Croatia: New Helsinki Committee Bulletin


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Subject: Croatia: New Helsinki Committee Bulletin

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Croatia: New Helsinki Committee Bulletin


BULLETIN NO. 14
September 29, 1998
 
The CHC Monitors the Pakračka Poljana Trial
 
Bajramović Miroslav, the fourth out of the eight accused, in the
Pakračka Poljana case, asked that the CHC for Human Rights monitor his
situation in prison, his treatment in the prison hospital, as well as
to attend the court proceedings at the County court in Zagreb.

Let us remind you: the Zagreb Public Prosecutor's office pressed
charges on six accounts against Munib Suljić, Igor Mikola, Sini a
Rimac, Miroslav Bajramović, Zvonimir Zako ek, Kre imir Prosinečki,
Branko Šarić, and Zoran Karlović, of committing criminal acts of
murder and maltreatment during 1991. The indictment was submitted at
the end of November 1997. The trial attracted considerable attention
of the domestic and international public which is confirmed by the
fact that the monitors from the Croatian Law Center, UNHCR and the CHC
are present at the trial, since the matter concerns dark side of the
patriotic war. The incidents steered a great commotion in the media
after the confession of the now accused Miroslav Bajramović in the
Split weekly "Feral Tribune" in September last year.

In the trial against Dinko Šakić, a former commander of the Ustasha
concentration camp in Jasenovac (the witnesses of the prosecution are
still being questioned), the trial for the crimes committed in the
patriotic war will show to what extent is the Croatian judiciary
independent, specifically how much does the current Croatian
authorities dare to accept and cleanse entirely the blame from the
past.
 
The CHC Activist's Report for August 1998
 
The most common cases of human rights violations  were the ones
related to the return of private property.

It has been expected that the decision to form housing commissions in
accordance with the Program of Return and Care of Displaced Persons,
Refugees and Resettled Persons of the Government of the Republic of
Croatia would achieve positive results, however the information
received from the field is not encouraging at all, because for example
in some places like in Karlovac the Commissions have not even started
to operate. We can talk about some improvement because of the certain
number of recently renovated houses. The displaced persons and
refugees, whose houses have been restored have been leaving the
apartments and houses which they had been using temporarily, leaving
them to the returnees-owners. However, in most cases the temporary
users take all the mobile property which does not belong to them. Also
they do not inform the Commission about abandoning the houses or flats
given to them, nor do they return the keys to the owners. Therefore
the owners are forced to break into their own houses and flats. The
police refuses to help the owners enter their own apartments, while
before it even helped the temporary users to break in.

In regions where the housing commissions exist - like in Knin - they
have started to receive the requests. However, another problem
appeared related to the letters of confirmation regarding the places
of residence which should be attached to the requests. In the Knin
police station a few of such confirmations were issued however such
practice has been abruptly stopped with an excuse that they had some
technical problems and that the requested confirmations should instead
be sent by mail. This is how the whole process has been slowed down.

The Office for Refugees and Displaced Persons of the Republic of
Croatia has been granting permissions to the displaced persons to
return to their houses and flats (green cards) in spite of the fact
that in his/her house lives another family for whom the new
accommodation has not been found yet. In some cases the police,
abusing its position, react in a way contrary to everybody's
expectation. This is how they suggested that some temporary users let
the owners enter the house in order to bring back their furniture. The
result was the forceful entrance of the owners to the flat and a
conflict.

We can also mention the cases of violence against the returnees, and
against the local Serbs who have been regularly subjected to
harassment, intimidation and physical abuse. If we add job
discrimination (due to ethnicity), the whole process of return of the
refugees is becoming more serious.

Most cases of human rights violations have been reported in Pla ki,
Knin and Karlovac...
 
The CHC Presidency is Asking Čičak to Withdraw his Resignation
 
The CHC presidency has seriously looked into whole situation within
the CHC Committee and Office after resignation of I. Z. Čičak.

