November 8, 2010
9th Session of the Universal Periodic Review Working Group
UPR Session for Croatia
Statement by the Delegation of the United States
UN Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland
Delivered By Sarah Ciaccia
– Check Against Delivery –
Thank you Mr. President:
The United States warmly welcomes H.E. Andrej Plankovic and the Croatian delegation to the UPR Working Group and congratulates Croatia on the completion of its national report and presentation today.
The United States notes Croatia’s deep commitment to human rights, beginning with its aggressive legal framework to protect the rights of the most vulnerable, and the strong mechanisms in place to address human rights issues as they occur.
In order to strengthen this record even more, Croatia should amplify its efforts to protect the rights of vulnerable minorities. Ethnic Serbs still face de facto discrimination in several areas, including the administration of justice, employment, and housing. Ethnic Serbs in war-affected regions are often subject to societal harassment and discrimination. We note also that there are reports that local authorities sometimes refuse to hire qualified Serbs even when no Croats apply for a position. Roma, too, face many obstacles, including lack of knowledge of the Croatian language, lack of education, lack of citizenship and identity documents, high unemployment, and discrimination. Indeed, your government notes in its own report its dissatisfaction with the results so far obtained in securing better protections for these minorities against the societal and other discrimination they face.
In addition, despite Croatia’s best efforts, the country remains a destination, source, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically conditions of forced prostitution and forced labor. Croatian women and girls fall victim to sex trafficking within the country, and women and girls from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and other parts of Eastern Europe are subjected to forced prostitution in Croatia and in Western Europe. Men reportedly are subjected to forced labor in agricultural sectors, and children, including Roma, are subjected to conditions of forced begging and theft.
Bearing in mind these concerns, the United States makes the following recommendations:
1. The United States recommends Croatia increase measures to integrate the ethnic Serb and Roma minorities into the fabric of Croatian life, including a broadcast media campaign to communicate and strengthen themes of reconciliation and tolerance. Such a media campaign could also target the minority communities themselves with messages on how to address some of the issues that perpetuate discrimination, such as Roma language broadcasts on birth registration, education, and health services.
2. The United States recommends that Croatia intensify efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, particularly women in prostitution and migrant men in the agricultural sector. The United States further recommends that Croatia:
• Strengthen partnerships with NGOs to enlist their help in identifying victims during authorities’ initial contact with potential victims among women detained for prostitution offenses;
• Intensify investigations of trafficking crimes in high tourism sectors and other areas with prostitution;
• Aggressively prosecute traffickers and continue to toughen sentences imposed on convicted traffickers;
• Ensure the responsible repatriation of foreign victims;
Thank you, Mr. President.