The Ombudsman is a commissioner of the Croatian Parliament responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia, the laws and the international human rights instruments ratified by the Republic of Croatia.

The Constitution of the Republic of Croatia and the Ombudsman Act grant her/him the autonomy and independence in her/his work.

Croatian Parliament appointed Ms Lora Vidović as the new parliamentary commissioner for the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms for a term of eight years on 15 February 2013. The Ombudswoman took over her duty on 1 March 2013 after having taken the oath before the Croatian Parliament.

The Ombudswoman promotes and protects human rights, freedoms and the rule of law. More specifically, she

- examines the complaints of the existence of unlawful practices and irregularities with respect to the work of the state bodies, the bodies of the local and regional self-government units and legal persons vested with public authority,

- within the mandate of the central equality body she examines complaints against legal and natural persons in accordance with the special law,

- performs the duties of the National Preventive Mechanism Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment,

- protects the rights of persons deprived of their liberty,

- monitors the state of human rights and points out to the need for their protection,

- monitors the alignment of laws and other regulations with the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia and the international legal acts concerning human rights,

- promotes the alignment of the legislation with the international and European standards and its consistent application,

- submits regular annual reports to the Croatian Parliament,

- carries out research and analysis,

- develops and maintains the institutional database and relevant documentation,

- informs the public and the relevant stakeholders about the occurrences of violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as on the established infringements of the constitutional and legal rights,

-  promotes and maintains the cooperation with the civil society, the international organizations and scientific and research institutions.

The central Office is located at the following address:

Trg hrvatskih velikana 6
10000 Zagreb

Phone: + 385 1 4851 853, 4851 275
Fax: + 385 1 6431 628

The addresses of the regional offices are:

Rijeka

Korzo 2a/I

Tel:  +385 51 563 786
Fax:  +385 51 689 737

Osijek

Hrvatske Republike 19 (prvi kat)

Tel:  +385 31 628 054
Fax:  +385 31 628 052

Split

Mažuranićevo šetalište 8a

(ulaz s Tolstojeve)

Tel:  +385 21 682 981
Fax:  +385 21 682 983

Besides the Ombudswoman and three of her deputies the Office employs the expert staff (advisers for various legal areas) as well as the administrative personnel.

Any individual who believes that the state bodies, the bodies of the local and regional self-government units or legal persons vested with public authority have jeopardized or violated, through their illegal or irregular work, their constitutional or statutory rights and freedoms and anyone who suspects that they have been discriminated against may lodge a complaint with the Ombudswoman.

By lodging a complaint with the Ombudswoman you simultaneously claim a rights violation, seek protection of rights or protection against discrimination and point to the illegal or irregular work of the state bodies. The Ombudswoman has the authority to initiate an investigation on these issues or to report about them to the Croatian Parliament and the international institutions.

You can address the Ombudswoman by submitting a complaint, either:

- in writing (regular mail, fax or e-mail)

- by phone (01 4851 855)

- in person, by visiting the Office.

A complaint must contain:

- your name, family name and address,

- the name of the body you are complaining against,

- the reference number assigned to your case by the body you are complaining against,

- the copies of the documents related to the proceedings and other relevant documents,

- the description of the problem: specify what rights you believe were violated, whether any legal remedies were used, and if yes, when they were filed.

- send your complaint via regular mail to the following address: Pučki pravobranitelj, Trg hrvatskih velikana 6, 10 000 Zagreb

- send your complaint via fax (+ 385 1 6431 628)

- send your complaint via e-mail to: 

Please, arrange an appointment prior to visiting the Office via the phone number: + 385 1 4851 853

The Office of the Ombudswoman is open for the citizens from Tuesday until Friday from 9.a.m. to 12.00 (noon) at the address: Trg hrvatskih velikana 6, Zagreb.

A citizen can be received either by an adviser to the Ombudswoman in charge with a specific legal area and/or an adviser on duty or by the Deputy Ombudswoman/Deputy Ombudsman or the Ombudswoman.

The Ombudswoman can issue recommendations, opinions, proposals and warnings to the bodies referred to in the complainant. These bodies are obliged to inform the Ombudswoman on the measures undertaken.

