Croatian Helsinki Committee
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Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (CHC; Croatian: Hrvatski helsinški odbor, HHO) is an organisation purportedly founded to protect and promote human rights in Croatia, with a questionable reputation and history. [clarification needed]Founded on 31 March 1993, first as a branch of the International Helsinki Federation, and, since 14 April 2003, as a local NGO under Croatian law) by independent intellectuals, artists, lawyers, journalists committed to protection and promotion of human rights.
It has publicly declared itself dedicated to the following goals:
- Support, promote and implement the principles of the Final Act of Conference of Security and Co-operation in Europe, signed in Helsinki in August 1975, and all documents resulting from this Act: support, promote and implement principles of the UN relating to human issues, and implement in practice the documents of the Council of Europe;
- Support the development of democratic institutions, and promote the rule of law, human rights, and education for these values;
- Organise research and documentation regarding human rights in Croatia;
- Help victims of violations of human rights and those whose rights are threatened.
CHC provides assistance in an average of 1200-2000 cases of violation of human rights each year, involving up to 5000 persons. The organisation has continuously informed the public about human rights issues and has been initiating debates about systemic causes of the gravest problems; thereby it has a certain impact on systemic improvements.
Members and employees
Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights is an association of up to 30 members committed to protection and promotion of human rights. Its professional office involves 10 employees. Membership in the organisation and paid work are strictly separated; the members (including the Chairman, lawyers, etc.) work on a strictly voluntary basis, and employees are not members of the association.
Membership and cooperation
The Committee cooperates with similar organisations in the region of South-Eastern Europe (other post-Yugoslav countries, as well as Albania, Greece, etc.) and throughout Europe.
Besides the central office in Zagreb CHC also keeps four field offices (Slavonia/Osijek; Vukovar/Karlovac; Knin, Split/ Dubrovnik), by which it ensures coverage of the most critical areas of the country, notably the areas that were directly affected by the war 1991-95. CHC is a member of the International Helsinki Federation, the Human Rights House Network, and the Balkan Human Rights Network; it cooperates with Croatian judiciary, public administration and other relevant institutions, both in dealing with cases of violations of human rights and in developing new systemic solutions.
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- Human rights violations cases dealt with each year, based on interventions at responsible instances of the system, lobbying, actions in public, and cooperation with relevant authorities
- Education for human rights for youth, thereby compensating for the absence of the topics of human rights in Croatian curricula; [clarification needed] education on human rights for young professionals/future decision makers in South-Eastern Europe – in cooperation with the Balkan Human Rights Network (seven schools, involving 30 participants each, from 2001-07); the Summer Schools of Human Rights: education on particular issues of human rights for activists of civil society, journalists, MPs and civil servants in Croatia and other post-Yugoslav countries
- Advanced education for judiciary (judges, public attorneys etc.), subsequently taken over by Judicial Academy; [clarification needed]human rights manuals for the police and citizens, in cooperation with the Police Academy (owing to which the subject of human rights was included in the curricula of the Academy) [clarification needed]
- Advocating legislation relevant to human rights. The Freedom of Information Act was adopted as a result of advocacy of an NGO coalition coordinated by CHC; the Act makes it possible to demand transparency and accountability much more efficiently. The draft Act on Political Parties was proposed to the Parliament, but was rejected; although formally unsuccessful, this campaign was well recognised in media, and effectively disclosed the resistance of the entire political elite (regardless of party affiliation) to transparency with regard to internal democracy, finances, distribution of electoral candidacies or influential positions etc. Recently,[when?] CHC has been involved in preparations of draft laws against discrimination and on free legal aid
- Monitoring freedom of information and expression, defence of rights of journalists, as well as of persons whose rights have been violated by media (privacy, personal dignity, etc.)
- Documentation of civilian victims of the military operations "Bljesak" ("Flash") and "Oluja" ("Storm") in May and August 1995
- Monitoring trials of war criminals in Croatia [clarification needed]
In June 2006, the CHC was selected by the EU Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia as the National Focal Point for Croatia, on the basis of its involvement in monitoring and protection of human rights, particularly ethnic minorities.
On 23 November 2007 Ivo Banac became the president of the Croatian Helsinki Committee. During the following 13 months he was involved in a financial scandal  and 11 members left the Committee for a variety of reasons. [clarification needed]
On 21 November 2009, Ivan Zvonimir Čičak, former president of the CHC returned as president.
- 1993–1998 - Ivan Zvonimir Čičak
- 2000–2007 - Žarko Puhovski
- 2007 - Danijel Ivin
- 2007–2009 - Ivo Banac
- 2009–present - Ivan Zvonimir Čičak
- "Ustrojstvo i članstvo". HHO official web site (in Croatian). Croatian Helsinki Committee. 2 January 2009. Retrieved 29 November 2010.
- Ivo Banac novi predsjednik HHO-a
- Ivo Banac sam sebi iznajmio stan
- "Ivan Zvonimir Čičak ponovno postao predsjednik HHO-a". Večernji list (in Croatian). 21 November 2009. Retrieved 11 October 2010.