ECRI warns about escalation of racist and hate speech in Croatia

EPA-EFE/DANIEL KASAP

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The Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has warned that racist and intolerant hate speech in Croatia’s public discourse was escalating, with Serbs, LGBT persons and Roma being the main target. 

ECRI’s fifth Report on Croatia, which covers the situation up to December 7, 2017, reads - among other things -  that there is a growing rise of nationalism, particularly among the youth, which primarily takes the form of praising the fascist Ustasa regime.

In the regional media and on Internet, expressions of racism and xenophobia against Serbs, LGBT persons and refugees are commonplace, as is abusive language when referring to Roma. Physical attacks against these groups as well as their property also occur”, the report reads.

Croatia protests2

ECRI claims that responses of the Croatian authorities to these incidents “cannot be considered fully adequate”. “The authorities seldom voice any counter-hate speech message to the public. Criminal action is ruled out easily and most cases on hate speech and hate motivated violence are treated as misdemeanors. The lack of prosecutions does not provide an effective deterrent against such crimes”, the report explained.

At the same time, ECRI welcomed positive developments in Croatia, such as the fact that authorities have improved protection against hate crime through amendments to the Criminal Code, which introduced a new provision criminalizing violent conduct in public places. “The law now also punishes creation of or leading a group which promotes racism”, the report reads.

In July 2014, a new Law on Registered Same-Sex Partnerships was enacted, which improved the legislative framework for LGBT persons; however, according to ECRI, that is not enough.  

Croatia protests3

The authorities should introduce compulsory human rights education as part of civic education into all school curricula, especially as regards the right to equality and the prohibition of discrimination. Appropriate text books should be developed and teachers should continue receiving the necessary training in these subjects”, stated ECRI.

The authorities in Croatia should condemn hate speech and promote counter-speech by politicians and high-ranking officials. All political parties in the country should also condemn hate speech and call on their members and followers to abstain from using it. An action plan should be adopted to combat homophobia and transphobia in all areas of everyday life, including education, employment and health care”, the report concludes.

Croatia protests4

BACKGROUND

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), established by the Council of Europe, is an independent human rights monitoring body specialized in questions relating to racism and intolerance. It is composed of independent and impartial members appointed on the basis of their moral authority and recognized expertise in dealing with racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance.

In the framework of its country monitoring work, ECRI examines the situation concerning manifestations of racism and intolerance in each of the Council of Europe member states. ECRI’s findings, along with recommendations as to how each country might deal with the problems identified, are published in country reports.