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Hope on the Balkans: Reports 1997
Croatian Helsinki Committee on Dinamo

From: iskoric@igc.apc.org
Newsgroups: yugo.antiwar
Subject: Croatian Helsinki Committee on Dinamo
Date: 01 Dec 1997


Within its regular activities of monitoring and promoting human rights, the Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (CHC) has been closely watching the human rights situation in sports and sports activities in Croatia. Namely, we are of the opinion that sports are an important and unavoidable factor in developing and nurturing of interpersonal relationships, an activity which enables diverse forms of freedom of expression as well as articulation of different interests. Sports are the territory where one can easily test the true atmosphere of the society as well as monitor the development of interpersonal relationships, but also human rights.
The Committee wishes to warn the public with this statement about the human rights violations in the case of the fans of the Zagreb football team "Croatia" (which used to be called "Dinamo"), i.e. "Dinamo" (now "Croatia").
First of all, we would like to express our regret at the fact that the discussion about the name of a team has political connotations and thus a significance unusual for a democratic society. The fans who want to keep the old name of the team, "Dinamo" are automatically stigmatised as Yugo-nostalgics, neo-communists he like because this was the name that the actual team "Croatia" had during communist times.
However, on the other hand, a large number of "Dinamo" fans identified themselves with the significance of the name that the club had earned during the communist regime, when they were, by cheering for "Dinamo" expressing their resistance to the communist regime and greater-Serbian concept of Yugoslavianism. We are forced to express our regret that the Croatian President himself, on many occasions, used the "Dinamo" case especially for attacks on his political opponents, but not with those citizens who wanted to leave nothing but sportsmanship to "Dinamo".
Public officials, journalists, intellectuals and also the ordinary citizens-fans have protested on many different occasions against this"politization" of the name "Dinamo" and their own stigmatisation because of their support for this name. However, this did not stop at public and intellectual debates.
Numerous fans of the former football club "Dinamo", now "Croatia", have come to ask for help and protection from this Committee because of the abuse of the basic human right to freedom of expression. They have especially expressed their sorrow and dissatisfaction at the unreasonable and repressive attitude of the representatives of the Ministry of Interior Affairs and the protection agency "Sokol", which was hired by the "Croatia's" Club management. The fans claim that the representatives of the Ministry of Interior Affairs abused and beat them, interrogated them and took away their private property - such as their club's insignia, flags, signs, scarves, caps, cushions for the chairs and even their sweaters. They were pressured to stop expressing their wish for the club to be named "Dinamo" again.
However, these mostly young people, but also many older ones, were victims of repression for the sole reason that they want their club, the fans of which they are, to keep its old, recognisable name "Dinamo".
The Committee is sending a group of its activists to attend and monitor football games in order to check the allegations and complaints of the citizens-fans. Besides, the Committee wrote to the Croatia's Football Club's Management in order to warn them "that such conduct is utterly unacceptable, above all because it amounts to an open violation of freedom of expression".
We claim that such a behaviour of the Club Management, which persecutes its own fans because of expressing their feelings about the name "Dinamo", is a flagrant example of undemocratic behaviour and violation of fundamental human rights.
The Committee proposed a meeting to be held between the representatives of the CHC and the Club's members in order to find a common solution for stopping further persecution of the football fans, warning that unless this is done on the contrary the CHC will be forced to internationalise the problem, not only through international sports organisations but also through various other institutions and organisations.
Since the Club Management did not reply to the CHC letter, the Committee demands that the Club Management and the members of the Ministry of Interior Affairs, and other protection agencies inform the public according to which law provision is it possible to take away citizen's private property. We would like to emphasise that such a behaviour of the police can be considered as a massive and organised crime, which is subject to a special legal proceedings and demand an urgent action.
We have noticed recently that the members of the Ministry of Interior do not actively participate in taking away of the club's insignias from the citizens, however with their passive behaviour towards such actions they in fact tacitly support such a behaviour. The Committee reminds that the citizens of this country, in accordance with its Constitution, have a right to express their opinions, political and other attitudes. Such a form of t repression represent a serious violation of the international human rights standards.
Therefore, we call on the citizens to keep on expressing their views and demands - freely and without fear - that the club the fans of which they are and to which they belong be called as they want it to be called, and that they take to all their games those insignia by which tpress their human and sports feelings. At the same time, they should be careful that among those objects are not those that could hurt other fans, players or security officials, and that by wearing them they do not offend the feelings of other citizens-fans. Therefore, we call on all those fans whose any private property will be taken, to ask that person their name and in case it is a police officer, their number. We would also like to ask the fans to send these information to the Committee so that the persons who violate the positive laws of the Republic of Croatia could be sanctioned.
The Committee is using this opportunity to inform the public, the Croatia Club Management and the representatives of the Ministry Interior of the Republic of Croatia that the CHC activists will attend the football game "Dinamo" ("Croatia") - "Atletico Madrid" and monitor the behaviour of the person in charge of the security at the game.
We expect that the members of the Ministry of Interior help the activists of NGO's for human rights in monitoring and observing possible human rights violations. We hope that they will themselves intervene in prevention of such violations in accordance with their legal jurisdiction. The CHC activists will monitor the behaviour towards the citizens fans at this game as well as at all the future ones. This is our common obligation based on the international documents which were ratified by the Republic of Croatia, the Constitution and other valid laws of the Republic of Croatia.

Zagreb, November 25, 1997

For the CHC:
Ivan Zvonimir i ak

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