The Presidency has unanimously decided not to accept  I. Z. Čičak's
resignation and instead asked him to withdraw his resignation and
continue with his work within the institution. The Presidency highly
admires I.Z.Čičak's contribution to protection and promotion of human
rights in Croatia and is unanimous in their opinion that his leaving
would mean a great and irreparable loss for the CHC and protection of
human rights in Croatia.

The Presidency suggest that the whole issue be discussed at the
Plenary meeting of all members of the CHC as soon as possible.
 
CHC and GONG - Monitor the Elections Together
 
The Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (CHC) and Citizens
Organized to Monitor Voting (GONG), which is a domestic
non-governmental organization, signed an agreement on mutual
co-operation in monitoring and observing elections. The first joint
project of these two non-governmental organizations will be
monitoring  the election of Dubrovačko-Neretvanska County Assembly
which will take place on October 11, 1998.

The CHC and GONG held a press conference for journalists on September
25, 1998 in Dubrovnik. The journalists were thoroughly informed about
the future activities of the CHC and GONG regarding the elections.
Apart from teaching the citizens about their rights regarding voting,
GONG will, with the support of the CHC, organize meetings of citizens
with the candidates in 6 out of 10 electoral units in
Dubrovačko-Neretvanska County.

The CHC and GONG warned the public about the inconsistency of the
Croatian electoral legislation which allows that the international
observers monitor elections but not the domestic ones. GONG, being a
domestic non-governmental organization did not receive a permission
from Ivan Mrkonjić, President of the Electoral Commission, to monitor
the elections.

The CHC, a member of the International Helsinki Federation which
according to the Copenhagen document of the OSCE from 1990, has a
fully recognized observer status in monitoring the elections, received
a negative reply from the same Electoral Commission on September 28,
1998, several days after they submitted the request to monitor the
elections. The Electoral Commission acted contrary to the standards of
the Copenhagen document of the OSCE from 1990, in spite of the fact
that Croatia is a member of the Council of Europe and OSCE and thus
the whole matter represents a direct violation of certain norms and
standards which Croatia has pledged to uphold. The Electoral
Commission has also acted contrary to the Croatian Constitution which
gives priority to the international documents over domestic
legislation.

The CHC and GONG ask that the representatives and members of the
parties in the Croatian state parliament build into our new Law on the
Electoral Procedure the possibility for conducting non-partisan,
independent and non-governmental monitoring of elections and in such a
way make the Croatian legislation compatible with the European
standards and norms.
 
The Orthodox Cemetery Devastated in Nova Gradi ka
 
The CHC activists reported the demolition and devastation of the 217
gravestones in the Orthodox cemetery in Nova Gradi ka,
Brodsko-Posavska county. The representatives of the Ministry of
Interior of Croatia claim that the perpetrator is a 13 year old boy
G.K from Nova Gradi ka.

The head of the CHC regional center, Franjo Tot, received on September
21, 1998 an anonymous note that the gravestones at the Orthodox
cemetery in Nova Gradi ka had been destroyed. The CHC team went
immediately to cemetery and confirmed that the information was
correct. After their visit to the cemetery and interviews with the 
witnesses, the CHC activists reported that 217 gravestones were
destroyed, which makes 80% of the whole cemetery. The local witnesses
claim that the devastation of the Serb cemetery was first noticed in
April this year and that the police station in Nova Gradi ka was
informed about it on time. The destruction of the cemetery continued
on September 12 and 13 and on September 19, 20 and 21 when most of the
gravestones were destroyed.

The CHC immediately wrote to the Ministry of Interior and the Nova
Gradi ka Second police station reacted on September 23, 1998 by
pressing charges against a minor, G.K, 13 year-old boy from Nova Gradi
ka blaming him for desecration of "26 gravestones causing material
damages at the amount of 5 thousand kunas"

The CHC, according to the evidence at their disposal, testimonies of
the activists themselves and statements of the witnesses, claims that
the reply of the police is cynical and unconvincing. There are
witnesses who claim that they saw three adults dressed in the
sportswear who were seen destroying the cemetery on September 21 1998,
between 12 and 16 hours.
 
Edited by: Media Department
Address: glas@open.hr
 
_______________________________________
 
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Minority Rights Group - Greece
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