Croatia: Police structure, including hierarchy and jurisdiction; police effectiveness, particularly regarding treatment of ethnic minorities (2012- June 2014)
1. Police Structure
Sources indicate that the Croatian national police are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior (Croatia n.d.a; US 19 Apr. 2014, 3; OSCE 19 Feb. 2008). According to the website of the Ministry of the Interior, the General Police Directorate, which is an administrative body within the Ministry of the Interior managed by the General Police Director, oversees police activities and is responsible for:
- screening and analysis of the state of security and developments leading to the emergence and development of crime;
- harmonization, guidance and supervision over the work of Police Directorates and Police Administrations;
- immediate participation in particular more complex operations of Police Directorates and Police Administrations;
- providing for the implementation of the international agreements on police cooperation and other international acts under the competence of the General Police Directorate;
- organizing and conducting of criminal forensics operations;
- setting the prerequisites for the efficient work of the Police Academy;
- adopting of standards for the equipment and technical means;
- setting the prerequisites for the police readiness to act in the state of emergency. (Croatia n.d.a)
According to Croatia's Police Act, which was sent to the Research Directorate in correspondence from a representative of Croatia's General Police Directorate, the Croatian police are organized at three hierarchical levels:
- police stations
- police administrations and
- the General Police Directorate (Croatia 2011, Art. 8)
The heads of the police stations report to the heads of the police administrations, who report to the General Police Directorate (ibid.). Regarding the functions of the police administrations, Article 11 of the Police Act states:
In the territory of its jurisdiction, the Police Administration shall:
- make assessments of security situation, envisage a likely evolution of the security situation, make assessments of risks, define priorities of actions and make plans for the undertaking of measures and activities as well as for the necessary resources on the basis of which it shall adopt a Strategic Assessment as a fundamental document of the scope of the Police activity at regional level;
- based on the Strategic Assessment, adopt a Strategic Plan for the work of police administrations;
- harmonise, direct, coordinate and supervise the work of police stations;
- carry out police tasks directly within its scope of work and participate in the carrying out of certain more complex tasks pertaining to the scope of work of the police stations;
- carry out other tasks set out in special regulations. (ibid., Art. 11)
Sources indicate that there are 20 police administrations in Croatia (Croatia n.d.b; Interpol n.d.; OSCE 19 Feb. 2008). The police administrations are classified into four categories depending on the size of the area, population, number of crimes, traffic routes and geographical position (ibid.). A map and list of the police administrations, which is posted on the Ministry of the Interior's website, is attached to this Response.
According to a 2008 report by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), there are 187 police stations in Croatia (19 Feb. 2008). The police stations carry out the affairs of the police administrations and are divided into "regional sectors, patrol and contact districts" (Croatia 2011, Art. 12).
According to Interpol, there are 20,000 police officers in the Croatian police force (Interpol n.d.). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
Regarding the requirements of employment in the police force, Article 47 of the Police Act states:
A person who is admitted to the police force must fulfill the following conditions:
- Have Croatian citizenship.
- Have completed a four-year secondary education.
- Be under 30 years of age if, for the first time employment, he/she is to be employed at a secondary education post.
- Have special mental and physical health.
- Achieve specially prescribed level of physical-motility abilities.
- Be worthy of performing police tasks.
- Must not be a member of a political party. (Croatia 2011, Art. 47)
Regarding the ranks of police officers, Article 56 of the Police Act states:
An employee gains the status of a police officer by receiving a rank.
A police officer shall be assigned a rank depending on his/her qualifications, years of service as a police officer, the required examination passed and the annual grades received.
The following ranks have been established for police officers:
- police constable,
- senior police constable,
- independent police constable,
- police sergeant,
- senior police sergeant,
- independent police sergeant,
- senior inspector,
- independent inspector,
- chief inspector,
- police advisor, and
- Chief police advisor. (ibid., Art. 56).
2. Police Effectiveness
2.1 General Overview
The OSCE closed its Mission to Croatia in January 2012, claiming that its mandate, which included developing a democratic police service, was "successfully completed" (OSCE 17 Jan. 2012). According to the US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013, there were no reports of impunity or human rights abuses involving Croatia's security forces (which includes the police) during 2013 (US 19 Apr. 2014, 3).
According to police statistics posted on the website of the Ministry of the Interior, there were a total of 70,545 criminal offenses reported to the Croatian police in 2012, 58 percent of which were resolved (Croatia , 1). In 2013, there were 61,151 criminal offences reported, 59 percent of which were resolved (ibid.). Both the Ministry of Interior and HINA, the Croatian News Agency, report that there were 51 murders in 2012 and 41 in 2013 (ibid.; HINA 28 Apr. 2014). According to HINA, 36 of the 41 murders in 2013 were solved (ibid.). According to the Ministry of the Interior, 98 percent of the murders in 2012 and 2013 were resolved (Croatia , 1).
