Statement No. 3 – The Orepić Case
The Croatian public is occupied with the political crisis in the country caused by the shift of three ministers of the Government of Croatia (Justice Minister Ante Šprlje, Minister of the Interior Vlaho Orepić, and Minister of Environmental Protection and Energy Slaven Dobrović), as well as the shift of Vice President of the Parliament and Minister of Public Administration Ivan Kovačić, and the announced shift of President of the Parliament Božo Petrov. Not going into the reasons and aspects of the political crisis, we warn of the threat to the rule of law as well as the violation of human rights, and the destruction of the constitutional order of the Republic of Croatia on the part of state officials from the political party MOST (“Bridge”).
Regardless of the fact that in accordance with the Constitution and the law, the mandates of government ministers cease the moment they are dismissed by the President of the Parliament (something that relevant constitutional and legal experts agree on), MOST’s officials ignored all legal, political, and constitutional arguments by behaving in line with their practice like “elephants in a glass store”. Their behaviour is reminiscent of Tito’s famous line during the “Bomber Process”: “I do not acknowledge this court (the Constitution, Parliament, laws), I acknowledge only the court of my Party.”
At the moment of their shift, Croatian Government Ministers become ordinary citizens and must be aware of that. Despite this, for the next 24 hours they behaved as though they were still ministers. This resulted in an act of abuse of power and authority, including false representation, which is at least a violation of the law, whereas the “Orepić case” is a criminal offense of endangerment of national security and a call to the destruction of the constitutional order.
As is known, the day after the shift on April 28, former Minister Orepić illegally entered the Ministry’s building and should have been stopped by the police under the command of the chief of police. Namely, the building of the Ministry of the Interior is a protected object of the highest degree for reasons of high security risk. Not only did Orepić enter the building as an ordinary citizen, he also abused his right to the Ministry premises by holding a private press conference under false pretence as minister. In the premises of the Ministry of the Interior, Orepić as a citizen called on Croatian citizens to rebel against the legally elected authorities by stating: “Croatia is in a serious political crisis and the people more than ever need to react promptly because we are dealing with a unique usurpation of power.” In democratic countries such a call by a former minister of the interior cannot be interpreted any other way but as a call for the overthrow of the legally elected authorities. This call fits into the scenario we see in neighbouring countries (Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo), and cannot therefore be seen as anything else but an attempt to bring the same scenario to Croatia.
Finally, former Minister Orepić as an ordinary citizen had 24-hour access to various documents of high security risk, including those in a special safe to which only he had access. On that day he was no longer to have contact with those documents, except during the handing over of his duties in the presence of the new ruling officials in the Ministry of the Interior. Who can guarantee that he did not have some of the documents photocopied or recorded?
We warn that such actions by former minister Orepić seriously jeopardise the constitutionally proclaimed rule of law. Orepić’s political and legal accountability is also shared with the chief of police who allowed him to enter the building, because he knew or should have known that Orepić was no longer Minister of the Interior. We maintain that further discussion of the political and other accountability of Vlaho Orepić and leading police officials is now the obligation of the Government. The State Attorney’s Office, on the other hand, must determine a possible criminal or misdemeanour liability for both former minister Orepić and leading police officials, and act in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Croatia.
It is more than odd that Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović has not spoken of this, nor initiated a meeting of the National Security Council, given the fact that the conduct of the MOST party presents a serious threat to national security. Equally surprising is the silence of the Parliamentary Committee on Domestic Policy and National Security.
For the Croatian Helsinki Committee
Ivan Zvonimir Čičak