COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION
OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES
UNDER ARTICLE 9 OF THE CONVENTION
Concluding observations of the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination
474. At its 984th meeting, held on 19 March 1993, the Committee
expressed its grave concern over the ongoing ethnic conflict taking
place in the territory of the former Yugoslavia and requested the
Government of Croatia and other successor Governments of the former
Yugoslavia, in accordance with article 9, paragraph 1, of the Convention,
to submit further information on the implementation of the Convention,
to be submitted not later than 31 July 1993.
475. The report (CERD/C/249) submitted by the Government of Croatia
pursuant to the aforementioned decision was considered by the Committee
at its 1002nd meeting, held on 12 August 1993 (see CERD/C/SR.1002).
476. The report was introduced by the representative of the State
party, who said that the 1990 Constitution contained a number of
articles dealing with human rights. Discrimination on the basis
of race, colour, religion or national origin had been strictly prohibited.
Additionally, the Constitutional Law on Human Rights and Freedoms
and the Rights of Ethnic and National Communities or Minorities
had been adopted in 1991 and amended in April 1992. Reforms in municipal
law were under way and a special status for those areas having an
ethnic Serbian majority had been proclaimed.
477. At the international level, Croatia had succeeded to all of
the international human rights instruments to which the former Yugoslavia
had been a party. The date of entry into force for those instruments
had been 1 October 1991, the date of independence, so as not to
interrupt the coverage afforded by the provisions of those instruments.
The Government was also planning to ratify the Optional Protocol
to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Additionally,
a number of bilateral agreements had been concluded with neighbouring
States concerning the protection of minorities.
478. The representative stated that Croatia had cooperated with
the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights concerning
the situation of human rights in the territory of the former Yugoslavia
and had furnished him with the information which had been requested.
Croatia also intended to cooperate with the war crimes tribunal
which was to be established pursuant to the decision of the Security
479. The representative pointed out that the Government was not
in control of about a quarter of its territory and that it could
not ensure the implementation of the Convention in those areas.
In that connection, the Government had tried to negotiate with the
rebellious forces and, to that end, had promulgated an amnesty law
in October 1992 which exempted from prosecution all those who had
fought on the side of the Serbian forces. Those who had committed
grave breaches of international humanitarian law, however, would
not be exempted but would be subject to possible prosecution by
the war crimes tribunal.
480. Members of the Committee noted with satisfaction that the
report submitted pursuant to the Committee's request for information
was comprehensive and contained much useful information on the legal
framework for the protection of ethnic and national minority communities
in Croatia. Members noted, however, that further information was
required on the actual application of the relevant laws and the
extent to which the minority communities in the country enjoyed
the protections afforded by the Convention.
With respect to article 2 of the Convention, members of the
Committee wished to know whether measures which had been taken
protect human rights and fundamental freedoms had benefited members
of all minorities or only certain groups; whether article 14
the Constitution, which prohibited racial discrimination, applied
only to citizens of Croatia; what the legal difference was
the terms "minorities", "peoples", "nations"
and "communities" as referred to in article 15 of the
Constitution; what the achievements had been of the Office for Inter-Ethnic
Relations and the Council of representatives of ethnic and national
communities or minorities; and what steps were being taken to protect
those whose names appeared in "ethnic lists" of persons
considered to be of non-Croatian origin. Information was further
requested on the reported assassination or expulsion of ethnic
living in the Baranja area.
482. With respect to article 4 of the Convention, members wished
to know what steps had been taken to implement the provisions of
that article, particularly those provisions prohibiting racist activities
and racist propaganda; what measures had been taken to prohibit
the activities of ultra-nationalist organizations; and whether the
wearing or display of Nazi insignia had been prohibited, particularly
in regard to its reported use by elements of the Croatian army.
483. With respect to non-discrimination in the enjoyment of the
rights referred to in article 5 of the Convention, members of the
Committee wished to know what the precise criteria were for the
granting of citizenship; what steps had been taken to avoid delays
in the processing of applications for citizenship, particularly
in order to protect applicants from losing their social and educational
benefits; whether the guarantees for fundamental rights contained
in article 35 of the Constitution applied only to citizens; and
what steps had been taken to ensure that ethnic Serbs could effectively
participate in elections.
