Croatia: Criminality, including organized crime; state response, including effectiveness of police (2012-June 2015) [HRV105200.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. General Crime Statistics 2011-2015

The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), an organization that "promotes security cooperation between American private sector interests worldwide and the US Department of State (US n.d.)," describes Croatia's crime rate as "low" (ibid. 20 May 2015, 1). Statistics provided on the website of the Croatian Ministry of Interior indicate that in the first five months of 2015, there were 101 reported criminal offences for murder (12 instances), attempted murder (43 instances), rape (41 instances) and attempted rape (5 instances), as well as 516 reported offences of robbery, and 6,579 reported offences of "aggravated robbery" (Croatia [2015], 1).

Statistics from the same source indicate that for 2014, there were 247 reported criminal offences for murder (35 instances), attempted murder (113 instances), rape (78 instances), and attempted rape (21 instances) (Croatia [2014], 1). There were 1,122 reported criminal offences for robbery and 16,645 for aggravated robbery (ibid.).

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) statistics website indicates that in 2013, Croatia's homicide count was 46 and the homicide rate was 1.1 per 100,000 people (n.d.). UNODC's Global Report on Homicide 2013 indicates that in 2012, the country's homicide count was 51 and the homicide rate was 1.2 per 100,000 people (UN Mar. 2014, 131). In comparison, the same source notes that Canada's homicide count in 2012 was 543, with a homicide rate of 1.6 per 100,000 people (UN Mar. 2014, 126).

The European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control (HEUNI), an organization affiliated with the UN that conducts research and "promotes the international exchange of information on crime prevention and control among European countries," (HEUNI n.d.) indicates in a 2014 report that Croatia's homicide rate was 4.1 per 100,000 people in 2011 (HEUNI 2014, 34).

1.1 Hate Crimes

The website of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on hate crime reporting indicates that in 2012, 17 hate crimes were recorded by the police, 19 were prosecuted and 15 were sentenced (OSCE n.d.). The same source notes that in 2013, 35 hate crimes were recorded by the police, 57 were prosecuted and 85 were sentenced (ibid.).

The US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014 states that there were 13 cases involving hate speech reported by the police in Croatia during the year, representing "a decline in comparison to previous years" (25 June 2015, 8). Further and corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2. Organized Crime

Croatia's Ministry of Interior indicates that in the first five months of 2015, there were 805 reported criminal offences of organized crime (Croatia [2015], 1). In 2014, the Ministry of Interior indicated that there were 1,599 reported criminal offences for organized crime (Croatia [2014], 1).

Sources report that because Croatia is located on the "Balkan Route" [(or "'Balkan Axis'" (EU 3 Feb. 2014, 5)], it is a transit country for the trafficking of people, drugs, arms and cigarettes (ibid.; Adriatic Institute 25 Jan. 2012). A 2014 report by the European Commission about anti-corruption in Croatia states that organized crime "poses particular challenges in Croatia" as "corruption is used as a facilitator" for example, "letting a shipment pass the border unchecked or laundering proceeds of crime by reinvesting them in real estate" (3 Feb. 2014, 4). An article written by the co-founders of the Adriatic Institute, "an independent free-market think-tank … dedicated to strengthening the rule of law and advancing economic freedom" in Croatia and southeast Europe (Adriatic Institute n.d.), and published by the Huffington Post, states that the Balkan Route is also used for organ trafficking and financing terrorism (The Huffington Post 13 Feb. 2015). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to the 2014 EU report on Croatia, special law enforcement and prosecution services have been established to target organized crime activities due to the risk of the country becoming a criminal destination following its accession to the EU [in July 2013 (Freedom House 2014a)] (EU 3 Feb. 2014, 5). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Croatia's Security Intelligence Agency (SOA), the agency responsible for "collecting and analysing information significant for national security" (Croatia 2014b, i), reports that"[t]he severing of several trafficking chains and arrests of significant regional crime leaders [recently] has not resulted in a serious drop in this type of crime" (ibid., 24). The report further notes that there continue to be strong ties between organized crime members who remain in the region "in relation to cooperation, joint actions, logistical support and providing haven in order to avoid [the] judicial process" (ibid.).

