Croatian human rights at top of EU accession agenda
(Brussels, 3 March 2011) Amnesty International has welcomed a European Commission report calling for swifter reform of the Croatian justice system and improvements in the country’s human rights record. The Commission has said that Croatia must set a convincing track-record in addressing impunity for war crimes there.
Following the report’s publication, the EU’s Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle said the Commission proposes to conclude negotiations with Croatia once all shortcomings the report identifies, including impunity for war crimes, are addressed.
“This is an historic moment in EU enlargement policy”, said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “By setting demanding benchmarks on human rights and challenging impunity for war crimes, as part of the EU accession process, the EU has demonstrated its commitment to justice”.
In its latest report published in December 2010 ‘Behind a Wall of Silence. Prosecution of War Crimes in Croatia’ Amnesty International identified serious obstacles in Croatia’s justice system which permit ongoing impunity for war crimes and other crimes under international law committed during the country’s 1991-5 war.
The obstacles included failure to investigate war crimes allegedly committed by high-level Croatian officials, including the Deputy Speaker of the Croatian Parliament.
“Croatia, and other former Yugoslav countries, must understand that the international community will not turn a blind eye to the most serious crimes committed in the 1990s. The Commission has sent a powerful message of hope to the victims of those crimes”, said Beger.
Croatian non-governmental organisations have joined Amnesty International in urging their authorities to tackle the war crimes issue. The Youth Initiative for Human Rights (http://www.yihr.org/en) has identified nine senior Croatian officials who allegedly had command responsibility for war crimes committed during the 1991-5 war and who have evaded investigation.
Amnesty International has encouraged the Commission to maintain its strong position on prosecuting war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and has urged all EU member states to ensure that impunity for such crimes is properly addressed as part of the EU accession process.
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