The Ombudswoman freely decides whether she will consider a complaint and to which extent. She may decide not to take action with respect to a complaint in the following cases:

- when judicial proceedings are ongoing, except if it is apparent that the proceedings in question are being unnecessarily delayed or that powers are being manifestly abused, in which cases she can request an explanation from the president of the competent court;

- if the complaint pertains to the issues that are the subject of ongoing proceedings, except when the proceedings are being unjustifiably delayed or in cases of the manifest abuse of power;

-  if the deadline for an appeal is still open or legal remedies under special laws are available;

- if a complainant failed to lodge an appeal within the legally prescribed deadline or failed to use legal remedies under the special laws;

- if three years have elapsed since the occurrence of an irregularity or the adoption of a decision by the body complained against, except in the cases where the Ombudswoman deems that the issue in question is of significant importance for the protection of human rights and freedoms.

Anyone can write a complaint, there is no need for lawyer’s assistance.

In order for the Ombudswoman to be able to initiate proceedings, the time period between the occurrence of an irregularity or the adoption of a decision by the bodies complained against and the lodging of a complaint cannot exceed three years. Exceptions to this rule are the cases in which the Ombudswoman deems that the issues in question are of significant importance for human rights and freedoms. Discrimination complaints will be considered only if discrimination occurred after 1 January 2009, when the Anti-discrimination Act entered into force.

Yes, with two exceptions. In cases of discrimination one may lodge a complaint against legal or natural persons (e.g. enterprises, individuals) and in cases of unnecessarily delayed court proceedings or manifest abuse of powers in the course of the court proceedings the Ombudswoman may request an explanation from the president of the competent court.

Since during the investigation of a complaint in the majority of the cases the Ombudswoman requests answers and information from the relevant bodies, institutions or persons, the deadline for her reply to the complainant depends on the delivery of the relevant information from these bodies and individuals. However, the complainant may expect first information from the Ombudswoman on the steps undertaken regarding the investigation of a complaint within 30 days.

Along with a complaint it is obligatory to enclose all available documents which can support your claims as well as the copies of the acts adopted in the previous proceedings which may be relevant for the case.

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No. According to the Act on Free Legal Aid, lawyers, authorized NGOs, trade unions, legal clinics and state administration offices at the county level are the providers of free legal aid. The Act stipulates that each of them provides a specific kind of legal aid.

You can find the list of the authorized NGOs and legal clinics here: http://www.mprh.hr/ovludruge-pravne-klinike01

The list of lawyers can be found here: http://www.mprh.hr/liste-odvjetnika03

The Office of the Ombudswoman provides only general legal information and directs the citizens to the relevant institutions and/or authorized free legal aid providers.

To obtain the information on the status of your complaint you can contact the Office every working day from 8.a.m. to 4 p.m. via the following phone number:

+ 385 1 4851 853.

The financial resources for the work of the Ombudswoman and her Office are provided for in the State Budget of the Republic of Croatia in line with the Ombudsman Act (Official Gazette 76/12). However, additional activities of the Office can be implemented through the projects financed by external donors like the EU, UN and others.

The Council for Human Rights is a new advisory body to the Ombudswoman. It proposes strategic guidelines in the field of promotion of human rights and freedoms to the Ombudswoman and secures permanent cooperation between the Ombudswoman, the civil society, the academic community and the media since their representatives are members of the Council.

The Ombudswoman established the Council on 18 November 2013.

Yes. All persons deprived of their liberty may address the Ombudswoman without any limitations. Moreover, no one can be prevented from lodging a complaint with the Ombudswoman or put in an unfavorable position for addressing the Ombudswoman.

Persons deprived of their liberty can lodge a complaint with the Ombudswoman in a closed envelope. No one has the right to monitor the content of their complaint.

A complaint to the Ombudswoman can also be lodged by another person on behalf of a person deprived of their liberty, with written authorization thereof, by way of sending a letter or giving an oral statement on the record. Complaint can also be sent by e-mail with an enclosed reply-to postal address. The reply will be delivered to the claimant by regular mail irrespective of the manner in which the complaint was lodged. 