2.1 Sex trafficking

The USTrafficking in Persons Report 2014reports that Croatian women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking both in Croatia and throughout Europe and that children are "exploited in prostitution" (20 June 2014, 147). The same source notes that the government "displayed mixed law enforcement efforts" and that sentencing for trafficking crimes remains "lower than sentencing for other organized crimes, and thus was an insufficient deterrent" (ibid.).

In 2013, the government investigated 39 trafficking suspects and prosecuted 15, an increase from 30 investigated suspects and 9 prosecutions in 2012 (ibid.). However, in 2013, six defendants were acquitted in three cases, and only one person was convicted in 2013 for "child pandering," and received a sentence of six years and eight months imprisonment (ibid.). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The US Trafficking in Persons Report 2014states that the Croatian government "does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts in order to do so" (20 June 2014, 147). A 2014 report submitted by the Croatian authorities to the Committee of the Parties to the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human beings, notes that the government is continuously "striving" to reinforce a "comprehensive approach" to the fight against all forms of human trafficking and "strengthen coordination at the national and international levels" (Croatia Jan. 2014, 7).

According to the Trafficking in Persons Report 2014, in 2013, the government funded three NGO-run trafficking shelters, one for adults, one for minors, and one for victims of other forms of abuse (US 20 June 2014, 148). The government "continued efforts to prevent trafficking by partnering with NGOs in the creation of a national action plan" (ibid.). The government's Office for Human Rights and National Minorities funded a year-long public information campaign on trafficking and funded the development of new anti-trafficking pamphlets (ibid.). Further and corroborating information on the implementation of such efforts could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3. Corruption

Country Reports 2014 notes that in Croatia, "corruption continued to be a problem including several reports of government corruption" (US 25 June 2015, 13). Similarly, the New York Timesreports that there is "widespread" political and economic corruption in Croatia (28 June 2013). Freedom House reports that there have been several high-profile corruption cases including the investigations of Ivo Sanader, Croatia's former Prime Minister (Freedom House 2014a). Sources report that in 2012, former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader was sentenced to 10 years in prison on corruption charges (The New York Times20 Nov. 2012; Freedom House 2013, 179). In addition, sources report that Sanader was sentenced a second time after he and the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party were convicted of corruption in 2014 (BBC 11 Mar. 2014; US 25 June 2015, 13).

Sources report that in June 2015, the former mayor [or "prefect"] of Sisak Moslavina county, was indicted by Croatia's anti-organised crime office (USKOK) (Balkan Insight 3 June 2015; OCCRP 4 June 2015). She was accused of abuse of office, bribery, money laundering and forgery of official documents (ibid.; Balkan Insight 3 June 2015).

Sources report that the government undertook a "major" anti-corruption campaign in 2013 as part of Croatia's EU accession process (Freedom House 2014a; Business Anti-Corruption Portal n.d.a). The Business Anti-Corruption Portal, a government-sponsored anti-corruption compliance resource supported by the EU, Sweden, Germany, UK, Norway, Austria, and Denmark (Business Anti-Corruption Portal n.d.b), reports that as part of Croatia's anti-corruption campaign over the past several years, several civil servants in the Croatian Privatization Fund, the Zagreb land registry and the Zagreb taxation headquarters, as well as others, were arrested on bribery charges (ibid. n.d.a). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Freedom House cites the European Commission (EC) as stating that progress was being made in regards to Croatia's anti-corruption efforts, including the introduction of a new Criminal Code effective as of 1 January 2013, which "enforces stiffer penalties for corruption" (Freedom House 2014b). Freedom House notes that the EC "praised law enforcement for continuing its proactive approach to high-profile corruption cases. However, the EC also noted that sentences in corruption case are relatively weak" (ibid.).

