Hate speech in Croatia against Serbs, LGBT people and Roma, is on the rise in Croatia, according to a new report by the ECRI, a Council of Europe body that monitors racism and intolerance.
The report warns of growing nationalism, especially among young people, often in the form of exalting the former Fascist Ustasa regime. The report was prepared after ECRI visited Croatia in April 2017 and refers to the period until 7 December 2017.
Racist and intolerant hate speech in public discourse is escalating; the main targets are Serbs, LGBT persons and Roma. There is a growing rise of nationalism, particularly among the youth, which primarily takes the form of praising the fascist Ustaša regime. In the regional media and on Internet, expressions of racism and xenophobia against Serbs, LGBT persons and refugees are commonplace, as is abusive language when referring to Roma. Physical attacks against these groups as well as their property also occur,” it says in the report summary, adding that the responses of the Croatian authorities to these incidents cannot be considered fully adequate.
Although ECRI praises enhanced legal protection against hate speech thanks to changes in the penal law, which includes a new provision on the criminalisation of violent behavior in public places and punishes the establishment or management of groups that promote racism, it also points out that hate laws are rarely applied, citing the ignorance and incompetence of the law enforcement and judicial bodies for failing to apply the law.
The ECRI further notes that national strategies for Roma are only partially implemented. Roma are still confronted with high levels of social exclusion, and data suggest that their employment rates are alarmingly low, and the rates of early school leaving are still high.
The body praises the new legislative framework for LGBT people due to the adoption of the Gender Equality Law of persons of the same gender in July 2014, but notes that prejudice against them is still widespread and are confronted with various forms of discrimination in their everyday lives.
The report calls on Croatian politicians and high officials as well as political parties to condemn hate speech and promote tolerance. It is also necessary to adopt an action plan to combat homophobia and transphobia in all areas of everyday life, including education, employment and health care.