Cablegate: Ambassador Discusses Property Restitution, Extradition, And


R 201326Z FEB 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

(U) Sensitive but unclassified; please handle accordingly.

1. (SBU) Ambassador met February 15 with Croatian Justice Minister
Ana Lovrin to discuss property restitution, negotiations on a new
extradition treaty between the U.S. and Croatia, and witness

Property Restitution

2. (SBU) The Ambassador reminded Lovrin of their July 2006
discussion on this subject, at which time Lovrin promised that the
draft amendment which would give foreign claimants access to the
1996 Law on Property Restitution on an equal footing with Croatian
citizens would be passed by fall 2006. To date, the draft amendment
has not even been put before the parliament for consideration. The
Ambassador noted that, in his discussions of the subject with
various officials, he has been told repeatedly that the amendment is
unlikely to be passed in an election year. The Ambassador advised
Lovrin that, while resolution of this issue is not yet a big
political issue in the United States, pressure is building. He
cited as an example next week's visit to Croatia of Special Envoy
for Holocaust Issues J. Christian Kennedy.

3. (SBU) The Ambassador recognized the difficulty Croatia faces in
changing its law to resolve this issue, but expressed his hope that
something could be done to at least create a process for those
claimants whose cases were not covered by previous agreements.
Lovrin confirmed that there has been no change in the status of the
amendment since the Ambassador's last visit. The decision of when
to present the amendment to parliament is political and MOJ has not
yet received the nod to go forward. She is unable to predict when
this might happen. The Ambassador again emphasized the need for
these claimants to have a process available to them so they could at
least file their claims. He left with the Minister a short paper
with illustrative examples of American claimants who might benefit
from passage of the amendment.

New Extradition Treaty

4. (SBU) The Ambassador advised Lovrin that we were interested in
advancing, among other agreements, a new extradition treaty between
the U.S. and Croatia. We have long been concerned that the current
treaty dating from 1901 is outdated and does not include 21st
century crimes, such as drug trafficking and pedophilia. The
Ambassador informed Lovrin that, after years of responding that
there were other priorities ahead of Croatia, US DOJ has at last
agreed to consider opening negotiations, with a caveat. DOJ needs
the GOC's assurance that it will be willing to consider allowing the
extradition of its nationals. The Ambassador noted that Croatia
would have to address this issue for EU accession to satisfy the
requirement for exchange of nationals pursuant to the European
Arrest Warrant. He hoped that we could obtain some sort of
assurance that the constitutional changes necessary to allow the
extradition of Croatian citizens would be forthcoming, and that the
United States might be able to benefit as well from this.

5. (SBU) Lovrin sought confirmation that the United States did, in
fact, extradite its nationals, so what we are seeking is only
reciprocal cooperation. However, Lovrin noted, it is not in the
competence of MOJ to change the constitution. She could only commit
that Croatia will talk about this issue in the course of the EU
accession process. There are other changes to the constitution that
will need to be made for accession; they will be made in a package
at that time. As the timing of Croatia's accession is still
unclear, it is difficult to give any guarantee in advance.
Assistant Justice Minister for International Legal Assistance
Ljiljana Vodopija Cengic, also in attendance, expressed her belief
that the US/EU Agreement on Legal Assistance covers extradition,
thus this issue would be resolved when Croatia becomes an EU member.
We noted that extradition remains essentially a bilateral issue,
despite the US/EU Agreement, and the issue of return of nationals
would still need to be resolved. The Ambassador asked if it would
be possible to get from the Minister a letter at least saying that
the issue will be addressed in the EU accession process. Lovrin
replied that the Ministry needs to look at the example of how other
EU member states have handled this issue before any decision could
be made. Both sides promised to discuss the issue further at the
working level.

Witness Facilitation

6. (SBU) The Ambassador noted the Ministry's efforts to address the
lack of support for witnesses and victims in the judicial process,
cited by the international community as a key gap in the integrity
of Croatia's judicial process. He offered USG assistance in support
of the Ministry's efforts, for example, in the form of expert
advice, staff training and study tours. Lovrin gratefully accepted
and promised to follow up with the Embassy.


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