The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Croatia

By Vexen Crabtree 2022

#catholicism #Croatia #croatia_freedom_of_thought #croatia_human_rights #croatia_religion #eu #human_rights #italy #serbia

Republic of Croatia

[Country Profile Page]
StatusIndependent State
Social and Moral Index43rd best
LocationEurope, The Mediterranean
Life Expectancy77.58yrs (2017)2

Croatia does relatively well in ensuring human rights and freedom, compared to many other countries. Croatia comes in the best 20 in its nominal commitment to Human Rights3. It does better than average in terms of commentary in Human Rights Watch reports4 (but bad for Europe), LGBT equality5, opposing gender inequality6, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms7 (but high for Europe) and in supporting press freedom8 (but high for Europe). But, there's bad news too. Croatia does worse than average for its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice9, speed of uptake of HR treaties10 and in freethought11. The Roman Catholic Church and related national religious bodies systematically undermine women's rights, family planning and LGBT tolerance in Croatia, including applying direct pressure to doctors and medical staff12. The Catholic hold on children's education is used to teach prejudiced and biased doctrine, especially to attack the non-religious12. In order to maintain basic human rights, the Catholic Church and its national outlets need to be strictly disestablished and prevented from abusing its power.

Croatia has not been dealing with asylum seekers fairly, deporting some to Serbia without examining their cases13 and returning others to Italy, therefore forcing other countries to bear an unfair portion, and damaging the lives of those seeking asylum.

1. Croatia's Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance

#equality #gender_equality #human_rights #morals #politics #prejudice #tolerance

Compared to Europe (2020)14
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank14
36Bosnia & Herzegovina63.2
Europe Avg51.4
Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance (2020)14
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank14
World Avg87.9

The best countries in the world at ensuring human rights, fostering equality and promoting tolerance, are Sweden, Norway and Denmark15. These countries are displaying the best traits that humanity has to offer. The worst countries are The Solomon Islands, Somalia and Tuvalu15.

The data sets used to calculate points for each country are statistics on commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, its nominal commitment to Human Rights, speed of uptake of HR treaties, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms, supporting press freedom, eliminating modern slavery, opposing gender inequality, the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators), the year from which women could participate in democracy, its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice, LGBT equality and freethought. The regions with the best average results per country are Scandinavia, Baltic States and Europe15, whereas the worst are Melanesia, Micronesia and Australasia15.

For more, see:

Amnesty International's 2023-23 report had little to say about Croatia: "Pushbacks and collective expulsions continued. Defamation lawsuits threatened the work of journalists and the media. Access to abortion remained severely restricted. Same-sex couples were granted the right to adopt children. Roma faced widespread discrimination. Domestic violence increased"16.

Unaccompanied migrant and asylum children continued to be placed in residential institutions for children without adequate arrangements for their protection and care. Out of 30 registered unaccompanied children, only one had been enrolled in school for the academic year of 2017/2018. [...]

Members of national minorities, in particular ethnic Serbs and Roma, continued to face discrimination, ethnic intolerance, and hate speech. Thousands of Roma remain stateless. Roma children are effectively segregated in schools. The Croatian judiciary continued to make slow progress on war crimes accountability.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)13

The EU has acted on behalf of its member states on many occasions to support, foster, fund and encourage human rights protections in every region of the world, with agreement of its member states through the European Parliament. The protections of workers' rights and their harmonisations (which stops companies moving staff to countries with the weakest laws) has had great effect in stopping workforce abuse17. According to Human Rights Watch's comprehensive review for the year 2017, in addition to vocal and public pronouncements on poor human rights records of many countries, the EU has also acted through economic sanctions, political pressure and used other means to incentivize the adoption of human rights protections, even if these measures harm EU trading18. It is to Croatia's credit that it supports the EU in these actions.

2. Human Rights & Tolerance

2.1. Human Rights Watch Comments


Human Rights Watch Comments
Higher is better4
Europe Avg3.5
World Avg-1.9
In terms of commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, Croatia is positioned 27th in the world.

