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The Right to Restitution of Tenancy Rights in Croatia: In Search of Redress for Violations of Individual and Minority Rights of Ethnic Serbs

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Cancellation and abolition of specially protected tenancy rights by Croatia in the 1991–1996 period severely affected the country’s ethnic Serbs, even to the point of their disappearance. Croatia’s discriminatory laws and actions during and after the war, combined with certain other factors, resulted in the vast majority of ethnic Serbs losing their tenancy rights. This has prevented many ethnic Serbs, who left Croatia during the war, from returning to their homes. Since 80% of all urban housing in prewar Croatia was under specially protected tenancy agreements, the loss of tenancy rights by ethnic Serbs has led to most dramatic demographic changes in the urban areas, with virtually all of Croatia’s towns that were majority Serbian before the war becoming majority Croatian. This has adversely impacted the exercise of a number of minority rights of ethnic Serbs. The loss of tenancy rights has thus negatively affected ethnic Serbs both individually and collectively. As such, the chapter explores the legal basis, under international human rights law, of the right to restitution of specially protected tenancy rights in Croatia as an adequate form of redress. It argues that this is a specific right derived from other rights, notably (i) the right to respect for home and the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions; (ii) the right to non-discrimination; (iii) the right to housing and property restitution and the right to return home; and (iv) the right to preservation and development of a minority’s identity. The chapter also considers how the right to restitution of tenancy rights in Croatia could be implemented. It suggests that the current housing programme does not provide an effective redress and that several international legal and political mechanisms, along with the European Union in particular, have failed to implement this right thus far, although there may be a recently opened possibility to bring the matter before the Court of Justice of the European Union.


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