Republic of Croatia
Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.
Population: 4.4 million (0.9 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 20,800
Compulsory recruitment age: 18
Voluntary recruitment age: none
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 1 November 2002
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 138, ILO 182
There were no reports of under-18s serving in the armed forces.
In February 2003 Croatia formally applied to join the European Union (EU) as a full member in 2008. During 2003 Serb and Croat war crimes suspects were transferred to the custody of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Suspects continued to evade arrest and other perpetrators remained unidentified.1 The Croatian government continued to fail to take significant steps to facilitate the return of the prewar Serb population, despite pledges following the election of Prime Minister Ivo Sanader in December 2003 and requests by the EU as part of accession talks.2
National recruitment legislation and practice
In accordance with the constitution, "Military service and the defence of the Republic of Croatia shall be the duty of every capable citizen" (Article 47).3 On ratifying the Optional Protocol in November 2002, Croatia declared that under-18s were prevented by law from joining the armed forces. Recruits register for conscription in the year in which they turn 18, and are sent to do military service after they are 18, normally in the calendar year in which they turn 19.4 The period of obligatory service is six months.5 There is no provision for voluntary recruitment.6
Before the 2002 Defence Act came into force, it was possible to be a conscript or volunteer before the age of 18, although the authorities said that the provision allowing 16 year olds to be conscripted in a state of emergency had not been used during the war with Yugoslavia of 1991-95.7
Military training and military schools
There are no military educational establishments or youth organizations with a military orientation for under-18s in Croatia, and no form of either military or patriotic training in Croatian schools.8
UNICEF, in cooperation with the government, provides educational programs in schools including on landmine protection, peace and human rights and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.9 To be accepted into higher military schools, the applicant must have served in the armed forces for a minimum of three years and reached the rank of lieutenant.10
Approximately one million children were exposed to the war of 1991-95, and between two and four hundred thousand were directly affected by the fighting. In its report of November 2003 to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the government said it had established a National Programme for Psychological and Social Assistance to Independence War Victims in regional centres throughout Croatia. More immediate post-conflict concerns with humanitarian aid and assistance apparently delayed the implementation of rehabilitation programs, and a working group to carry out research into the assistance needed by children was not set up until 1999. Children were categorized according to whether they or their parents suffered directly as a result of the conflict, and profiled on the basis of their recollections of the war to determine the treatment they needed. Continued analyses were undertaken during treatment to measure their recovery and rehabilitation within the family.11
Psychosocial support for children was provided through individual and group therapy, support from field teams and a children's hotline for psychological assistance. Among the most common problems noted by field workers were behavioural and adaptation disorders, poor school performance, insecurity and aggression. The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare has, in cooperation with organizations such as UNICEF, implemented projects for children and young people in four of the regions exposed to the heaviest fighting. These were focused on improving the training of local professionals to improve their response to the post-war "psychological crises of children and youth".12
5 HINA News Agency, "Croatian party collects signatures against army conscription", 7 April 2003, reported in South East European Security Monitor, Centre for South East European Studies, http://www.csees.net (SEE Security Monitor).
6 Communication from Gordana Starcevic, Croatian parliament, June 2004.
8 Communication from Gordana Starcevic, op. cit.
9 Second periodic report to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit.
10 Communication from Gordana Starcevic, op. cit.
11 Second periodic report to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit.
12 Second periodic report to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit.