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“There’s no sliding back” – UN right to health expert urges Croatia to seize the opportunity

Croatia version

ZAGREB / GENEVA (6 December 2016) – Croatia has a good opportunity to become an inclusive society, but it must avoid a selective approach that discriminate against certain groups while favouring others, today warned the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Dainius Pūras.

“Croatia has invested efforts in setting up a framework for the enjoyment of the right to health,” Mr. Pūras said at the end of his first official visit to the country, while urging the Government to move forward without sliding back or implementing retrogressive measures. “Remaining gaps need to be addressed, but the political will seems to be there.”

During this nine-day visit, the expert noted that despite the difficulties stemming from the war, the transition of the health-care and other sectors in the 1990s, and the financial crisis of 2008-2009, the State has strengthened health-related policies and services in an attempt to make the healthcare system sustainable .

Regarding the mental health sector, Mr. Pūras cautioned that some 4,200 people with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities still live in institutional care as hostages of that system despite efforts to provide them with community-based services.

“The success of pilot projects towards deinstitutionalization, such as the community center in Osijek, has not yet been enough to make a difference in the system,” the expert said. “The mental health system continues to largely rely on biomedical interventions and psychiatric hospitals.”

“Croatia should not stagnate and should replicate the good practices of deinstitutionalization that have already proven to be rights compliant,” he stressed. “With political will of national and county authorities, added to expertize of civil society actors and support of EU funds, the country has an incredible opportunity to end the sad legacy of institutional care and systemic human rights violations in mental healthcare.”

Regarding sexual and reproductive health rights, the Special Rapporteur expressed concern over retrogressive measures preventing access to safe abortion and contraceptives, hindering age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education, and subordinating women’s and children’s rights to the primacy of the family unit.

“Sexual and reproductive health rights are human rights and retrogressive measures preventing their realization may constitute violations under international human rights law,” Mr. Pūras said.

“I would like to urge all stakeholders in Croatia to critically address any attack on universal human rights principles,” he said. “When applied in a consistent manner, human rights are the basis for a successful realization of right to health and other rights of everyone in Croatia” highlighted the expert.

During his country visit, the Special Rapporteur also assessed the realization of the right to health of groups in situation of vulnerability, including people on the move, national minorities, children and older persons.

“Urgent efforts are needed to vaccinate all children, to provide all pregnant women with regular medical care, irrespective of nationality or legal status, and to conduct initial medical check-ups upon arrival”, the expert said, noting the amendments to the Law on Asylum which has restricted health care of asylum seekers to emergency care.

“Croatia has walked a long way since the war and now is member of the EU and newly appointed member of the Human Rights Council,” he said. “The country cannot afford to go back or stagnate when it comes to the promotion and protection of human rights for all.”

“Human rights are not only a matter of acquired obligations of the State, but a matter of ensuring the full realization of the rights and well-being of all people in Croatia as human beings,” the expert concluded.

Mr Pūras, who visited the country at the invitation of the Government of Croatia, met with Government officials, members of Parliament and Constitutional Court, and representatives of international organizations and the civil society. He visited various health facilities, mental health centres in Zagreb, Osijek and Split. He also visited one high-school, a reception centre for asylum seekers and a Roma settlement in the capital.

The UN Special Rapporteur will present a full report on his visit to Croatia at a forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2017.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20986&LangID=E

Mr. Dainius  Pūras (Lithuania) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (right to health) in 2014. Mr. Pûras is a Professor and the Head of the Centre for Child psychiatry social pediatrics at Vilnius University, and teaches at the Faculty of Medicine, Institute of International relations and political science and Faculty of Philosophy of Vilnius University, Lithuania. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Health/Pages/SRRightHealthIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

OHCHR Country page – Croatia: http://ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/HRIndex.aspx

For press inquiries and additional information, please contact:
In Zagreb (during the visit):
Lucia de la Sierra (+41 79 444 5401)
In Geneva (before and after the visit):
Dolores Infante-Cañibano (+41 22 917 97681 / dinfante@ohchr.org)
Lucia de la Sierra (+ 41 22 917 9741 / ldelasierra@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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