Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Croatia faces a bizarre case due its even more bizarre Penal Code

According to the Croatian web-news provider http://www.index.hr/ the co-ordinator of autonomous women house (NGO in Zagreb) was indicted by the president of the District court in Zadar, Croatia, for "exercising pressure on the judge by commenting on the trial and decision of the court before the finality of the judgment."

Believe it or not, Croatian Penal Code in its Article 309, Par. 2 provides the following (mine translation, supplemented by original in Croation for those who understand):

"Who during the process before the court, but before the final judgment has been rendered, in public media, at a public assembly or in front of the group of the people, presents his opinion on how the justice affairs official would need to act or decide in this particular case, is to be punished by a pecuniary fine of 150 daily incomes or imprisoned up to 6 months…
The act is not incriminated if conducted by the defendant or his lawyer if they presented their opinions after the official statement given by the state attorney or the judge in this respective case.
"

"(2) Tko za vrijeme postupka pred sudom, a prije donošenja pravomoćne sudske odluke, u javnim sredstvima priopćavanja, na javnom skupu ili pred skupinom ljudi, iznosi svoje mišljenje o tome kako bi u tom slučaju pravosudni dužnosnik trebao postupati ili kakve odluke donositi, kaznit će se novčanom kaznom do stopedeset dnevnih dohodaka ili kaznom zatvora do šest mjeseci. (3) Nema kaznenog djela iz stavka 2. ovoga članka ako njegovo zakonsko obilježje ostvari optuženik ili njegov branitelj, ako su iznijeli svoje mišljenje nakon službenog priopćenja za javnost od strane državnog odvjetnika ili suca glede određenog slučaja."

It is indeed striking that this kind of provision, clearly a dead hand of the past, still exists in contemporary Croatia since it is on its face contrary to the European Convention for Human Rights (trials are to be conducted in public, which entails their commenting and discussing in public) and since it straightforwardly breaches also the right to free speech as embedded in Croatian constitution.

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