1. The Committee
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights considered the initial report
of Croatia (E/1990/5/Add.46) on the implementation of the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at its 69th, 70th and
71st meetings, held on 19 and 20 November 2001 (E/C.12/2001/SR.69-71),
and adopted, at its 83rd and 84th meetings, held on 28 November 2001,
the following concluding observations.
2. The Committee
welcomes the initial report of the State party, which was prepared in
conformity with the Committee's guidelines.
3. The Committee
notes with appreciation the high quality of the written and oral replies
given by the State party, as well as the open nature of the constructive
dialogue with the delegation, which included senior experts. It welcomes
the willingness of the delegation to provide further information in
writing in response to those questions that could not be answered during
B. Positive aspects
4. The Committee
welcomes the succession of the State party to the six major international
human rights treaties, including the Covenant and the fundamental human
rights conventions of the International Labour Organization. It notes
with satisfaction that, in accordance with article 140 of the State
party's revised Constitution (2001), international agreements to which
the State is a party enjoy supremacy over domestic laws and can be directly
applied in domestic courts. It welcomes the fact that the Covenant has
in some instances been invoked in court proceedings. It also welcomes
the efforts being made to provide training to judges in the applicable
international human rights standards. In addition, it welcomes the explicit
enumeration of a number of economic, social and cultural rights in the
5. The Committee
notes with satisfaction that many of the pre-independence laws and post-independence
transitional measures are being amended or superseded by new laws that
better conform to international human rights principles. Laws have been
enacted or amended to make a number of specific types of violence against
women an offence prosecutable by the public prosecutor ex officio, and
the National Policy for the Promotion of Gender Equality 2001-2005 and
the proposed amendments to the laws governing elections have among their
aims the promotion of political participation by women. In addition,
the Committee welcomes the recent amendment of former article 210 of
the Labour Law, by which failure by an employer to pay salaries to his
or her employees within 30 days is now recognized as a valid ground
for the employees to go on strike.
6. The Committee
notes that the State party is benefiting from international assistance
with respect to the broad questions of democratization, human rights,
reconstruction and development, which affect the enjoyment of many economic,
social and cultural rights. It notes that sizeable assistance programmes
are being provided by donor States and international and regional organizations.
It welcomes the collaboration between the State party and the Office
of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
C. Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Covenant
7. The Committee
recognizes that Croatia is in a state of transition, recovering from
armed conflict, which is causing complex socio-economic, political and
other difficulties in the implementation of the rights provided for
in the Covenant, including a breakdown of the social welfare system,
acute levels of unemployment and extensive damage to the nation's physical
infrastructure. One legacy of the war has been a high level of violence,
both physical and verbal, in the public and private spheres. This problem
of violence, including that directed against women, members of trade
unions, and members of certain ethnic groups, has been exacerbated by
the weak economy.
8. The Committee
notes that the large numbers of internally and externally displaced
persons has created additional strains on the State party's resources.
The Committee also notes the high proportion of elderly persons living
in, or seeking to return to, the State party, which places high demands
on the output of a proportionally smaller economically active population,
through the pension system, health-care system and other social welfare
D. Principal subjects of concern
9. The Committee
notes with concern that measures to promote ethnic harmony appear to
be inadequate and are impeded by continued application of discriminatory
laws, policies and practices. It is concerned by reports that private
acts of discrimination and ethnically-motivated violence are frequently
not adequately addressed by the competent authorities.
10. The Committee
notes with concern that many displaced ethnic Serbs continue to face
legal and administrative difficulties in attempting to repossess their
former homes. The Committee is also concerned that while the process
of repatriation and relocation of ethnic Serbs has begun showing signs
of improvement, the results and the pace of their return and the settlement
of their property and tenancy claims in relation to those of other displaced
Croatians reveal that ethnic Serbs continue to face excessive obstacles
to their return. The Committee is deeply disturbed that these obstacles
have resulted in the violation of the rights of many Serbs under articles
2 and 11 of the Covenant.
