General Legal Framework

AuthorBojic, Ines
Constitutional provisions on protection against discrimination and the
promotion of equality
The Croatian Constitution includes the following articles dealing with non-discrimination:
- Article 3 of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia places equality, ethnic
equality and gender equality among the highest values of the constitutional order
and the bases for the interpretation of the Constitution;
- Article 14 provides for a general protection against discrimination of all rights and
freedoms regardless of race, colour, gender, language, religion, political or other
belief, national (ethnic)37 or social origin, property, birth, education, social status or
other characteristic.38 It further embodies the principle of equality before the law.
These provisions apply to all areas covered by the directives. Their material scope is
broader than those of the directives.
These provisions are not directly applicable by ordinary courts.39 For instance, ordinary
courts can provide protection against discrimination based on grounds listed in the Anti-
discrimination Act but not on any other characteristic, although the list of prohibited
grounds of discrimination in the Constitution is non-exhaustive.
The constitutional equality clauses cannot be directly enforced against private actors.
However, anyone may file a constitutional complaint to the Constitutional Court if s/he
considers that an act of judicial or administrative power has violated one of the freedoms
or rights guaranteed by the Constitution, including equality before the law, meaning that
judicial decisions, including those adopted in disputes between private actors, could be
challenged before the Constitutional Court.40
37 In Croatia, ‘nationality’ (nacionalnost or narodnost in Croatian) does not refer to ‘citizenship’, but to the
membership of an ethnic group.
38 Other discrimination grounds as age, disability, sexual orientation are implicitly covered by ‘other
characteristics’. The fact that these discrimination grounds are not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution is
of no relevance and the Constitutional Court has never called into question whether disability, age, sexual
orientation and other discrimination grounds that are explicitly mentioned in the Anti-discrimination Act are
covered by the Constitution as well. In its decisions, the Constitutional Court never questioned this issue
and under Article 14 of the Constitution, the Constitutional Court regularly decides on discrimination on the
ground of disability (for example in the case No. U-III-4748/2017), age (case No. U-III-280/15) and sexual
orientation (case No. U-IIIBi-2349/2013).
39 However, a different view is apparent in the existing case law. For instance, in Decision No. Gž-2166/13, of
9 December 2013, Varaždin County Court quashed the decision of Zagreb Municipal Court No. Pr-6450/05-
23, of 27 November 2012, in which the municipal court dismissed the anti-discrimination complaint with the
explanation that it could not be considered that the claimant had been discriminated against on the basis of
education, since the Labour Act contained a closed list of discrimination grounds and education was not one
of them. The county court stated that despite the fact that the Labour Act does not prescribe education as a
discrimination ground, Article 14 of the Constitution, which contains an open list of discrimination grounds,
explicitly prescribes education as one of the grounds and is applicable in this particular case.
40 Constitutional Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia, 24 September 1999, Article 62(1),
Official Gazette 99/1999, 29/2002, 49/2002, Ustavni zakon o Ustavnom sudu Republike Hrvatske.

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