In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a representative of the Centre for Peace Studies (Centar za mirovne studije, CMS), a Zagreb-based NGO that "promotes non-violence and social change linking education, research and activism" (HRH n.d.), expressed the opinion that police effectiveness is "relatively good" overall, and that the police "do investigate cases and fight crime" (CMS 6 June 2014). However, she also said that the police have "problems with corruption, information leaking, and discrimination" (ibid.). In addition, she said that the police have a tendency to "protect their colleagues" (ibid.). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, the Head of Mission for Southeast Europe of the Coalition for Work with Psychotrauma and Peace (CWWPP), a Vukovar-based NGO that works on "issues of psychological trauma, non-violent conflict resolution, reconciliation and civil society" (CWWPP n.d.), provided his opinion on police effectiveness in Vukovar based on his personal experiences working with people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds through his work (CWWPP 6 June 2014). He said that people in Vukovar generally view the police as "discriminatory" and "corrupt," and that they "do not do their job of protecting people" (ibid.). He added that
[w]hether an individual can get adequate service from the police in Vukovar often depends on the individual police officer and the victim. The police intervene in some cases. I have heard of cases in which the police acted horribly and others in which the police were reasonable. (ibid.)
2.2 Corruption and Organized Crime
Freedom House reports that "[a]ccording to two surveys by the Ministry of Justice and the Zagreb-based NGO GONG, the Croatian public perceives corrupt politicians, judges, and policemen as society's most threatening criminals and the primary perpetrators of organized crime" (Freedom House 2013a, 189). Similarly, the CWWPP representative said that there have been many corruption scandals, and that this has been a factor in the lack of public confidence in the police and other government agencies (CWWPP 6 June 2014). According to an article by Balkan Insight, the police chief of Vukovar county, his deputy, and seven other police officers were arrested in 2013 on charges of criminal corruption and accepting bribes (Balkan Insight 2 Aug. 2013). The same source reports that, according to Croatian media sources, the charges were related to smuggling illegal immigrants (ibid.).
The European Commission's 2013 Monitoring Report on Croatia's Accession Preparations states that "[t]he legal and institutional framework for the suppression of corruption and organised crime is adequate," and describes law enforcement authorities as "proactive, including in higher-level corruption cases (e.g. former mayors, former deputy ministers) and corruption in law-enforcement institutions (several police officers)" (EU 26 Mar. 2013, 7). However, Freedom House notes that most of the high-profile corruption cases remained unresolved in 2013 (Freedom House 2013b). In contrast, according to the Ministry of the Interior's police statistics, there were 825 corruption cases reported in 2012 and 1,940 in 2013, of which close to 100 percent were resolved (Croatia , 1). The same source reports that there were 788 cases of organized crime in 2012 and 1,849 in 2013, with resolution rates of 96 percent and 99 percent respectively (ibid.). The European Commission reports that there are few sentences handed down in both corruption and organized crime cases (EU 26 Mar. 2013, 7). Statistics on the number of cases prosecuted by the judiciary could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
2.3 Police Effectiveness in Cases Involving Ethnic Minorities
The CMS representative said that there is still discrimination against ethnic minorities among the police, and that while the discrimination is not institutionalized within the Ministry of Interior, ethnic discrimination "can be a problem at the local level, particularly in places like Vukovar where there are still animosities between groups" (CMS 6 June 2014). She also said that there were not enough minorities employed by the police (ibid.). The Council of Europe's European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) reports that the number of national minorities employed in the civil sector is below the percentage of national minorities within Croatia (COE 25 Sept. 2012, para. 163-166). ECRI states that the number of Serbs employed nationally within the police force is "adequate," but that there are very few Serbs in the police in counties that have a high percentage of Serbs and that they should be better represented at the local level (ibid., para. 165).
The European Network Against Racism's (ENAR) Shadow Report 2011-2012: Racism and Related Discriminatory Practices in Croatia, which was authored by the Centre for Peace Studies, states that media in the country presents prevalent stereotypes, including Serbs as "violent aggressors and war criminals," and, according to Amnesty International, the media also "explicitly connect[s] Roma community with crime and alcoholism" (ENAR 2012, 32). The report further adds that
[o]ver the last 20 years in Croatia the discrimination based on ethnicity has been mostly directed against the Serbs and Roma. Police officers are not immune to such stereotypical portrayals of Serbs and Roma, which sometimes affects policing. (ENAR 2012, 33)
The ECRI states that many cases of attacks against ethnic Serbs and Roma go unreported due to "a basic lack of trust in the police and judiciary system" (COE 25 Sept. 2012, para. 126). The same source noted that two advisors were appointed to the Ministry of the Interior to work on security related issues for Serb returnees to the war affected areas of Zadar and Vukovar (ibid.).