Human Rights Watch comments concentrate mostly on negative issues, however, they also make positive comments for those countries that engage in human rights defence around the world, or who make improvements at home. By adding up positive and negative comments (including double-points for negatives that involve large scales and crimes against humanity), the Social and Moral Index turns HRW commentary into quantified values. Some countries may be unfairly penalized because HRW have not examined them, and, some countries "get away" with abuses if they manage to hide it, or if it goes unnoticed - a negative point has been given for those countries in which HRW specifically state that access to investigators has been barred. The points were limited to a minimum of -10 because there are some points at which things are so bad, with abuses affecting so many, it is difficult to be more specific about the depths of the issues.

2.2. Nominal Commitment to HR


Nominal Commitment to HR
Higher is better3
2=Costa Rica23
Europe Avg19.5
World Avg15.1
Croatia ranks 14th-best in the world when it comes to its nominal commitment to Human Rights.

There are many international agreements on human rights, and, many mechanisms by which countries can be brought to account for their actions. Together, these have been the biggest historical movement in the fight against oppression and inhumanity. Or, putting it another way: these are rejected mostly by those who wish to oppress inhumanely. None of them are perfect and many people object to various components and wordings, but, no-one has come up with, and enforced, better methods of controlling the occasional desires that states and peoples have of causing angst for other states and peoples in a violent, unjust or inhumane way. Points are awarded for the number of human rights agreements ratified by the country, plus the acceptance of the petition mechanisms for disputes. The maximum possible score in 2009 was 24.

2.3. HR Treaties Lag

#human_rights #international_law #micronesia #politics #small_islands

HR Treaties Lag
Lower is better10
Avg Yrs/Treaty10
Europe Avg9.09
World Avg10.02
Croatia comes 103rd in the world regarding speed of uptake of HR treaties.

Human Rights (HR) Treaties Lag is a count of how long it took each country to sign each of 11 key HR treaties. From the date of the first signatory of each treaty, all other countries have one point added to their score for each day they delayed in signing. Results are presented as average time in years to sign each one. The lower a country's score, the more enthusiastically it has taken on international Human Rights Treaties - which are, of course, minimal standards of good governance. The slowest are the countries of Micronesia, Melanesia, Australasia and Polynesia all lagged by over 12 years per treaty. The best regions are The Americas, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.

For more, see:

2.4. Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom

#freedom #politics

Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom
Lower is better7
1Hong Kong1
3New Zealand3
Europe Avg33.9
World Avg79.7
Croatia comes 44th in the world when it comes to supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms.

The Human Freedom Index published by the Fraser Institute is...

... a broad measure of human freedom, understood as the absence of coercive constraint. It uses 79 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom in the following areas: Rule of Law, Security and Safety, Movement, Religion, Association, Assembly, and Civil Society, Expression, Relationships, Size of Government, Legal System and Property Rights, Access to Sound Money, Freedom to Trade Internationally, Regulation of Credit, Labor, and Business. [...]

The highest levels of freedom are in Western Europe, Northern Europe, and North America (Canada and the United States. The lowest levels are in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. [...]

Countries in the top quartile of freedom enjoy a significant higher per capita income ($37,147) [compared with] the least-free quartile [at] $8,700). The HFI finds a strong correlation between human freedom and democracy.

"The Human Freedom Index" by The Fraser Institute (2016)19

2.5. Press Freedom

#democracy #freedom #Freedom_of_Speech #Good_Governance #mass_media #politics #UK

Press Freedom
Lower is better8
60Sierra Leone2635
63=Central African Rep.2661
67Bosnia & Herzegovina2686
Europe Avg2044
World Avg3249
Croatia ranks 63rd in the world regarding supporting press freedom.

The freedom to investigate, publish information, and have access to others' opinion is a fundamental part of today's information-driven world, and is linked with Freedom of Speech and Good Governance. Scores on the Press Freedom Index are calculated according to indicators including pluralism - the degree to which opinions are represented in the media, media independence of authorities, self-censorship, legislation, transparency and the infrastructure that supports news and information, and, the level of violence against journalists which includes lengths of imprisonments. The index "does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted". The rankings are used as one of the datasets of the Social and Moral Development Index20

It must be noted that press freedom is not an indicator of press quality and the press itself can be abusive; the UK suffers in particular from a popular brand of nasty reporting that infuses several of its newspapers who are particularly prone to running destructive and often untrue campaigns against victims. The Press Freedom Index notes that "the index should in no way be taken as an indicator of the quality of the media in the countries concerned".

