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Croatia: Rights Record Improves, But Violations Continue

Washington, 26 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. State Department says that -- while Croatia's human-rights record remained poor in 1998 -- there was some measurable improvement in certain areas.

In its annual report on human-rights practices around the world, made public today, the State Department said Croatia's numerous violations of human rights seriously limited citizens' rights to change their government peacefully.

The report says Croatia's judiciary is subject to both executive and political influence, and the court system suffers from such a severe backlog of cases and shortage of judges that the right of citizens to address their concerns in court is seriously impaired.

The reports say police engage in extra-judicial killings and occasionally beat people. Problems also persist with arbitrary arrests and lengthy pre-trial detentions. It adds that violence and discrimination against women, Muslims, Roma and other ethnic minorities remain a problem.

According to the report, authorities restricted press freedom using the courts and administrative bodies. The report adds that officials also manipulated laws, used economic pressure and engaged in harassment of journalists to maintain almost total control of the media.

The U.S. also says the government's record of cooperation with international human-rights organizations was mixed, and it remained uncooperative in the search by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for evidence on alleged crimes committed during Croatian military operations in 1995.

On a positive note, the report says that last May, the government enacted procedures by which refugee citizens previously barred from returning to Croatia might exercise that right. It adds that, in June, the government adopted a plan to facilitate the return of homeowners to their own property.