Statement No. 2 – On the Activities of the Working Group for the Drafting of the National Plan Against Discrimination
The public focus is currently on the activities of the Working Group related to the Action Plan for implementation of the national plan against discrimination for the period of 2017-2022 (National Plan).
The Government of the Republic of Croatia and its Office for Human Rights and Rights of National Minorities has established a Working Group for the drafting of the National Plan. Its task is to draw up a Draft National Plan and create a Draft Action Plan for the implementation of the National Plan. On the basis of a Government public tender, 5 representatives of civil society organisations were nominated in the Working Group: I.Z.Čičak (CHC), Don Markušić (Transparency International), Ivana Eterović (Croatian Law Centre), Filip Markanović (National Council of Croatian Students), Jasna Petrović (Union of Retired Persons of Croatia), Ana Pezelj as a representative of social partners, and Admira Ribičić from the Croatian Employers’ Association. Together with them, an additional 10 representatives from different government ministries were assigned to the Working Group, as well as 5 representatives of various ombudspersons. Therefore, the Working Group counts a total of 22 members, and has up until now held four meetings from March 27 – April 19, with the last meeting to be held April 28, 2017. The meeting should define the definitive stance of the Working Group and then submit the document to the Government of the Republic of Croatia, after which a public hearing should be held.
As is already known, the Document should be sent to European institutions in June, and is dependent on a sum of EUR 6.8 billion that Croatia could then withdraw from EU funds.
At the first meeting of the Working Group it was decided that no media would be present at the meetings, and that the members of the Working Group would not release details or the content of the Action Plan to the public until the final session takes place. Despite the agreement, certain members of the Working Group – either publicly or secretly, served ideologically identifiable media with selective information. The aim of this action was to compromise the Working Group in advance, and put pressure on its work.
The Working Group adopted the Action Plan as the basis for its operation, as prepared by previous governments. Therefore, the Action Plan as drafted by the current government is not yet included in the Working Group’s discussion. Ultimately, there is no Action Plan for the public because the Working Group has not yet adopted it.
Despite the fact that pressure has been put on the Working Group, it has acted independently and did not allow the interference of politics in its operation.
One attempt to impose politics on the work of the Working Group was seen at a session of the Parliamentary Committee for European Affairs which convened at the request of opposition representatives.
The EC CHC maintains that the discussion on the Action Plan falls exclusively under the authority of the Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights and National Minorities, and we view the session of the Parliamentary Committee for European Affairs as a direct attempt at putting pressure on the Working Group. Moreover, we maintain that human rights must not be the subject of political controversy and the ideologization of human rights. The ideologization and politicization of human rights does not only pose a threat to these noble notions, but also means their demise. It is obvious that we are dealing with the SDP’s attempt at influencing the operation of the Working Group and their demand that the Action Plan be discussed in Parliament prior to being adopted by the Working Group. This is a classic example of the Party mode of thinking where politics arbitrates over independent bodies, especially over the Working Group that deals especially with human rights. Therefore, by rejecting this pressure we believe that the actions of the SDP towards the Working Group are also a failed attempt at humiliating the members of the Working Group. The Working Group acts solely on the basis of the document prepared by the previous two Governments, while the rest are all insinuations and lies. To boot, we maintain that the unfinished document contains accepted ideas that broaden the scope of anti-discriminatory action. Along with this, in the work of the Working Group to date, there is a strong emphasis on the need for civil society organisations to be included in the implementation of the Action Plan.
In this context we particularly highlight the presentation of MP Klisović at the session of the Parliamentary Committee where he laid out a whole series of crude lies, arguing that a number of points from the “previous” Action Plan have been omitted in the current Action Plan which the Working Group is presently working on.
The political arrogance towards the idea of human rights and manipulation of this idea for political purposes is also evident in the fact that no one from the Working Group was invited to the session to inform the MPs about the document which the Working Group is working on. Not only that, but the Chairman of the Committee, Domagoj Milošević (HDZ) did not allow two civil society members to at least inform the board about which phase the Action Plan was in, nor to deny the lies and allegations that were presented in Parliament. For this reason, the parliamentary session strongly reminded one of the famous story of Francis Bacon on the religious discussion of how many teeth a horse has, where following many months of scholastic debate one monk suggested that they should count a horse’s teeth. The monks reacted with Apage Satanas, meaning “Satan, be gone”.
Chairman Milošević did however allow the presentation by Deputy Ombudswoman Tena Šimonović Einwalter, who is not a member of the Working Group and can therefore not speak of the document’s content. But in her discussion she did present untruths about her work. The presentation by MP Vesna Pusić also attests to the atmosphere and level of discussion of the opposition reps, when she called the work of the Government and Working Group a “retrograde revolution”. The use of this syntagm suggests that Vesna Pusić is still kindling the past and the unsuccessful attempt at arbitrariness in the field of human rights. Finally, this Committee rejects with indignation her attempt to through her presentation degrade the problem of human rights and discrimination to the level of simply gender and reproductive rights only.
The CHC has stated its principle view on this issue through its justification for the “Miko Tripalo” award in 2016, awarded to Dubravka Šimonović, United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women (see in attachment).
The EC CHC claims that no one segment of human rights and no one segment of discrimination against different vulnerable groups in Croatia cannot and must not be singled out, as this represents an attempt at the selective ideologization of human rights.
For the Croatian Helsinki Committee
Ivan Zvonimir Čičak