PUBLIC STATEMENT BY COORDINATION OF ORGANISATIONS FOR PROTECTION AND PROMOTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE REPUBLIC OF CROATIA ON 16 JUNE, INTERNATIONAL DAY OF REFUGEES

The Co-ordination of organisations for protection and promotion of human rights in the Republic of Croatia, that gathers 18 non-governmental organisations which work on the protection and promotion of human rights all through Croatia, on June 16, the International Day of Refugees want to inform the public on its attitudes and thoughts on what would complete "Program of return and providing for refugees and displaced persons" should contain in order to guarantee that 1998. and following years would be years of return.

It would be unreasonable to claim, because of the character of the refugee crises in the area of former Yugoslavia, because of the problem of "connected containers", as due to material limitations of the Republic of Croatia, that it is possible to ensure mass return, and lately, self-preservation of that return, in a short period. Neither international community, nor non-governmental organisations for human rights have ever asked for that.

However, non-governmental organisations for human rights gathered in the Co-ordination of organisations for protection and promotion of human rights in the Republic of Croatia, do ask for:

  • respecting the right, which is established in the international documents, of all who wants it, to return to their homes, regardless of their ethnical, religious or other group, and regardless of their whereabouts during the war;

  • the right on return should not be conditioned in any way (the issue of possible legal responsibility is separated, and it is not in any kind of causal-consequent connection with the right to return);

  • the right on return is an individual right of every displaced person or refugee; equally, the right of every individual is to associate with others in order to alleviate the return; to talk about "mass return" means to forget that mass is made of individuals of which each and every one has the indisputable individual right to return. The Croatian State Parliament is the only - as legislature body - which can solve the whole problem of return, in the only valid way - by laws (not by "decrees" and "instructions"); the laws must comply with the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia and obligations adopted from signed and ratified international conventions.

    Only those who are willing to concede right to return to every individual and are determined to help him/her in realising that right, would be able to elaborate "credible concept of the return of refugees and displaced persons in all parts of Croatia"

    Have the Government and the Parliament of the Republic of Croatia those qualities?

    We witness constant inducing of opposing to refugee return in Croatian public, through state media, by intimidating the public with the consequences on their safety and life standard provoked by the return, which aims at obtaining general support to the policy of return defended by Croatian authorities.

    The Croatian Government passed, in the October 1997 (almost seven months ago) the Program on Establishing the Trust, Accelerated Return and Normalisation of Life in War Inflicted Areas of the Republic of Croatia. The goals of that programme were, among others: creating general atmosphere of tolerance and safety, achieving equality of all citizens in front of the administration, the return of Croatian citizens in areas of the Republic of Croatia from which they were exiled, as soon, safe and organised as possible, and creating political framework for execution of all valid legal norms. Seven months after passing the programme, on which we did not have any objections at the time, the situation in neither of these areas is not developing as fast and wide as it would be objectively possible. On the contrary, we witness every day that those who encourage national non-toleration are given great space in media.

    We demand changes of the Government's "return policy", from insincere and non-trustworthy, into trustworthy and promising, in sense of providing hope to all displaced persons and refugees that they will be able, if that is what they really want, to return to their home.

    In that sense, we expect that the Programme of return and providing for refugees and displaced persons, which should be passed within next four days, should be based on the following principles:

  • the right on return can not and must not be conditioned in any way; it is an individual right of every citizen, without discrimination;

  • the possession right is guaranteed to all the owners, in all its elements (the right of use, possession and disposal), no matter where they are (in the Republic of Croatia, in FRY, Bosnia and Herzegovina or third countries); citizens as individuals can not be "hostages" because of possible debts of their countries;

  • Acquired citizens' rights must be acknowledged to all persons who lost them due to war events (the possession right, tenancy right, the review of the procedure in cases of cancelling the tenancy right should be enabled).

    In that sense, it is necessary that the Programme of Return and Providing for Displaced Persons and Refugees foresees, i.e., to invalidate immediately, following laws, which were passed, in our opinion, at least partially, in order to make return more difficult and to acknowledge illegal condition created by violence and war:

  • The Law on Temporary Take-over and Managing of Certain Properties, completely and immediately (The Ombudsman is demanding the same, in his report for 1997); also, the Law on Invalidating the Law on Temporary Take-over and Managing of Certain Properties must fortify the way of curing negative consequences originated in three years of applying the Law;

  • The Law on Renting Apartments in Liberated Territory; also, to legally solve the consequences of applying the Law;

  • We demand immediate invalidating of the Article 14. Provision 2. of the Law on the Status of Displaced Persons and Refugees (that is also demanded by the Ombudsman in his report for 1997);

  • We demand both changes and supplement of the Law on the Areas of Special Interest of the State of the Republic of Croatia, by invalidating articles 8., 9. and 10.

    All listed laws or specific articles need to be invalidated, not only because they make the return impossible, but also because they obviously contradict the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia.

  • we demand that Croatian State Parliament urgently pass the law which will regulate compensation for damages caused by terroristic acts (which was promised back in time of invalidating Article 180. of the Law on Compulsory Relations), i.e., to pay the damages to the owners of property destroyed in terroristic acts in the areas where there were not war activities, and whose property was insured by Croatian insurance companies (the damages should be paid by insurance companies);

  • we demand immediate implementation of the Law on Renewal, the Law on the Areas of Special State Care, the Amnesty Law, the Law on Citizenship (which should be changed in transitional and final provisions) and other decisions on which the Republic of Croatia has committed itself, in practise, equally, and without discrimination;

  • we demand that the Committee for Human Rights… of Croatian State Parliament calls to order Mr. Miroslav Kiš, the chairman of the Committee for Human Rights and Rights of Ethnic and National Communities or Minorities of the Croatian State Parliament, because of the unacceptable statements on the Ombudsman's report for 1997. By that, not only that he did not contribute to the reconciliation, which should be Croatian State Parliament official policy, but also he spread ethnical non-toleration.

    The return of all people to their houses and apartments is of such vital interest (although it may not always seem so to us, who were in our houses and flats all this time) to the citizens of Croatia (and for the citizens of all neighbouring states), that we propose establishing responsibility and sanctioning of all persons in charge of implementing laws, who do not implement them, or misconduct or misuse them in way that prevents the return of displaced persons and refugees, or that makes the return more difficult.

    The members of the Co-ordination of Organisations for Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in the Republic of Croatia:

    Center for Direct Protection of Human Rights, Zagreb
    Center for Civil Initiatives, Poreč
    Centre for Peace, Non-Violence and Human Rights, Osijek
    Center for Peace, Legal Advice, Psychosocial Support, Vukovar
    Central Bureau for refugees, Human Rights and Rights of National Communities or Minorities in SDF
    Dalmatian Committee for Human Rights, Split
    Dalmatian Committee for Solidarity, Split
    Civil Committee for Human Rights, Zagreb
    Group for Women's' Right B.a.B.e., Zagreb
    Committee for Human Rights, Karlovac
    Peace Movement "Suncokret", Rijeka
    Committee for Human Rights in Serbian Community, Rijeka
    Association for Peace and Human Rights "Baranja", Darda
    Association for Human Rights Protection and Civic Freedom "Homo", Pula
    Women Group Lošinj, Mali Lošinj

    Centar za direktnu zaštitu ljudskih prava
    Center for Direct Protection of Human Rights
    1998