<<previous  | index  |  next>>


To the Croatian Government

On Repossession of Property

  • Temporary occupants who refuse the housing care of temporary alternative accommodation offered by the government should be evicted after prompt proceedings meeting due process standards.
  • Courts should use expedited procedures for resolving repossession cases, irrespective of whether these have been initiated by the state prosecutor or the property owner.
  • Temporary occupants’ use of Serb houses for business purposes should be promptly eliminated.
  • Temporary occupants who use the property only occasionally, while living and working elsewhere, should be deemed multiple occupants and evicted without prior provision of alternative accommodation.
  • Where members of a family lived in the same household before the war and now occupy two or more houses of Serb owners, it should be considered a case of multiple occupancy and the temporary occupants should be evicted without prior provision of alternative accommodation.
  • Temporary occupants who are determined to be financially or otherwise able to make other housing arrangements should be subject to eviction without prior provision of alternative accommodation.
  • The government should vigorously implement the new legislation, which denies entitlement to alternative housing care to temporary occupants who own vacated property in Bosnia and Herzegovina or Serbia and Montenegro.
  • If the owner of a sizable property is willing to share it with the temporary occupant, the government should allow the owner to repossess one part of the property for the period of time required to obtain permanent alternative accommodation for the temporary occupant of the remainder of the house.
  • The Ministry for Public Works, Reconstruction and Construction should also offer alternative accommodation in nearby municipalities from the one in which the temporary occupant currently lives. Refusal of such accommodation should be deemed as forfeiture of the entitlement to state-provided housing care, and the temporary occupants should be evicted.
  • Owners of temporarily occupied property should receive just rent from the state for continued deprivation of the use of property, as well as compensation for deprivation of the use of property in the past.
  • The Ministry for Public Works, Reconstruction and Construction should explore the possibility of making arrangements with owners who repossessed their houses but do not use them, whereby these houses could be rented by the state to provide temporary accommodation to those evicted from other properties.

On Tenancy Rights to Socially Owned Properties

  • Government authorities should publicly acknowledge the housing problems that have arisen since tenancy rights to socially owned properties were discontinued in 1996, and commit to addressing them.
  • Courts should reopen cases of termination of the tenancy rights. Given the circumstances at the time, the courts should adopt a rebuttable presumption that the holders left against their will, which, by virtue of the then applicable legislation, justified the absence from the apartment in excess of the authorized six-month period.
  • Where the apartments have not been privatized, the original tenancy rights should be reinstated, and the rights holders should be offered an opportunity to purchase the apartments on terms comparable to other privatizations.
  • Where the apartments have not been privatized because they were destroyed after the termination of the pre-war tenancy rights, the pre-war rights holders should be beneficiaries of the building reconstruction or should receive a tenancy right to a similar apartment in another location.
  • Where the temporary occupant has privatized the apartments, the former tenancy rights holder should receive a tenancy right to property of equivalent value.
  • If the former tenancy rights holder does not choose any of the solutions from the above, he should be given fair compensation.

On Reconstruction

  • The government should live up to its commitments to treat all applicants for reconstruction equally; it should ensure that government assistance is provided without discrimination based on ethnicity.
  • The government should pressure the county offices to speed up the procedure for assessing the degree of damage and other elements of application processing.
  • All county offices for reconstruction should approve requests for reconstruction assistance when the house was destroyed or damaged by “terrorist acts.” The Ministry for Public Works, Reconstruction and Construction should vigorously use its oversight power to ensure that county offices abide by its instructions.
  • The government should enact laws enabling property owners to sue for pecuniary and non-pecuniary loss when damage or destruction to their homes resulted from acts of violence or terror that the state was under a duty to prevent.

On Looted and Devastated Properties

  • Croatia should introduce looting and devastation as criminal offenses, rather than acts prosecutable in civil proceedings.
  • In court proceedings, courts should not require that the plaintiffs produce original receipts to prove ownership of stolen items. Statements of witnesses should be considered to create a rebuttable presumption of ownership.
  • The Ministry for Public Works, Reconstruction and Construction/ODPR should include a notice or warning to a temporary occupant about the criminal sanctions for looting or devastation.
  • State prosecutors should prosecute temporary occupants who intentionally damage or loot property that has been allocated to them.

On War Crimes Prosecutions

  • As part of the government’s ongoing, statewide review of the outstanding war-crime indictments and supporting evidence, those indictments for which the state prosecutor does not have a prima faciae case should be dropped.
  • Given the high number of dropped charges and acquittals in war crimes cases against Serb returnees in recent years, the authorities should in all possible cases pursue provisional release as an alternative to detention of indictees pending trial.
  • The government must end discriminatory practices in war crimes prosecutions, and ensure that prosecutions against members of the Serb minority and the Croat majority are treated the same way.
  • The government-owned media in Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro should publicize dropped charges against and acquittals or releases of war-crimes suspects, to better inform the public, including Serbs abroad, of the situation facing those who return.