4. State Response and Protection

Balkan Insight reports that in May 2015 more than 20 people, including four police officers, were arrested in Croatia and Bosnia in connection with organized crime, including drug and weapons trafficking (21 May 2015). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Country Reports 2014reports that "the law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, and prosecutors and police to implement these provisions effectively" (US 25 June 2015, 13). The EU indicates that Croatia has established specialized police for corruption and organized crime (PNUSKOK), which is described in the EU report as "well equipped to carry out effective investigation" (EU 3 Feb. 2014, 2). In 2001, Croatia established the Office for the Suppression of Corruption and Organized Crime (USKOK), a specialized department of the State Attorney's Office in Croatia, responsible for investigating and prosecuting corruption and conducting police investigations and prosecutions related to corruption and organized crime within its jurisdiction (Croatia Mar. 2014). Country Reports 2014 indicates that USKOK "operated effectively and independently" and was sufficiently resourced (US 25 June 2015, 13-14). The same source notes that USKOK "actively collaborated with civil society" and that "specialized departments" at the four largest county courts in Croatia heard organized crime and corruption cases (ibid., 14). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Interpol indicates that the General Police Directorate (GPD) is the law enforcement service in Croatia, which is part of the Ministry of Interior (Interpol n.d.). In addition to the GPD, Croatia has 20 police districts responsible for maintaining security and fighting crime in each of their respective localities (ibid.). The same source further notes that Interpol Zagreb, Croatia's National Central Bureau which is a part of the GPD, "is the essential platform for all complex police investigations involving Croatian citizens abroad, or crimes of an international nature committed on Croatian soil" (ibid.). For information on police structure and police effectiveness, see Response to Information Request HRV104892.

Croatia's 2003 Witness Protection Act

regulates the terms and procedures for providing protection and assistance to endangered persons, exposed to severe danger for life, health, corporal inviolability, freedom or property of large scale arising from witnessing in criminal proceedings for criminal offences anticipated in this Act. (Croatia 2003, Art. 1)

Article 3 of the Act states the following:

[a]pplication of this Act is possible when there exists a possibility that a witness, due to a possible threat, would not freely testify in a criminal proceeding for grievous crimes; against the Republic of Croatia; against values protected by international law; crimes with elements of violence; organized crime and other grievous criminal offences when there were information about large scale dangers for life, health, corporal inviolability or property of the witness, while the witnessing is connected with disproportional difficulties without witnessing of endangered witness. (ibid., Art. 3)

Article 15 of the Act notes the following protection measures:

  1. physical protection
  2. elocation
  3. measures of disguising identity and ownership
  4. change of identity. (ibid., Art. 15)

Article 2(4) of the Act states that the "Protection unit is a separate organizational unit within the Police Administration, Ministry of Interior in charge of Protection scheme execution" (Croatia 2003). The Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) notes that "few witnesses actually enter the [witness protection] program because "the conditions involved are arduous" (IWPR 12 Nov. 2012). Sources report that there are witness and victim support offices in 7 county courts (ibid.; UNDP 2014, 42) in Osijek, Rijeka, Sisak, Split, Vukovar, Zadar and Zagreb "represent[ing] 50% of all county courts" (ibid.). The UN Development Programme (UNDP) further notes that the offices provide free and confidential services and that there are over 200 "specially educated" volunteers (ibid.).

5. Effectiveness

Freedom House's Nations in Transit 2014report states that despite reform efforts over the last decade, "the judiciary remains Croatia's weakest institution" (2014a). An article in the Huffington Post by the co-founders of the Adriatic Institute similarly indicates that "rampant corruption" by politicians has "blocked judicial reforms, interfered with the judiciary, [and] failed to strengthen the rule of law" (The Huffington Post 13 Feb. 2015). Sources report that the judicial system faces a number of challenges including a large case backlog (Freedom House 2014a; TI n.d.). The New York Timesreports that the European Commission has raised concerns regarding the "low level of legal penalties in corruption cases and the effectiveness of Zagreb's measures to tackle human trafficking and organized crime" (The New York Times28 June 2013).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Adriatic Institute for Public Policy. 25 January 2012. Katelyn Foster. "Croatia: Corruption, Organized Crime and the Balkan Route." <;id=32> [Accessed 22 June 2015]

_____. N.d. "About Us." <> [Accessed 29 June 2015]

Balkan Insight. 3 June 2015. Sven Milekic. "Former Croatian Prefect Indicted for Corruption." <> [Accessed 22 June 2015]

The Business Anti-Corruption Portal. N.d.a. "Croatia Country Profile: Business Corruption in Croatia." <> [Accessed 16 June 2015]