Members expressed deep concern over reports of illegal or arbitrary
detention, disappearances, torture, deaths in custody
and other abuses by Croatian forces and wished to know if those
allegations had been investigated and whether those responsible
had been prosecuted. In that connection, members asked what
been done to return to their rightful owners homes and businesses
which had been confiscated by armed bands; what measures had
taken to protect the rights and security of non-Croatians wishing
to return; whether allegations had been investigated concerning
secret prisons run by private groups where non-Croatians were
to detention and torture; whether persons of non-Croatian origin
had been taken into custody for the purpose of exchanging them
Croatians held by rebellious forces; and what steps had been taken
or foreseen to bring to justice Croatians who had been responsible
for serious or massive human rights violations and the commission
of war crimes. Members also requested further information on
implementation of the amnesty law of October 1992 and how its
application would affect cooperation with the war crimes tribunal
to be established
in accordance with the decision of the Security Council.
485. With respect to article 6 of the Convention, members of the
Committee wished to know what steps had been taken to ensure equal
treatment by the tribunals regardless of ethnic or national background
and what had been done to ensure that the crime of rebellion against
the State was not being used in a discriminatory way.
486. Members expressed satisfaction that Croatia had accepted a
large number of Bosnian refugees en route to other countries.
In that connection, members asked what had been done to expedite
the processing of their applications and to prevent the refoulement
of refugees fleeing the conflict in neighbouring countries. Members
also wished to know what measures had been taken to prevent the
participation of Croatian nationals in the armed conflict in Bosnia
487. The representative welcomed the establishment of an ongoing
dialogue with the Committee and, in that connection, invited the
Committee to send one of its members to Croatia in order to clarify
its concerns to the Government and to assist it in adapting its
legislation and policies to the requirements of the Convention.
Responding to the questions, the representative of the State
party stated that references to "certain" minority communities
in basic legal documents were to denote the special status accorded
to some groups in addition to the non-discrimination in the
of human rights which was accorded equally to all ethnic and
national minorities. The representative noted that owing to
the armed conflict
in some parts of the country, compliance with all of the provisions
protecting minorities had been slow in some cases.
With respect to reports of an "ethnic list", such
a list did, in fact, exist. That list, which had been drawn up
by private persons, had been condemned by the authorities and
found responsible for it had been prosecuted. Responding to allegations
of summary or arbitrary executions, the representative stated
some reports in that regard had not been correct and the alleged
victims had later been found living elsewhere in the country.
490. The representative stated that successive waves of refugees
had overburdened the capacity of medical and other basic facilities
to provide adequate services. The representative strongly denied
that Croatia had violated the principle of non-refoulement.
In that connection, the representative pointed out that Croatia
had been one of the first States to recognize Bosnia and Herzegovina
and stated that the authorities did not endanger the lives of those
fleeing to Croatia.
491. The representative emphasized that the Government strongly
condemned the use of Nazi emblems, which evoked memories of a fascist
past. The Government was fully cognizant that peace was needed in
order to start the economy and resume normal life. To that end,
dialogue had begun at a number of levels between the various communities.
The authorities were careful to avoid incitement to nationalistic
fervour. The representative reiterated that Croatia was committed
to trying those responsible for war crimes, whether in the national
courts or in the war crimes tribunal which was to be established.
In that connection, there was no encouragement, or cooperation with,
ethnic Croatian forces operating outside the borders.
492. At its 1010th meeting, held on 19 August 1993, the Committee
adopted the following concluding observations.
493. The Committee noted the report of the State party and the
additional information provided orally by the delegation. Although
the report was comprehensive, it focused mainly on the legal framework
for the protection of the rights of the minority communities and
did not contain sufficient information on the implementation of
those laws or on the extent to which minority communities actually
enjoyed the rights guaranteed under the Convention.
(b) Positive aspects
494. The Committee noted the efforts of the Government to incorporate
the Convention into domestic law and that in cases of conflict between
its provisions and those of domestic legislation the Convention
would prevail. The Committee welcomed the announcement that the
Government intended to adhere to the Optional Protocol to the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Committee also noted
information that the Government might consider making a declaration
under article 14 of the Convention.
495. The Committee expressed its satisfaction at the promulgation
of the Constitutional Law on Human Rights and Freedoms and the Rights
of Ethnic and National Communities or Minorities. The Committee
noted that effective implementation of that progressive legislation
could play a crucial role in establishing the foundation for mutual
respect and cooperation among the various ethnic and national communities.