11. The Committee
expresses particular concern that the granting of citizenship under
the Law on Croatian Citizenship (1991) has not been governed by fair
and objective non-discriminatory criteria based on pre-war residence
and connections to Croatia, and as a result has heavily favoured ethnic
Croats. The Committee notes with concern that the inability to prove
habitual residence negatively affects the possibility of obtaining Croatian
nationality for persons from certain minority groups who left during
the war and wish to return to Croatia.
12. The Committee
is deeply concerned about the scale of unemployment in the State party,
which creates conditions in which the right to work cannot be enjoyed
by a considerable part of the population, particularly in those areas
with large numbers of returnees. The Committee is also concerned about
reports of discrimination in employment on the basis of gender, age
and ethnic origin.
13. The Committee
expresses concern that women are generally employed in lower-paying
and lower status jobs and are poorly represented in public service and
office. There continues to be no legal prohibition against sexual harassment
in the workplace. Despite the welcome inclusion of offences of sexual
violence in the reformed Criminal Code (1999) and the offences of marital
rape and domestic violence in the new Family Law (1999), the lack of
sensitization concerning such crimes among the police and the lack of
effective procedures to deal with those crimes leaves women with little
practical protection against violence in the home.
14. The Committee
is concerned that Croatia is reported to be a major transit point for
human trafficking, especially of women. The Committee regrets that it
has received no information on the nature, extent or causes of the phenomenon
of human trafficking.
15. The Committee
is alarmed at the large backlog of cases before the courts, estimated
at 1 million cases in a country with a population of about 4.8 million
people, which impedes access to justice. The Committee is also concerned
that many court decisions that are favourable to minorities, particularly
ethnic Serbs, are not implemented by the responsible enforcement agencies.
The obstacles faced by many ethnic Serbs with regard to occupancy rights
and the difficulty they encounter when seeking redress though the courts
is illustrated, in particular, by Application No. 45943/99, Rudan
v. Croatia, recently decided by the European Court of Human Rights.
The facts of that case demonstrate the legal and administrative obstacles
facing a Serb family appealing the unilateral termination of occupancy
rights. Although the European Court of Human Rights declared this case
inadmissible ratione temporis, the Committee notes that the events
detailed in that case have occurred since 1992, when the Covenant was
in force in Croatia, and that the situation persists today.
16. The Committee
notes with concern that the legal criteria for establishing trade unions
are unduly narrow and do not conform to article 8 of the Covenant. It
is also concerned that the required minimum number of employees necessary
for the formation of a trade union is too restrictive.
17. The Committee
notes with concern that there are no reliable data with which the State
party can identify the most disadvantaged and marginalized groups.
18. The Committee
is concerned about the deterioration in the general standard of living
in the State party, which has ensued in part from economic instability,
high levels of unemployment, non-payment of salaries of many workers,
the unrecovered pension payments made by Croatians prior to independence
and the destruction during the war of vital infrastructure and settlements
that have not yet been reconstructed. The Committee is concerned that
some reconstruction efforts appear to have been disproportionately benefiting
certain ethnic groups.
19. With respect
to the right to education, the Committee commends the near achievement
of universal and free compulsory primary education, in conformity with
article 14 of the Covenant. However, it is concerned by reports that
some children from certain minority groups, in particular the Roma,
and children of undocumented aliens may not be going to school. The
Committee is concerned about reports that the curriculum and textbooks
used in schools contain derogatory references to minority groups.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
20. The Committee
urges the State party to undertake a comprehensive review of the phenomenon
of all forms of discrimination within the meaning of article 2 of the
Covenant and the relevant provisions of other international human rights
treaties to which the State is a party, particularly the International
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It recommends
that the necessary measures, including legislative reforms, be taken
to ensure that the rights of all minority groups are enjoyed throughout
the territory, without discrimination, in accordance with article 2.
21. The Committee
urges the State party to take effective measures to accelerate the return
and reintegration into Croatian society of all Croatian refugees without
discrimination, particularly of ethnic Serbs, by expediting the restitution
of their housing, arranging for adequate alternative accommodation or
providing them with compensation when restitution is not possible, as
explained by the Committee in its General Comment No. 7 on the right
to adequate housing.