_____. N.d.b. "The Business Anti-Corruption Portal." <> [Accessed 22 June 2015]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 11 March 2014. "Former Croatia PM Ivo Sanader Convicted of Corruption." <> [Accessed 29 June 2015]

Croatia. [2015]. Ministry of Interior. Survey of Basic Safety Indicators Covering the Period of the Five Months of the 2015 Year in the Republic of Croatia. <> [Accessed 22 June 2015]

_____. [2014]a. Ministry of Interior. Survey of Basic Safety Indicators in 2014 the Republic of Croatia.<> [Accessed 22 June 2015]

_____. 2014b. Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA). Security-Intelligence Agency. <> [Accessed 16 June 2015]

_____. 2004. Witness Protection Act. <> [Accessed 29 June 2015]

European Union (EU). 3 February 2014. European Commission. Annex - Croatia to the EU Anti-Corruption Report. <> [Accessed 29 June 2015]

European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control (HEUNI). 2014. European Sourcebook of Crime and Criminal Justice Statistics 2014.< heuni/reports/qrMWoCVTF/HEUNI_report _80_European_Sourcebook.pdf> [Accessed 22 June 2015]

_____. N.d. "HEUNI." <> [Accessed 22 June 2015]

Freedom House. 2014a. "Croatia." Nations in Transit 2014. <> [Accessed 16 June 2015]

_____.2014b. "Croatia." Freedom in the World 2014. <> [Accessed 16 June 2015]

_____. 2013. "Croatia." Nations in Transit 2013. <> [Accessed 29 June 2015]

The Huffington Post. 13 February 2015. Natasha Srdoc and Joel Anand Samy. "Croatia: 'Criminal Enterprise HDZ' Takes Over Presidency--Organized Crime and the Rise of Nationalism." <> [Accessed 22 June 2015]

Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). 12 November 2012. Rachel Irwin. "Poor Protection for Balkan Trial Witnesses." <> [Accessed 17 July 2015]

Interpol. 2015. "Croatia." <> [Accessed 22 June 2015]

The New York Times. 28 June 2013. Alan Riley. "Croatia and the E.U." <> [Accessed 22 June 2015]

_____. 20 November 2012. Dan Bilefsky. "Former Premier of Croatia is Sentenced for Graft." <> [Accessed 22 June 2015]

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). N.d. "Croatia." <> [Accessed 29 June 2015]

Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). 4 June 2015. "Croatia: Former Mayor Charged With Corruption." <> [Accessed 22 June 2015]

Transparency International (TI). N.d. "Corruption by Country - Croatia." <> [Accessed 22 June 2015]

United Nations (UN). March 2014. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Global Study on Homicide 2013. <> [Accessed 22 June 2015]

_____. 2014. Development Programme Regional Centre for Europe and the CIS. "Development of a Witness and Victim Support System." <> [Accessed 17 July 2015]

_____. N.d. Office on Drugs and Crime. "Intentional Homicide, Counts and Rates per 100,000 Population." <®ION=__ALL®ION__label=All&SUBREGION=__ALL&SUBREGION__ label=All&COUNTRY=105&COUNTRY__label=Croatia&format=html&fullscreen=true& showtoc=true#state:0> [Accessed 22 June 2015]

United States (US). 25 June 2015. Department of State."Croatia." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014. <> [Accessed 29 June 2015]

_____. 20 May 2015. Department of State. Croatia 2015 Crime and Safety Report. <> [Accessed 22 June 2013]

_____. 20 June 2014. "Croatia (Tier 2)." Trafficking in Persons Report 2014. <> [Accessed 17 June 2015]

_____. N.d. "About OSAC." <> [Accessed 22 June 2015]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources:Attempts to contact the following were unsuccessful within the time constraints of this Response: Adriatic Institute for Public Policy; Centre for Peace Studies; Croatia – Ministry of Interior; Croatian Law Centre; Lecturer, Chair for Criminal Law, Faculty of Law, University of Zagreb.

Internet sites, including:Amnesty International; Council of Europe;; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Human Rights House Network; Human Rights Watch; Insight Crime; International Crisis Group; International Statistics on Crime and Justice; IRIN; Jamestown Foundation; Jane's Intelligence Review; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; UN – Refworld; Wilson Center.

Associated documents