(c) Principal subjects of concern
496. The Committee noted with concern the general lack of clarity
in a number of basic legal provisions guaranteeing non-discrimination
in the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms for members
of the minority communities. In some cases, guarantees would appear
to apply only to citizens of Croatia; in other cases, it was not
clear whether the rights of all ethnic and national groups were
497. The Committee expressed concern over problems relating to
statelessness and noted that delays in the processing of applications
for citizenship had led to interruption in the provision of educational
and social benefits for members of the minority communities.
498. The Committee was concerned about the practice of illegal
and arbitrary detention, disappearance, torture, deaths in custody
and other human rights abuses by Croatian armed and paramilitary
forces. The Committee was also concerned about reports of prisons
run by private groups who took non-ethnic Croatians into custody
for the purpose of exchanging them for ethnic Croatians held by
499. The Committee expressed concern over the circulation in Croatia
of ethnic lists of persons considered non-Croatian in origin, which
were used for discriminatory purposes, particularly concerning employment
opportunities. The Committee was also deeply concerned over the
reported use of Nazi insignia, in particular by elements of the
500. The Committee was concerned about the actual implementation
of recent laws adopted to ensure non-discrimination in the enjoyment
of human rights and fundamental freedoms by minorities in Croatia.
Effective policies and implementing mechanisms for existing constitutional
and legal guarantees would be of decisive importance in efforts
to restore inter-ethnic tolerance and harmony.
501. The Committee was informed by the State party that it was
unable to implement the Convention in part of its territory where
the dominant group did not recognize its authority.
502. The Committee noted with great concern that links existed
between Croatia and Croatian militias and paramilitary groups responsible
for massive, gross and systematic violations of human rights in
Bosnia and Herzegovina in territories controlled by Croats.
503. The Committee was also concerned that Croats in Bosnia and
Herzegovina were hindering the attempts of the Government of that
State to implement the Convention.
(d) Suggestions and recommendations
504. The Committee recommended that the application of existing
laws and regulations aimed at protecting the rights of non-ethnic
Croatians should be closely monitored and that mechanisms concerned
with their implementation should be strengthened. In that connection,
continuous monitoring of the actual situation pertaining to minority
communities would be necessary in order to measure the success of
government policies and to indicate where changes, including affirmative
action, should be considered in regard to minority groups which
were particularly vulnerable or disadvantaged.
The Committee emphasized the obligation of the State party,
under article 4 of the Convention, to condemn racist activities,
organizations and propaganda and to make such offences punishable
by law. Given the sensitive situation prevailing not only in
country but also in the region, condemnation, prohibition and
prosecution should also extend to ultra-nationalist and extremist
on ethnic grounds, such as the circulation of ethnic lists and
the display of Nazi emblems or the holding of non-ethnic Croatians
secret prisons. At the same time, active and visible measures
should be taken by authorities at all levels to promote inter-ethnic
and understanding among the general public. To that end, the
Government should encourage multi-ethnic organizations and
movements and foster
an ongoing dialogue among leaders and representatives of the various
communities to ensure respect for the observance of human rights
and the rights of the minority communities and their participation
in the democratic process. The Committee by no means encouraged
trends for separation or secession.
506. The Committee urged the Government of Croatia to undertake
all measures at its disposal with a view to bringing to an end the
massive, gross and systematic human rights violations occurring
in those areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina controlled by Croats. The
Committee also urged the State party to assist efforts to arrest,
bring to trial and punish all those responsible for crimes which
would be covered by the terms of reference of the International
Tribunal established pursuant to Security Council resolution 808
(e) Further action
507. The Committee, taking into account the invitation extended
to it by the representative to send one of its members to Croatia,
requested the State party to confirm to the Secretary-General by
1 October 1993 if it wished to accept that a mission be undertaken
by the country rapporteur under the advisory services and technical
assistance programme of the Centre for Human Rights to assist the
Government in reporting on the implementation of the Convention.
508. In accordance with article 9, paragraph 1, of the Convention,
the Committee requested further information from the State party
on measures taken to implement the provisions of the Convention,
particularly in view of the concluding observations adopted by the
Committee at its forty-third session. The State party was requested
to provide that information by 1 January 1994 so that it might be
considered by the Committee at its forty-fourth session.