On Employment

  • The government should closely monitor employment practices in state institutions and enterprises. Pertinent ministries should intervene in cases in which discrimination on ethnic grounds is apparent.
  • The government should end discriminatory practices and ensure fair employment opportunities for Serb returnees in the state administration and state-owned enterprises, if necessary by employing affirmative action policies.

  • The government should offer tax exemptions and other financial incentives to owners of private businesses who employ minority returnees.

  • On Pensions

    • The government should establish a new deadline for submitting requests for the validation of work completed between 1991-95 in the so-called Republika Srpska Krajina.
    • The authorities should decide on the claims for validation that were submitted prior to the last deadline (April 1999).
    • The government should relax the requirements for proving 1991-95 employment status, by eliminating the requirement that only witnesses who have validated their own employment status can testify that the applicant was employed in the same company. Witness statements should be considered to create a rebuttable presumption of the applicant's wartime employment.
    • The government should pay pensions covering the 1991-95 period to Croatian Serbs who lived outside government-controlled territory during that time. If they were receiving pensions from the Republika Srpska Krajina fund, they should receive pension installments reduced by the amount of such installments received.

    To the International Community

    • In all appropriate bilateral and multilateral meetings, urge the Croatian authorities to ensure non-discrimination and full respect for the rights of minorities, and to guarantee their right to return.
    • Condition enhanced political, military, and trade relations with the government of Croatia on its improving its record in the areas of refugee returns and non-discrimination.
    • Increase the level of assistance earmarked for reconstruction of returnee homes damaged or destroyed during the war.
    • Monitor Croatian laws governing returns to ensure they are applied effectively and in a non-discriminatory manner.
    • In the context of the Stability Pact regional return initiative’s Agenda for Regional Action (AREA), ensure that assistance aimed at encouraging and supporting the return of refugees by creating a sustainable economic development in return areas truly benefits those wishing to return rather than reinforce existing ethnic cleavages in society.

  • The World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development should make non-discrimination and the right to return prominent elements of their country assistance strategies.

  • To the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

    • Maintain a sufficient presence in Croatia to engage the Croatian authorities on key issues affecting the right to return, including access to housing, pensions, and employment on a non-discriminatory basis.

    To the United Nations

    • The U.N. treaty bodies (in particular Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Human Rights Committee,and Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) should follow up on the conclusions and recommendations they have issued following their reviews of Croatia and urge the government to make progress in meeting its international treaty obligations, guaranteeing equal treatment of minorities and the right to return. Persistent lack of progress on the part of the Croatian government should, where appropriate, warrant the request for additional information on measures taken by the Croatian government to remedy the shortcomings identified by the U.N. in its compliance with international law.

    To the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

    • Resist downsizing the OSCE presence in Croatia and reducing the number of offices in the country until visible improvements in the return process and the treatment of minorities have been achieved.
    • The OSCE presence in Croatia should continue regular and public reporting on conditions and policies related to refugee returns and non-discrimination.
    • The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights should appoint a senior official mandated to monitor and enhance the treatment of refugees and displaced persons in Croatia and elsewhere in the OSCE region.
    • The High Commissioner on National Minorities should carry out a mission to Croatia to investigate the situation of refugee returnees of ethnic minority origin and press for implementation of any recommendations that such a mission yields.

    To the European Union

    • Condition full cooperation and partnership under the Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilisation program (CARDS) on measurable progress in the areas of refugee return and non-discrimination.
    • Emphasize the necessity of significant progress in the areas of refugee return and non-discrimination in the run-up to the next review of Croatia’s implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, as spelled out in the April 2003 progress report.
    • The European Parliament-Croatia Joint Parliamentary Committee should maintain the questions of refugee returns and discrimination high on its agenda and, in particular, promote adequate representation of minorities in Croatia’s political landscape.
    • Progress on return—including specific demands regarding repossession of homes; resolution of the tenancy right issue; non-discrimination in reconstruction assistance, employment, and pension benefits; and an end to abusive war-crime prosecutions—should be required of Croatia for purposes of satisfaction of the Copenhagen political criteria for any progress on Croatia’s E.U. accession application.

    To the Council of Europe

  • The Parliamentary Assembly's post-monitoring dialogue with the Croatian government should emphasize refugee returns and non-discrimination, underscoring that the government’s failure to take specific steps to address this persistent problem could result in the reopening of its monitoring procedure. In so doing, the Assembly should take particular note of the Committee of Ministers Reply of September 18, 2001 to the Assembly’s Recommendation 1473(2000) on the issue of refugee returns.

  • Building on Recommendation 1406(1999) on “Return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes in Croatia,” and its accompanying report (Doc. 8368), the Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography should appoint a rapporteur to investigate the current situation and treatment of refugee returnees, and produce a report on its findings on the ground.

    • The Committee of Ministers should ensure adequate implementation of the recommendations of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), addressed to the Croatian government in its second report on Croatia, published in July 2001.
    • The Commissioner for Human Rights should carry out a visit to Croatia with the view to investigating the situation of refugee returnees and displaced persons in the country.

    <<previous  |  index  |  next>>

    September 2003