HRC46: Croatia should ensure an enabling environment for human rights defenders

On 17 March 2021, Human Rights House Foundation and Human Rights House Zagreb issued a joint statement at the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council providing recommendations to Croatia that it ensures a safe an enabling environment for human rights defenders.

Human Rights House Foundation and Human Rights House Zagreb are committed to assisting Croatia in the UPR process and welcome opportunities to work alongside Croatia, and other delegations, on implementation.

We welcomed Portugal’s intervention, on moving towards a dedicated ‘national mechanism for implementation, reporting and follow-up, covering UPR recommendations, as well as those made by Treaty Bodies, the Special Procedures and relevant regional mechanisms.

We believe that Croatia would strongly benefit from such a mechanism and recommend immediate steps to develop one alongside civil society partners, and like-minded states.

Madam President.

The public discrediting of the work of human rights defenders and civil society organizations has continued. Those working on the rights of refugees have been the targets of intimidation and violence. Particularly worrying has been the attempt to criminalize their work through a broad interpretation of legal regulations.

In addition, while we welcome Croatia’s efforts on creating a new Protocol on Combating Hate Crimes, further steps must be taken to combat hate speech and hate-motivated violence, including against national minorities and LGBTQI persons.

Finally, journalists and media are exposed to an increasing number of lawsuits, including from high-ranking politicians, for publishing facts, transmitting statements, and defamation. With more than 1000 court cases against 19 media outlets in 2019 alone, these lawsuits have a chilling effect on reporting on prominent individuals and social problems.

We, therefore, recommend that Croatia:

  1. Ensure a safe and enabling environment for the work of human rights defenders and journalists;
  2. Secure public funding schemes for sustainable and long-term human rights work on advocacy and provision of social services;
  3. Create and implement a new, comprehensive plan to combat and counter hate speech, including through civic education;
  4. Enhance educational activities for judges concerning freedom of expression standards.

Thank you.

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