22. The Committee
urges that the State party establish objective criteria for the granting
of citizenship to those wishing to obtain citizenship, in particular
to those who left during the war and wish to return to Croatia, irrespective
of ethnic origin, and that the Law on Croatian Citizenship be amended
accordingly. It further recommends that the State party ratify the 1961
Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
23. The Committee
encourages the State party to continue its efforts to reduce unemployment
and promote entrepreneurship. In so doing, the State party should ensure
that all such measures, including training of prospective employees
and placement of job-seekers with potential employers, are undertaken
in a non-discriminatory manner.
24. The Committee
strongly recommends that the State party undertake a comprehensive review
of the situation of women in all aspects of life, as members of the
family, in the workforce and as public servants, in order to assess
those situations in which women are at a disadvantage and to develop
appropriate laws and policies to address their inequality.
25. The Committee
recommends that the State party take measures to make sexual harassment
in the workplace a prosecutable offence.
26. The Committee
recommends that all present and future policies, laws and practices
be reviewed in the light of their potential effects on women and that
appropriate measures be taken to ensure that women are not disadvantaged.
27. The Committee
recommends that the State party include in its second periodic report
detailed information on the nature, extent and causes of the human trafficking
taking place in its territory.
28. In view
of the very large number of persons affected in the areas of occupancy
rights, acquisition of citizenship and other matters resulting from
the war and the aftermath of independence, the Committee is of the opinion
that the burden on the court system could be significantly reduced by
adopting non-discriminatory laws and by streamlining legal and administrative
29. The Committee
recommends that the State party arrange to provide extensive human rights
training for members of all professions that have a direct role in the
promotion and protection of human rights, including judges, lawyers,
the police and the military. Instruction on the Covenant should be part
of such training.
30. The Committee
strongly recommends that the State party review its criteria for establishing
trade unions in accordance with article 8 of the Covenant and with the
appropriate ILO conventions to which it is a party.
31. The Committee
urges the State party to structure its data collection efforts in the
future in such a way as to be able to identify clearly the most disadvantaged
and marginalized groups of society. It calls on the State party to conduct
studies of all its laws, policies and practices with a view to assessing
their effects on those groups, especially with regard to those areas
that most directly affect their basic living conditions, such as employment,
housing restitution, relocation, tenancy rights, health care, naturalization
and education. All data should be disaggregated by minority groups,
as well as by gender, religion, disability and any other relevant criteria
that will help the State party develop targeted programmes to help those
most in need.
32. The Committee
recommends that the State party reinforce its efforts to address the
high level of unemployment.
33. The Committee
recommends as a matter of urgency that the State party continue its
negotiations with the relevant authorities to ensure that Croatians
who made pension contributions prior to independence are able to benefit
from their pensions.
34. The Committee
recommends that the State party carefully review the probable effects
of its plans to privatize portions of the national health-care system
on the most disadvantaged and marginalized sectors of society, including,
in particular, the unemployed and underemployed, the homeless and those
living in poverty.
35. The Committee
urges the State party to ensure that the content of education is directed,
in accordance with article 13, paragraph 1, of the Covenant, to strengthening
respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, to enabling all persons
to participate effectively in a free society and to promoting understanding,
tolerance and friendship.
36. The Committee
recommends that immediate steps be taken to ensure that all children
residing within the territory of the State party, regardless of their
ethnic origin or the status of their parents, are able to go to school
and are protected from discrimination.
37. The Committee
urges that the educational curricula of schools at all levels be reviewed
with a view to promoting human rights education, mutual understanding,
tolerance and friendship, in accordance with article 13. Conversely,
any educational material that is discriminatory or derogatory towards
others should be removed. It recommends that the State party take guidance
in such educational reform from General Comment No. 13 of the Committee
on the right to education and by General Comment No. 1 of the Committee
on the Rights of the Child on the aims of education.
38. The Committee
strongly recommends that the State party establish an inclusive procedure
through which the views of non-governmental organizations can be taken
into account during the preparation of future reports. The next report
should be widely circulated among all interested sectors of civil society
and their input solicited.
39. The Committee
requests the State party to disseminate the present concluding observations
widely, including among government agencies and the judiciary, and to
inform the Committee on the steps taken to implement them in its second
40. The Committee
requests the State party to submit its second periodic report by 30