Regarding the treatment of Roma by law enforcement authorities, ECRI states:
Racially motivated violence against Roma also remains an issue of concern. ECRI notes a number of cases involving racist attacks against Roma in which the European Court of Human Rights has found a failure by Croatia to fulfil its positive obligations under Article 3 ECHR [European Convention on Human Rights], namely to carry out effective investigations. The failure to bring perpetrators of such violence promptly to justice suggests that there is an ongoing reluctance by the authorities to take violence against Roma seriously. (ibid., para. 128)
ECRI also reports that there have been cases of police misconduct towards minorities, most frequently towards Roma (ibid., para. 222).
The US Department of State's International Religious Freedom Report for 2012 reports the following regarding police treatment of Serbian Orthodox communities in Croatia:
SPC [Serbian Orthodox Church] officials from Zagreb reported persistent discrimination toward members of the Serbian Orthodox communities in Dalmatia and Upper Karlovac. SPC officials in Dalmatia characterized police response to vandalism of churches and religious property as inadequate, noting that perpetrators were rarely apprehended.
On January 6, Orthodox Christmas Eve, unknown persons attempted to set fire to the entrance of the St. Cyril and Methodius Church in Kistanje. Police investigated but identified no culprits. In October vandals overturned tombstones at an Orthodox cemetery in Secerana, but police made no arrests. SPC officials reported a number of church bell robberies in the Karlovac area. Police charged suspects in a November 9 robbery at the St. Nicholas church in Kosinj. (US 20 May 2013, 4)
The CWWPP said that there is "an extreme lack of trust towards the police, particularly among Serbs" and noted that some police officers in Vukovar have taken part in far right-wing activity and/or have actively taken part in demonstrations against the installation of Cyrillic signs (CWWPP 6 June 2014). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Balkan Insight. 2 August 2013. "Croatia Arrests Police Chief for Corruption." [Accessed 3 June 2014]
Centar za mirovne studije (CMS). 6 June 2014. Telephone interview with a representative.
Coalition for Work with Psychotrauma and Peace (CWWPP). 6 June 2014. Telephone interview with the Head of Mission for Southeast Europe.
Coalition for Work with Psychotrauma and Peace (CWWPP). N.d. "Coalition for Work with Psychotrauma and Peace." [Accessed 13 June 2014]
Council of Europe (COE). 25 September 2012. European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). ECRI Report on Croatia (Fourth Monitoring Cycle). [Accessed 3 June 2014]
Croatia. . Ministry of the Interior. "Survey of Basic Safety Indicators in 2013." [Accessed 2 June 2014]
Croatia. 2011. Police Act. (Sent as an attachment in correspondence by a Public Relations representative of the General Police Directorate, Ministry of Interior)
Croatia. N.d.a. Ministry of the Interior. "Police." [Accessed 2 June 2014]
Croatia. N.d.b. Ministry of the Interior. "Police Administration." [Accessed 2 June 2014]
European Network Against Racism (ENAR). 2012. Centre for Peace Studies. ENAR Shadow Report: Racism and Related Discriminatory practices in Croatia. < > [Accessed 6 June 2014]
European Union (EU). 26 March 2013. European Commission. Monitoring Report on Croatia's Accession Preparations. [Accessed 2 June 2014]
Freedom House. 2013a. Petar Doric. "Croatia." Nations in Transit 2013. [Accessed 2 June 2014]
Freedom House. 2013b. "Croatia." Freedom in the World 2013. [Accessed 2 June 2014]
HINA--Croatian News Agency. 28 April 2014. "Croatia Among States with Small Number of Crimes, Says Interior Minister." (Factiva)
Human Rights House (HRH). N.d. "CMS--Center for Peace Studies." [Accessed 13 June 2014]
Interpol. N.d. "Croatia." [Accessed 6 June 2014]
Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). 17 January 2012. "OSCE Completes Its Mandate in Croatia and Closes Office." [Accessed 2 June 2014]
Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). 19 February 2008. POLIS. "Croatia. General Information." [Accesed 2 June 2014]
United States (US). 19 April 2014. "Croatia." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013. [Accessed 3 June 2014]
United States (US). 20 May 2013. "Croatia." International Religious Freedom Report for 2012. [Accessed 6 June 2014]
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: Attempts to contact representatives of the following organizations were unsuccessful within the time constraints of this Response: Croatia – Office for Human Rights and Rights of National Minorities; Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights; Gradanski Odbor za Ljudska Prava; Serbian National Council. Representatives of the following organizations were unable to provide information: Croatia – Embassy of Croatia in Ottawa; Croatian Law Centre.
Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; Croatia – Ministry of Justice, Office for Human Rights and Rights of National Minorities, Office of the Ombudsman; Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights; Croatian Law Centre; Croatian Times; ecoi.net; European Network of Legal Experts in the Non-Discrimination Field; European Roma Rights Centre; Gradanski Odbor za Ljudska Prava; Factiva; Human Rights House; Human Rights Watch; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; UN – Refworld.
Croatia. N.d. Ministry of the Interior. "Police Administration."