Amnesty International: Croatia continues to push back migrants and restrict abortion

NEWS 24.04.202414:14 0 komentara
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The repatriation of refugees and migrants and violence against them continued in Croatia in 2023, access to abortion remained restricted and discrimination against Roma and Serb minorities continued, according to Amnesty International in its State of Human Rights in the World 2023 report. Pročitaj više

The international human rights NGO, which publishes annual reports on the state of human rights worldwide and in individual countries, also notes that the Croatian government committed itself in 2023 to taking action against the growing number of SLAPP complaints and tightening measures against domestic violence.

“According to the authorities, the number of people attempting to enter Croatia via neighbouring countries has increased by 70% compared to 2022, with over 65,000 entries recorded by November. Aid organisations continued to document violations against refugees and migrants, including illegal summary returns, physical violence, humiliation and theft by law enforcement officers. In October, the CERD Committee called on Croatia to halt collective deportations and pushbacks and to investigate incidents of excessive use of force against refugees and migrants,” AI said in its report.

Hundreds of SLAPPs against editors and journalists

On freedom of expression, AI says that “journalists investigating organised crime and corruption continue to face harassment, including Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs). According to a survey by the Croatian Journalists’ Association, there have been at least 945 SLAPPs against editors and journalists, mostly filed by public officials.”

“In December, the government adopted the National Plan for the Development of Culture and Media 2023-2027, which includes concrete measures to facilitate the early detection and dismissal of SLAPPs,” says AI, reminding that defamation remains a criminal offence.

“In July, the Ministry of Culture and Media proposed a draft media law that would, among other things, allow publishers and editors to refuse to publish a journalist’s report without justification and would oblige journalists to disclose their sources. The Croatian Journalists’ Association argued that the law would seriously undermine journalistic freedom and promote media censorship. The International Federation of Journalists called on the government to reconsider the proposal,” said AI.

As for sexual and reproductive rights, AI says the widespread refusal of individual doctors and clinics to perform abortions on grounds of the conscientious objection, as well as the prohibitive cost of the procedure and medication, continue to limit access to abortion services. Especially in rural and economically disadvantaged areas, abortions were still not possible.

“Domestic violence remained widespread. In September, the government announced a series of measures to combat violence against women. These included amendments to the Criminal code to classify femicide as a separate offence and impose longer sentences for rape, among other measures to strengthen victims’ rights.

“Women’s groups welcomed the measures and called on the government to adopt a comprehensive national plan to prevent and combat all forms of violence against women in line with the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention),” said AI.

Female victims of wartime rape face numerous obstacles when applying for the status of civilian victims of wartime sexual violence

In September, the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence praised the steps taken to stop domestic violence, but called on the authorities to do more, including implementing comprehensive measures to combat all forms of violence against women and increasing the number of shelters and other support for victims.

AI also commented on female victims of wartime rape, who face numerous obstacles when applying for the status of civilian victims of wartime sexual violence, which guarantees certain social benefits.

“According to civil rights organisations, victims had to provide excessive and difficult-to-obtain documents and testimonies, while some applicants were unfairly rejected because they were suspected of being related to members of the Serbian military or because the perpetrator was a member of the Croatian armed forces.”

The Roma continued to face extreme poverty and lived in miserable conditions in segregated neighbourhoods and informal settlements without adequate infrastructure, AI said.

In October, the CERD Committee expressed concern about reports of racial discrimination against members of the Roma and Serb minority, particularly in the areas of employment and education.

In the section of the country report dealing with the right to a healthy environment, AI notes that despite the recent expansion and good potential for renewable energy, “Croatia’s energy consumption continues to be dominated by fossil fuels.”

“Nevertheless, Croatia’s 2030 renewable energy target of 36.4% was ambitious and above the EU target of 32%.”

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