state succession are fundamentally different from those governing acquisition and loss of citizenship normally. Here, the necessity of avoiding statelessness is paramount. The  Convention states, under Article 18 of Chapter VI, which deals exclusively with citizenship in the context of state succession:

 "1 In matters of nationality in cases of State succession, each State Party concerned shall respect the principles of the rule of law, the rules concerning human rights and the principles contained in Articles 4

and 5 of this Convention and in paragraph 2 of this article, in particular in order to avoid statelessness.


 2 In deciding on the granting or the retention of nationality in cases of State succession, each State Party concerned shall take account in particular of:

a) the genuine and effective link of the person concerned with the State;

b) the habitual residence of the person concerned at the time of State succession;

c) the will of the person concerned;

d) the territorial origin of the person concerned. [...]"


According to Article 8(a) of the Declaration on the Consequences of the State Succession for the Nationality of Natural Persons formulated by the European Commission for Democracy through Law and clarified in the Explanatory Report: "In all cases of state succession, the successor state shall grant its nationality to all nationals of the predecessor state residing permanently on the transferred territory." According to Article 8(b) of the Declaration, nationality shall be granted without any discrimination in particular on the basis of ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or political opinion. (See European Commission for Democracy through Law, Explanatory Report on the Declaration on the Consequences of State Succession for the Nationality of Natural Persons, adopted at its 28th Plenary Meeting, Venice, September 13-14, 1996, CDL-NAT(96)8rev).

[39] Law on Croatian Citizenship, Article 30.

[40] Law on Croatian Citizenship, Article 8, para. 4.

[41] Law on Croatian Citizenship, Article 8, para. 5.

[42] For example, ERRC interview with Mr Muhamet Hajrizi, a citizen of Bosnia, revealed that he was refused Croatian citizenship on December 10, 1996 because he had evidently failed to convince the Croatian authorities that he was sufficiently wedded to Croatian culture as required under Article 8, paragraph 1, point 5. Mr Hajrizi told us that Ministry of Interior officials had explained that since he had not fought in the war for Croatian independence, he would not receive citizenship.

[43] See Government Report, para. 184.

[44] See Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, Opinion on Croatia, para. 65, Op.cit.

[45] Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, Opinion on Croatia, adopted on 6 April 2001, para. 28, Op. cit.at:

[46] See Human Rights Watch, World Report 2001, Croatia, Human Rights Developments, at: http://www.hrw.org/wr2k1/europe/croatia.html

[47] See U.S. Department of State, Croatia, Op. cit.

[48] See European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, p. 13, Op.cit.

[49] Ibid.

[50] For further details see Roma Rights, No 2, 2000, Snapshots from Around Europe, at: http://errc.org/rr_nr2_2000/snap27.shtml

[51] For further details see Roma Rights, No 2, 2000, Snapshots from Around Europe, at: http://errc.org/rr_nr2_2000/snap27.shtml

[52] For further details see Roma Rights, No 4, 2001, Snapshots from Around Europe, at: http://www.errc.org/rr_nr4_2001/snap10.shtml

[53] For further details see Roma Rights, No 1, 2001, Snapshots from Around Europe, at: http://www.errc.org/rr_nr1_2001/snap1.shtml

[54] The Government report has listed the Ombudsman under Article 6 as a venue for effective protection and remedies against racial discrimination. See Government report, paras. 182-183, Op.cit.