2.6. Slavery

#burundi #eritrea #france #human_rights #indonesia #slavery

Lower is better
% Victims21
111Ivory Coast0.59
118=Equatorial Guinea0.64
Europe Avg0.38
World Avg0.65
When it comes to eliminating modern slavery, Croatia ranks 113rd in the world.

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory22. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends23. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life24. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves25.

The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery26. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity27. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.

'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.28. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi29, Eritrea29, Indonesia30) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery31.

For more, see:

3. Gender Equality

Croatia is on the way towards ending gender inequality.

Many of Croatia's problems with gender equality come from an entrenchment of the Catholic Church in education, where traditional family values are taught specifically in a way that damages fairness between genders12.

In recent years, religious groups with an anti-abortion agenda have become increasingly prominent, staging the annual "March for Life" rallies which have drawn thousands onto the streets as well as holding candlelit prayer vigils outside hospitals. These groups also pursue aggressive online disinformation campaigns, which spread unscientific claims and lies and seek to influence hospitals to stop providing abortion services. They have also opened fake abortion clinics providing disinformation and generating confusion among women seeking abortion services, with no apparent intervention by the state. [...]

Religious pressure [groups have been] pushing doctors increasingly to refuse abortions on moral grounds. Currently, nearly 60% of doctors in public hospitals are not performing abortions on the grounds of their religion, and some entire hostpitals refuse.

"The Freedom of Thought Report" by Humanists International (2021)12


3.1. Gender Inequality

#gender #gender_equality #human_rights #misogyny #women

Gender Inequality
Lower is better
34New Zealand0.16
35Bosnia & Herzegovina0.16
Europe Avg0.15
World Avg0.36
Croatia is positioned 31st in the world in terms of opposing gender inequality.

The UN Human Development Reports include statistics on gender equality which take into account things like maternal mortality, access to political power (seats in parliament) and differences between male and female education rates. Gender inequality is not a necessary part of early human development. Although a separation of roles is almost universal due to different strengths between the genders, this does not have to mean that women are subdued, and, such patriarchalism is not universal in ancient history. Those cultures and peoples who shed, or never developed, the idea that mankind ought to dominate womankind, are better cultures and peoples than those who, even today, cling violently to those mores.

For more, see:

3.2. Year Women Can Vote

#christianity #gender_equality #human_rights #politics #women

Year Women Can Vote
Lower is better
1New Zealand1893
Europe Avg1895
World Avg1930
In terms of the year from which women could participate in democracy, Croatia ranks 51st in the world.

Women now have equal rights in the vast majority of countries across the world. Although academic literature oftens talks of when a country "grants women the right to vote", this enforces a backwards way of thinking. Women always had the right to vote, however, they were frequently denied that right. The opposition to women's ability to vote in equality with man was most consistently and powerfully opposed by the Catholic Church, other Christian organisations, Islamic authorities and some other religious and secular traditionalists.

For more, see:

4. Prejudice

4.1. Anti-Semite Opinions

#antisemitism #christianity #germany #indonesia #israel #jordan #judaism #laos #morocco #netherlands #pakistan #philippines #religion #religious_violence #saudi_arabia #spain #sweden #turkey #UK #vietnam

Anti-Semite Opinions
Lower is better
52=Bosnia & Herzegovina32
52=Costa Rica32
Europe Avg29.9
World Avg36.8
Croatia comes 55th in the world regarding its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice.

Anti-Semitism is the world given to irrational racism against Jews. It is not the same as anti-Judaism (involving arguments against the religion) nor the same as anti-Zionism (arguments against Israel). In history, influential Christian theologians concocted the arguments against Jews that led, very early on, to widespread Christian action against Jews32,33,34,35. As Christianity rose to power in the West and presided over the Dark Ages, there were widespread violent outbursts against Jews of the most persistent and horrible kind. The Crusades were frequently aimed at them and the feared Spanish Inquisition paid Jews particular attention. The horror of the holocaust instigated by German Nazis in the 1940s was followed (finally) by the era of European human rights and a movement against racism in general.

