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map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

The Republic of Croatia is a constitutional parliamentary democracy with an independent presidency.

The President is the head of state and is elected by direct popular vote for a term of 5 years. The President is limited to serving no more than two terms. In addition to being the commander in chief, the President appoints the Prime Minster and Cabinet members with the consent of Parliament. Following the death of President Tudjman in December 1999, the powers of the presidency were curtailed and greater responsibility was vested in Parliament.

The Prime Minister, who is nominated by the President, assumes office following a parliamentary vote of confidence in the new government. The Prime Minister and government are responsible for proposing legislation and a budget, executing the laws, and guiding the foreign and internal policies of the republic.

The Croatian Parliament, also known as the Sabor, recently became a unicameral body after its Upper House (Chamber of Counties) was eliminated by constitutional amendment in March 2001. The remaining body, the Chamber of Representatives, consists of 151 members, who serve 4-year terms elected by direct vote. The Sabor meets twice a year--from January 15 to July 15 and from September 15 to December 15.

The powers of the legislature include enactment and amendment of the Constitution, passage of laws, adoption of the state budget, declarations of war and peace, alteration of the boundaries of the Republic, and carrying out elections and appointments to office.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Courts & Judgments

Croatia has a three-tiered judicial system, consisting of the Supreme Court, county courts, and municipal courts. Croatia's Supreme Court is the highest court in the Republic. The Supreme Court assures the uniform application of laws. Members of the high court are appointed by the National Judicial Council, a body of 11 members, and justices on the Supreme Court are appointed for life. The court's hearings are generally open to the public.

The Constitutional Court is a body of 13 judges appointed by Parliament for an 8-year term. The Constitutional Court works to assure the conformity of all laws to the Constitution.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Human Rights The Croatian Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens and there were some improvements during 2001; however, serious problems remained. Despite some irregularities, the Government's conduct of elections in 2000 improved citizens' ability to change their government peacefully. There were instances of arbitrary arrest and detention. The Government continued to arrest and charge persons for war crimes committed during the 1991-95 conflicts in Bosnia and Croatia, and the problem of arrests of ethnic Serbs for war crimes despite extremely weak evidence continued. Lengthy pretrial detention continued to be a problem, particularly for ethnic Serbs indicted for war crimes. Domestic courts continued to adjudicate war crimes cases, taking steps to depoliticize cases against ethnic Serbs and opening or reopening investigations of members of Croatian military forces. However, ethnic Serbs remained incarcerated after being convicted in nontransparent politicized trials in past years. Reforms in the courts and prosecutor's offices resulted in some improvements in the impartiality of the judiciary; however, courts convicted persons in mass trials and in trials with weak supporting evidence, particularly in Eastern Slavonia. The courts continued to be subject to some political influence on the local level and suffered from bureaucratic inefficiency, insufficient funding, and a severe backlog of cases. At times the Government infringed on privacy rights; restitution of occupied property to (mostly ethnic Serb) refugees returning to the country remained slow and problematic. The Government generally respected freedom of speech and press; however, a few problems remained. Unlike the previous regime, the Government did not interfere politically in the editorial decisions of the media; however, at the local level, political pressure on the media continued, and an estimated 1,200 libel lawsuits against journalists remained pending due to backlogs in the judicial system. A new Law on Associations reduced governmental interference in the formation and operation of associations and NGO's and created tax incentives for donors supporting them. The Government generally respected freedom of religion; however, restitution of nationalized property remained an unresolved problem for the religious communities. Lack of progress on private property restitution and resolution of the right to previously socially-owned property, along with severe economic difficulties in the war-affected areas, continued to impede returns of refugees. The Government's record of cooperation with international human rights and monitoring organizations and with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) continued to improve.

Violence and discrimination against women persisted. There were some incidents of violence and harassment of religious minorities. Ethnic minorities, particularly Serbs and Roma, faced serious discrimination, including occasional violence. While some progress was made, ethnic tensions in the war-affected areas remained high, and abuses, including ethnically motivated harassment and assaults, continued to occur. The Government did not respect some labor rights in practice. Trafficking in women was a problem.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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