 

The Ombudswoman can pay announced visits at any time to the places and examine the facilities where the persons deprived of their liberty or the persons whose freedom of movement is restricted are kept.

The Ombudswoman can freely access all premises and conduct private interviews with all persons who can provide relevant information regarding the suspected violations of human rights caused by the treatment in the place or institution visited, without the presence of the officials of the visited place or the institution of detention.

National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) is a body in charge with the prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in places where persons deprived of their liberty as well as the persons who are detained, imprisoned or placed in a public custodial setting which they are not allowed to leave are kept.

- pays regular visits to places where persons are or may be deprived of their liberty, aimed at strengthening the protection of these persons against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,

- gives recommendations to the competent government bodies and institutions aimed at improving the treatment and the living conditions of the persons deprived of their liberty, with a view of preventing torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,

- makes proposals and observations concerning the existing laws and regulations or their drafts with a view of enhancing the protection of persons deprived of their liberty against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,

- cooperates with the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of the Committee against Torture, delivers information to and meets with the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture.

 

In 2008 the International Coordinating Committee for National Human Rights Institutions (ICC NHRI) accredited the Ombudswoman as an independent National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) with status “A” for the promotion and protection of human rights according to the Paris Principles within the UN human rights system.

The UN General Assembly adopted the international principles for the establishment of national human rights institutions in 1993 in Paris, thus known as the Paris Principles. These are: a founding constitutional or legislative statute; a broad mandate; an independent appointments procedure, the terms of office specified by the law; a pluralistic and representative composition; regular and effective functioning; the independence from the executive branch of the Government and adequate funding

Regarding the activities related to its NHRI “A” status accreditation within the UN system the Ombudsman institution is part of the European branch (ENNHRI) of the ICC NHRI. As the central equality body in Croatia the Ombudswoman is a member of the European network of equality bodies (EQUINET). Our institution is also a member of the Association of Mediterranean Ombudsmen (AOM), International Ombudsmen Institute (I.O.I.), as well as a member of the European Ombudsmen’s Network (EUOMB).

As the NPM we cooperate with the UN Sub-Committee against Torture (SPT), European Committee against Torture (CPT) and are a member of the regional NPM network in the South East Europe.

International human rights documents at the UN, EU and the CoE level of which the Republic of Croatia is a party are part of the internal legal order of the Republic of Croatia and are the framework for the improvement of the human rights situation in the country. On the other hand, they oblige the state to comply with their principles and to report back regularly on their implementation in practice. As the NHRI the Ombudswoman has a special monitoring mandate.

People frequently use the word “discrimination” when they believe they were treated unjustly in some way, when they feel deprived of something or belittled and humiliated.

However, the Croatian Anti-discrimination Act stipulates that discrimination is an unjustified and prohibited difference in treatment on the basis of certain characteristics listed in the Article 1 of the Act.

Discrimination grounds listed in the Article 1 of the Anti-discrimination Act are:

• race or ethnic affiliation or colour

• gender

• language

• religion

• political or other belief

• national or social origin

• property status

• trade union membership

• education

• social status

• marital or family status

• age

• health status

• disability

• genetic heritage

• gender identity and expression

• sexual orientation

In which areas of life is discrimination prohibited?

Discrimination is prohibited especially in the following areas:

1. work and working conditions; access to self-employment and occupation, including selection criteria, recruiting and promotion conditions; access to all types of vocational guidance, vocational training, professional improvement and retraining;

2. education, science and sports;

3. social security, including social welfare, pension and health insurance and unemployment insurance;

4. health protection;

5. judiciary and administration;

6. housing;

7. public informing and the media;

8. access to goods and services and their providing;

9. membership and activities in trade unions, civil society organisations, political parties or any other organisations;

10. access to participation in the cultural and artistic creation.

Discrimination is also prohibited in other areas of life, but it will be up to the Croatian courts to determine to which other areas the Anti-discrimination Act applies.

Discrimination is prohibited especially in the following areas:

1. work and working conditions; access to self-employment and occupation, including selection criteria, recruiting and promotion conditions; access to all types of vocational guidance, vocational training, professional improvement and retraining;

2. education, science and sports;

3. social security, including social welfare, pension and health insurance and unemployment insurance;

4. health protection;

5. judiciary and administration;

6. housing;

7. public informing and the media;

8. access to goods and services and their providing;

9. membership and activities in trade unions, civil society organisations, political parties or any other organisations;

10. access to participation in the cultural and artistic creation.

