Ombudswoman Tena Šimonović Einwalter highlighted during the discussion on the Special Report on the COVID-19 Epidemic and its impact on human rights and equality in Croatia that now is the right time to reflect on what the society has learned during the pandemic and to plan responses to future crises.

The report contains 72 recommendations, both general as well as those pertaining specifically to the epidemic, and focuses on the impact of the epidemic on the specific human rights and on the most vulnerable groups. The report, prepared in collaboration with the Ombudswoman for the Persons with Disabilities, the Ombudswoman for Children, and the Ombudswoman for Gender Equality, covers the issue of restrictions on human rights, which must be proportonate, based on the law, non-discriminatory, time-limited, and must be necessary to achieve the goal, in this case, to protect public health. The Ombudswoman emphasized the importance of including those who will be affected by the measures in the decision-making process; of the setting of the criteria for the introduction of measures, giving clear instructions to the public, and explaining the purpose of the measures.

The Ombudswoman highlighted the fact that her institution’s report on the impact of the epidemic on human rights was cited as an example of good practice among independent institutions in the EU at a conference on the topic of the protection of human rights during times of crisis organized in April by the Swedish Presidency of the EU Council and the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights.

Ombudswoman Šimonović Einwalter welcomed the fact that the Committee had included this item on the agenda, as there was no obligation to do so. She highlighted parts of the Report that relate to health and social policy, and noted that in both areas the same problem is evident: the citizens are not aware of their rights, do not have information about them, and do not trust the institutions.

It is worth noting that the Croatian Parliament has not yet discussed the Ombudswoman’s 2021 Annual Report submitted in March 2022, nor the special report “The Impact of the COVID-19 Epidemic on Human Rights and Equality – Recommendations for Strengthening Resilience to Future Crises” submitted in May of the same year.
However, both reports have now been discussed and unanimously supported by the parliamentary Committee on Health and Social Policy, while the Committee on Human Rights and the Rights of National Minorities supported the Ombudswoman’s 2021 Annual Report in October 2022.

In the meantime, at the end of March of this year, the Ombudswoman submitted to the Croatian Parliament her 2022 Annual Report, after which she organized a press conference in order to present it to the Croatian public.