Constitutional Provisions

According to Article 21 of the 1990 Constitution of the Republic of Croatia: "Each human being has the right to life." Article 22 guarantees that the

Freedom and personality of everyone shall be inviolable. 

No one shall be deprived of liberty, nor may his liberty be restricted, except upon a court decision in accordance with law.

By virtue of Article 25: "All arrested and convicted persons shall be treated humanely and their dignity shall be respected." 

Treaty Adherence

Global Treaties

Adherence to Selected Human Rights Treaties
1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) State Party
ICCPR Optional Protocol 1 State Party
1984 Convention against Torture (CAT) State Party
Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints Yes
CAT Optional Protocol 1 State Party
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties
1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court State Party

Regional Treaties

Adherence to Regional Human Rights Treaties
1950 European Convention on Human Rights State Party

National Legislation

Police Use of Force

In accordance with Article 32 of the Criminal Code on the lawful use of force: "There shall be no criminal offence when an authorized person uses force in accordance with the law."

Article 19 of the 2008 Police Law stipulates that:

While applying police powers, a police officer is obliged to behave in a humane way and respect the dignity, reputation, and honour of every person, as well as other fundamental human rights and freedoms. 

Article 21 of the 2008 Law further provides that:

The application of a police power must be proportional with the need for the reason of which it is undertaken. The application of a police power must not cause consequences more harmful than the ones that would have been caused if the police power had not been applied. Applied shall be the police power, by the means of which the lawful aim may be achieved with the least harmful consequences and within the shortest possible time.

Article 56 stipulates that a truncheon may be used "if milder forms of use of bodily force are ineffective or do not guarantee success". 

Article 62 governs police use of firearms, which is restricted to situations "if other means of coercion used already were inefficient or if they do not guarantee success", when there is no other way to:

1. protect his/her own life as well as the lives of other people;
2. prevent the committing of a criminal act for which a prison sentence lasting five years or more can be pronounced;
3. prevent the escape of a person caught committing a criminal act for which a prison sentence of more than ten years can be pronounced, or of a person for whom search on the grounds of having committed such a criminal act has been announced;
4. prevent the escape of a person, who has been arrested for the commission of criminal acts referred to in Point 3 or of a person for whom search on the grounds of having escaped from prison has been announced.

Before the use of firearms, a police officer shall verbally warn the person by uttering “Stop, it’s the police”, followed by the second warning “Stop or I’ll shoot!”

The warning referred to in Paragraph 3 of this Article shall not be given if this would jeopardise the performing of a police task.

These provisions do not comply with international law, which limits the use of firearms to situations where an individual poses an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a proximate and grave threat to life.

Article 64 governs the dispersal of an assembly: 

A police officer is empowered to order a group of persons to disperse if the group has gathered and is acting in an unlawful manner, so that it might provoke violence. 

If the group does not disperse, the use of the following means is expressly permitted: special motor vehicles; bodily force; truncheon; chemical agents; water jets; service dog; and service horse.

Police Oversight

Under Article 5 of the Police Act, a natural or legal person may file a petition or a complaint relating to the work of a police officer or organizational unit. A head of the competent organizational unit is obliged to notify the applicant of the petition "and the measures taken, within the period of 30 days from the day of the receipt of such a petition or a complaint".

People can also address complaints against the police to the Ombudsperson's Office. Article 4 of the Ombudsman's Act outlines one of the functions of the Ombudsman's Office as follows:

The Ombudsman shall promote and protect human rights and freedoms and the rule of law by examining the complaints of the existence of unlawful practices and irregularities with respect to the work of government bodies, bodies of local and regional self-government units, legal persons vested with public authority and legal and natural persons in accordance with special laws.

Caselaw

Global

Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies

The 2015 Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee on Croatia did not address police use of force. In its 2014 Concluding Observations, the Committee against Torture welcomed Croatia’s efforts to investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment by police officers but expressed concern 

that such allegations continue to be referred for preliminary investigation to the Internal Control Department, which is a department within the same structure employing the alleged perpetrators. The Committee is concerned that the Department has not been fully independent and effective in combating torture and ill-treatment....

It called on Croatia to

ensure in law and in practice that every person has the right to complain of torture or ill-treatment to an effective and fully independent mechanism that will investigate and respond promptly.

Regional

Mafalani v. Croatia 

This case before the European Court of Human Rights concerned Amir Mafalani, a Croatian national who is currently serving a 16-year prison sentence in Lepoglava in Croatia. The case concerned his complaint of ill-treatment at the hands of the police. In November 2010, Mr Mafalani was convicted of having aided and abetted the murder of a journalist and another person who had both been killed by a car bomb in October 2008. His conviction was upheld in February 2012.

Mr Mafalani claimed that when he was arrested in his flat by a police antiterrorist team on 29 October 2008, the officers threw him on the floor and punched him on his head and body. Following his arrest he was blindfolded and taken to a remote place where he was again beaten and his head was immersed in water, which forced him into confessing to the murder. During his subsequent detention at a police station until the following evening he was tightly bound, beaten and threatened into not complaining about his injuries – contusion and haematoma – which had been recorded by the emergency service when they came to the police station.

According to the Croatian Government, the police’s antiterrorist team had ordered Mr Mafalani to lie down when they arrested him and they had applied a ‘foot sweep’ technique when he resisted, causing him to fall and hit his head on a table. Following his arrest he was put in a minivan and taken to the police station, where he was kept in an office, not handcuffed except just after his arrival. Mr Mafalani lodged a criminal complaint against unidentified persons alleging ill-treatment during his arrest and detention at the police station, which was eventually rejected in March 2014 for lack of a reasonable suspicion that a criminal offence had been committed. Civil proceedings brought by Mr Mafalani against the State claiming damages in connection with his alleged ill-treatment are still pending. The European Court found that Croatia had violated the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment under Article 3 of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.

Downloads

2008 Police Law (English translation)

Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations on Croatia (2015)

Committee against Torture Concluding Observations on Croatia (2014)

Malafani v. Croatia