Discrimination is also prohibited in other areas of life, but it will be up to the Croatian courts to determine to which other areas the Anti-discrimination Act applies.

No one is allowed to discriminate.

In line with the Anti-discrimination Act, the prohibition of discrimination applies to the actions of all state bodies (e.g. the ministries or state offices), of the bodies of the local and regional self-government units (municipalities, counties), of legal persons vested with public authority (e.g. schools, hospitals, etc.) as well as to the actions of all legal and natural persons. 

Discrimination is not easy to recognize. There are many situations in which individuals do not have an equal position or equal opportunities and believe they should and yet these situations are not considered to be discrimination.

If a person believes that he/she does not have an equal position or equal opportunities as others due to his/her affiliation to an ethnic minority or his/her age, faith, trade union membership, for being a woman or homosexual or a person with a disability, he/she should turn to the Office of the Ombudsman or to one of the specialized ombuds and they will investigate whether what this persons is experiencing or has experienced is against the law.

Anyone, including legal persons,  who believes they have been discriminated against may lodge a discrimination complaint with the Ombudswoman according to the procedure described above. Given the fact that special Ombudspersons also deal with discrimination cases, prior to lodging his/her complaint a person may seek advice to which body to turn. The Ombudswoman shall forward complaints to the special Ombudspersons when the complaints are in their competence:

- in case of discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression or family or marital status to the Ombudswoman for Gender Equality (http://www.prs.hr)

- in case of discrimination based on disability to the Ombudswoman for Persons with Disabilities (http://www.posi.hr)

- in case of discrimination of children to the Ombudswoman for Children (http://www.dijete.hr).

You can help a person who suspects that he/she is being discriminated against. First, you can advise them to contact the Ombudswoman and to send in a case description together with the relevant documentation. You can do it on their behalf as well, but only after having obtained their consent first.

If a person is afraid and does not want his/her identity to be known he/she can contact the Office of the Ombudsman anonymously. The Ombudswoman will nonetheless take the necessary steps to prevent discrimination.

A person who has not experienced discrimination him-/herself but has witnessed the discrimination of another person and has the courage to report it is protected by the Anti-discrimination Act. The Act prohibits placing such a person in a less favorable position. This, for example, means that such a person cannot be made redundant or skipped in career advancement for which he/ she meets the criteria on the grounds of his/her support for an employee that has experienced discrimination.

As in other cases, the Ombudswoman conducts an investigation procedure. If she establishes suspicion of discrimination she can issue a warning or a recommendation to a person, an institution, a business or a company which discriminated against the claimant. She can also inform the claimant on how to proceed in order to protect himself/herself from discrimination (e.g. advise the client to instigate legal proceedings).

However, if the Ombudswoman is contacted by a person who has already instigated legal proceedings pertaining to the case, she cannot investigate whether discrimination took place or not. This person can nonetheless turn to the Ombudswoman and request for her to join in with him/her in the court case as an intervener.

The Ombudswoman can:

a) Notify the claimant that no discrimination has occurred and/or direct her/him to a competent body.

b) In cases when a person claims discrimination occurred and the Ombudswoman finds no suspicion of discrimination but rather elements of the breach of the claimant’s constitutional or statutory rights, she can handle a complaint within her competences as the Ombudsman in line with the Ombudsman Act and take action aimed at protecting the claimant’s rights.

c) In cases of established suspicion of discrimination the Ombudswoman can, for example:

- advise a client regarding the possible legal action,

- issue a recommendation or a warning to an institution, a person or a company which discriminate against the claimant and instruct them on how to act in order to avoid discrimination in the future,

- in certain cases the Ombudswoman can instigate court proceedings/press charges against the perpetrator of discrimination,

- can propose changes to discriminatory legislation or regulations.

d) Act as a third-party intervener in court proceedings on behalf of the complainant.

e) Conduct alternative dispute resolution (mediation) upon the complainant’s request.