Thursday, March 24, 2005

Croatia’s Police Breakdown

State of public safety of Croatia, which has been steadily improving for years after the end of war, is again deteriorating. Crime statistics, as usual, might be telling various and often contradictory stories, but these days Croatians are noticing increasing number of media reports about serial rapes, abductions, home invasions, spectacular armed robberies, heroin pandemic among country’s youth and, last but not least, unchecked murder sprees.

While those kinds of things used to happen before, Croatian police – institution which is supposed to prevent them - never had to face such levels of public scrutiny as it faces now. With rival TV stations, cell phones and omni-present Internet, every such event gets mythical proportions. Just like in Serbia during Milošević (Milosevic), government-friendly media are encouraged to put those kinds of stories on the front pages in order to make people forget about more pressing, but less spectacular issues like foreign debt, unemployment and EU fiasco.

However, there are times when those things can nevertheless hurt establishment. In past few weeks Croatia saw at least three very spectacular examples of gross police incompetence – police dispatchers trying to wash their hands from the abducted and raped woman calling for help via her cell phone; handball “fans” riots in Zagreb and the apparent inability to prevent mass murderer in Petrinja.

While first two incidents resulted in couple of officials being suspended, the last one led to something which wasn’t a common practice in Croatian police. Marijan Balošević (Marijan Balosevic), chief of Sisak-Moslavina Police District – in whose jurisdiction Petrinja massacre took place - has resigned from his post.

And it doesn’t seem that the buck stop there. There are calls for interior minister Marijan Mlinarić (Marijan Mlinaric) to resign. Sanader, just as he sacrificed his close ally Miomir Žužul (Miomir Zuzul) for the sake of his favourite’s presidential bid, might to do the same with Mlinarić few weeks before the local elections – where HDZ might get even more embarrassing defeat. Mlinarić could also serve as a scapegoat for EU fiasco – his police failed to locate Gotovina or, as government would like EU diplomats to believe, failed to find sufficient proof that Gotovina wasn’t in Croatia. In any case, the terrain for the removal is being prepared – Mlinarić has temporarily left his post, officially “for medical treatment”.


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