Croatia ombudswoman accuses government of tolerating fascism in scathing report

Lora Vidović, Croatia's ombudswoman. [Darko Tomaš / CROPIX]

Croatia’s ombudswoman published a report on Tuesday (19 November) in which she accused a number of state institutions of endangering the fundamental values of the Constitution and allowing hate speech by being ineffective and tolerating revisionism and the use of explicit Nazi-era symbols. EURACTIV Croatia reports.

“Symbols and slogans of countries of the Axis forces are written or stencilled on bus stops, walls, stadiums and posters, but also on monuments to the NOB (National Liberation Struggle in World War Two),” said Lora Vidović’s report.

Swastikas and ‘U’ symbols of the Ustasha (Nazi-allied Croatian troops) can be seen throughout Croatia, as can the Ustasha salute ‘For the home, ready’. Those symbols also mark and accompany insulting commentaries on internet portals and social networks that foment humiliation and hate of the Roma, Serbs, Jews and others, Vidović stated.

The Ombudswoman particularly highlighted the increasingly frequent forms of historical revisionism and its promoters:

“In the recent years, books and articles have been written and published, public forums held, documentaries filmed and TV shows broadcast denying or diminishing the criminal character of the NDH (the Nazi-allied Croatian state in WW2). Such views are aired not only in nationalist media, but also in the official publications of the Catholic Church, and have found their way into the leading media outlets, including the public TV,” she said.

The focus of the document, however, is on the attitude of the authorities, mainly the government, led by the conservative Croatian Democratic Union (EPP). Croatia, which joined the EU in 2013, has no mainstream far-right or extremist parties but the general attitude towards its World War Two past has been ambivalent.

“Given that the official reactions are inconsistent or often absent, the impression is that the authorities tacitly tolerate [the issue], which creates an atmosphere in the society that encourages the strengthening of revisionist attitudes,” said the report.

Vidović recalled that such conduct by the authorities is contrary to the Resolution on the Rise of Neo-Fascist Violence in Europe, adopted by the European Parliament last month, which calls on EU members to clearly condemn and suppress hate speech and historical revisionism.

The Ombudswoman provided a number of concrete examples. She sharply criticizes the lack of action and passivity of a number of state institutions towards the instances of glorifying the NDH symbols and denying and relativizing its crimes.

Vidović was particularly critical of the police and courts, which often fail to find anything questionable in the public use of Ustasha salutes, while the State Attorney (DORH) also fails to appeal against lenient verdicts.

She takes the Ministry of Administration to task for failing to update the Civic Associations Act, but also the defence ministry, which finances and otherwise supports associations that deny the criminal character of the NDH.

Vidović was concerned that some high-ranking Catholic Church officials are among the NDH crime deniers, while publications supporting such views are promoted from the pulpit, but also on state broadcaster HRT.

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