Strasbourg, 10 February 2005
CCJE (2005) 11
Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE)
Questionnaire on theme “Justice and society”: Reply submitted by the delegation of Croatia
A. The educational role of the courts in a democracy.
Justice users in Croatia are informed about functioning of justice system by different means as follows:
-Various courts have their own web-cites where basic information about court is given, statistical information on performance of the court in general, information about rights of parties in different proceedings before courts etc. These web-cites are created by Courts, so there is wide differences between this kind of informing public.
- Ministry of justice is starting strong campaign in the media to explain all goals and efforts which are taken to improve performance of justice system. Pamphlets and guidelines have been printed and distributed through court to the justice users about
- Supreme Court within the project supported by EU has its own web-cite with Case law of Supreme Court, information on most important recent cases solved in that Court and whole information about justice system in the Country.
-Association of judges printed pamphlets which have been very well received in which role and rights of parties in criminal and civil procedure have been explained, what is a role of a witness, expert witness etc,what are risks of loosing a case, what legal costs can be involved etc.
- All media (newspapers and TV) are informing general public about cases before courts but unfortunately with no intention to educate as well as inform so general public are more confused than informed.
Delivering information about work of court is duty of President of the Court and new proposed amendments to the Law on Courts introduce function of a Court spoke-person. This duty will be carried out by a judge. President of Court has to designate this duty to a judge by Yearly Distribution of Work Order which every president of a court has to deliver at end of a year for incoming year.
Role of Bar Association in informing public about justice system in Croatia is very poor and basically does not exist.
Association of Judges has very limited source of income (only membership symbolic fee)
And its role is limited to press releases and cooperation with other NGOs which have interest in improving rule of law and justice system.
For time being needs for information for policy makers, academics, public interest groups and private citizens is provided through speak persons in courts and prosecutor offices, official reports and statistical data, press conferences, meetings with social groups and worker unions, round tables etc.
Judicial decisions of Supreme Court and other high Courts are available on court web-sights. Press and other media are informing public about decisions but their motive to inform public is not motivated by educational role of important court decisions. Unfortunately press coverage of such important decisions is more confusing than educational.
Case law is published in various ways by courts and private companies but this information does not reach general public.
Educational programmes in law faculties include descriptions of judicial system through visits to the courts, practice in courts for students, involving judges in seminars and workshops at faculties. Courts do not have special officers in charge of liasing with educational agencies.
B. The relations of Courts with those involved in court proceedings.
By all procedural laws and tradition in courts all parties are treated equally. The procedural laws are very strict in that matter and all parties are highly sensible about possibility of lack of impartiality. That can be a ground to dismiss a judge from a case.
Some initial training is provided to young judges and court councillors but writer of this report is not aware of any similar training to the attorneys at law.
Standards for court rooms are set up by Book of Rules for Courts and look of an average court room gives an impression of equality of arms. Only coat of arms is allowed in a court room.
Accused persons must appear free before judge.
In courts generally plain language is used and explanations are given by judge or/and lawyer if necessary.
C. The relations of the courts with public
Has been already described in answers A. and B.
Court hearing is open to public, and all court decisions which are subject to previous public hearing are pronounced publicly. Only in those cases proscribed by law court proceedings are not open to public (investigative proceedings, juvenile cases, family cases) . Every party have access to court file any time and other persons including journalist can have access to court file if they can prove legal interest in specific file.
Information about developments in cases are given to the public and pres by president of court or a judge and in some cases by judge who is in charge of particular case ( only in very complicated cases to avoid any misunderstanding).
There is no law which would prevent dissemination of names of persons involved in a case except if a case is generally closed to the public or if in a case protected witness has to give testimony.
Each person which name has been made public can initiate civil case against those who breached his/hers privacy rights.
Cameras are not allowed in court rooms. Only in special occasions if public interest in a case justifies this President of Supreme court can allow cameras in court rooms.
Each person can initiate criminal and/or civil proceedings to protect his/hers reputation.
In criminal cases for an insult or slander jail sentence can not be imposed only fine or citation can be pronounced as sentence in such criminal procedure. Proceedings are initiated only by private parties and public prosecutor has no role in such cases.
Journalist are in same position as any other person coming before court, but journalist can be freed from charges if they can prove that their intention was not to insult or slander and if journalist had a justified reason to believe that information which was published is truth. That includes qualified source or official information. Journalist is privileged not to disclose source of information.
In civil procedure damage case can be initiated demanding payment from the defender as satisfaction for defamation. Also person which rights have been breached can demand publishing correction (rectification) in the press.
If damage is done by the press liability exists on the side of the publisher by special law-Law on media.
Burden of proof that there are circumstances to free the publisher from damage liability lay on the publisher.
Court generally award sum of 3.000,00 to 15.000,00 Euro depending on the value which has been breached, way how damages act has been committed and what was professional conduct of a journalist and the publisher. Social status of the person in question does not play particular role but any compensation aims to meet individual plaintiff position. (
Court will consider also Journalist Association Code of Ethic.
No authority can seizure publication or order not to distribute any publication. Exception could occur in case of child pornography or similar cases.
Executive is not in position to supervise media.
In the event if a judge or a court is attacked by the press ( what happens almost every day) courts and/or Association of judges are responding trying in principle to defend courts or judges from a "judgment before judgment" by the press but unfortunately without much success.
Judiciary largely seen by the press and executive seen as "punching ball" which everybody can hit without serious consequences.
Judges are not forbidden to react publicly, and how he/or she will react.
Unfortunately legal texts and case law do not exist in English or French and it is beyond my possibility to translate them for this purpose.
D. Accessibility, simplification and clarity of the language used by courts in proceedings and decisions.
So far prevailing theory is that every judgment has to answer to all factual and legal problems that are raised in particular case. This does is not only implemented in first instance judgments but also for judgment of courts of appeal. So sometimes second instant court judgments are longer than first instant judgments, repeating first instant court arguments.
So by the theory each judgment can exist as a sole judgment from which anybody can learn what a dispute was about.