The places that are the least anti-Semitical are a few countries of south-east Asia (Laos, the Philippines and Vietnam) and some of the secular liberal democracies of Europe (Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK). The worst countries for antisemitism are Islamic states of the Middle East36, which are undergoing their own Dark Age. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Indonesia, Pakistan and Turkey see the most oppressive and violent actions towards Jews37,38. Jews in Muslim countries face a host of restrictions and "ceaseless humiliation and regular pogroms"39. In 2004 the European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia reported on violent anti-Jew crimes in the EU and found that that largest group of perpetrators were young Muslim males40.

For more, see:

4.2. LGBT Equality

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #ICCPR #intolerance #sexuality #tolerance

Despite the efforts of influential Catholic institutions in Croatia to prevent laws that encourage LGBT tolerance12, Croatia has almost kept up with Europe in preventing discrimination.

"The Freedom of Thought Report" by Humanists International (2021)12

LGBT Equality
Higher is better
Europe Avg46.9
World Avg12.6
Croatia ranks 30th in the world in terms of LGBT equality.

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence41. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws42. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries41. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.

For more, see:

4.3. Freedom of Thought

#europe #freedom_of_belief #freethought #human_rights #netherlands #religion #religious_tolerance #secularism #the_enlightenment

Despite declining interest in religion, the Croatian government gifts huge amounts to the Catholic church as part of a mixture of legal and formal provisions, as well as through many indirect funding lines. Much of this is underpinned by four laws that were enacted in the 1990s without public consultation, causing controversy due to the hefty financial obligations involved, and, tying the Catholic Church in as a provider of services to law enforcement, education and curriculum content, politics and the armed forces.12. The RCC uses its influence in school to teach against other religions and especially against the non-religious12.

Policies that cause direct or indirect discrimination on the grounds of religion are not consistent with democracy or human rights. So, although Article 40 of the Croatian Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and religion12, and Article 41 grants religious equality12, in reality there is much to do to remove the entrenchment of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) before freedom of thought and secular fairness can be attained.

Freedom of Thought
Lower is better
119Trinidad & Tobago3.3
120=Bosnia & Herzegovina3.3
120=Dominican Rep.3.3
Europe Avg2.6
World Avg3.0
In terms of freethought, Croatia comes 109th in the world.

Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Belief are upheld in Article 18 the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights43. It affirms that it is a basic human right that all people are free to change their beliefs and religion as they wish44. No countries voted against this (although eight abstained). This right was first recognized clearly in the policies of religious toleration of the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe in the post-enlightenment era45 of the 19th century. In democratic countries, freedom of belief and religion is now taken for granted46. In 2016 a study found that over 180 countries in the world had come to guarantee freedom of religion and belief47. The best countries at doing so are Taiwan, Belgium and The Netherlands11,48 and the worst: Afghanistan, N. Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia11,49.

Long-term studies have shown that religious violence and persecution both decrease in cultures where religious freedom is guaranteed50. Despite this, there still are many who are strongly against freedom of belief44, including entire cultures and many individual communities of religious believers. Their alternative is that you are not free to believe what you want and they often state that you cannot change religion without being punished (often including the death penalty): this is bemoaned as one of the most dangerous elements of religion51 and "the denial of religious freedoms is inevitably intertwined with the denial of other freedoms"52 and the solution is, everywhere, to allow religious freedom and the freedom of belief.

For more, see:

In theory, children of non-religious parents have the right to opt out of [Catholic Catechism] classes. In practice however this is often not the case. There is no alternative to Catholic education during the first three years of elementary school, and [...] Catholic education must be treated equally to all other subjects "especially in respect to schedule of classes" which effectively prevents schools from scheduling these classes at the same time as other options. Therefore, children who do not wish to attend Catholic Catechism classes are usually left unattended in school hallways or are, despite their right to opt out, asked to stay in classrooms during religious classes since no members of school staff are available to look after them.

Catholic Catechism classes have also been introduced in many public elementary schools throughout the country, regardless of the religion or belief affiliation of the local population. In most cases this is not a part of any official program; however, in some places Catholic Catechism has officially become a part of curriculum. For instance, in the city of Dubrovnik, Catholic Catechism is an official part of the public elementary school curriculum, and no adequate alternative programs are offered for children of non-Catholics.

"The Freedom of Thought Report" by Humanists International (2021)12