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politics

Ban on protests in a Zagreb square ‘only slightly unconstitutional’


Croatian Constitutional Court has struck down the ban on holding protests in St. Mark’s Square in Zagreb – the location of the seat of the Parliament, the Government and the Constitutional Court itself – but has decided the ban, although unconstitutional, should be in effect for another year to give the Government enough time to find the best way to regulate the protests in the square.

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The reason why the Court thinks that the ban on political protest in the square is unconstitutional – I kid you not – is because the square is full of cultural monuments and historical buildings, so the Court deems it unfit for assembly of larger number of people.

Our Constitutional Court does not find it offensive that in Croatia you can’t bring your grievances to the door of the Government or the Parliament (or in fact even to a place where they could hear you, because if you want to protest, you are forced to do it practically in a different part of the city). No, they worry about the facades.

But because other groups are allowed to admire them, the Court finds that those who wish to hold political protests are discriminated against.

Wow.

The Court opines that the government should therefore change the law so as to stop the discriminating practice. I guess no more folk dancers in the square, no change of guard in front of the Government and no tourists watching it, no mass meetings with President Bush and most certainly no inaugurations of Croatian Presidents in that spot from now on.

But, even if it’s about discrimination, it’s all right for another year. And this has not been the first time the Court has reached a decision saying that although a law is unconstitutional, it should continue to be implemented. It’s a way not to step on the toes of the authorities. Today at work, we were kidding that the Court is afraid to say clearly whether the ban was unconstitutional or not, so it pronounced it “only slightly unconstitutional”. Just as in Croatia we have a joke about women who are “only slightly pregnant”.

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