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27 March 2020

Croatia: Temporary measures to mitigate the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and Zagreb earthquake in civil, insolvency and criminal procedure law

On 14 March 2020, the Croatian Ministry of Justice issued recommendations to prevent the transmission of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and control the pandemic ("Measures").

The Measures are applicable until 1 April 2020. The Measures advise temporary adjustments to legal requirements in civil, insolvency and criminal procedure law to avoid hardship that would otherwise arise as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

With the aim of further mitigating the negative effects of the crisis on companies and private individuals, the Measures advise the following:

  • judicial authorities will continue to operate and carry out all urgent procedures and actions with appropriate security controls;
  • hearings and other non-urgent actions should be postponed for at least 14 days;
  • employees are allowed to work from home where possible;
  • conduct electronic communications in working with clients and all parties involved wherever possible.

Unfortunately, Croatia is dealing with an additional crisis, as a powerful earthquake hit Zagreb on 22 March 2020. The Ministry of Justice announced possible technical difficulties in the operation of part of the judicial information system due to the consequences of the earthquake. It also published a list of buildings of several courts and state attorneys' offices that were gravely affected and thus cannot be entered:

  • Zagreb Municipal State Attorney's Office, Civil Administration Department, Ban J. Jelacic Square 6 – closed for use;
  • State Attorney's Office of the Republic of Croatia, Gajeva 30a – partly open;
  • Zagreb County Court, Trg N.Š. Zrinskog br. 5 – temporarily unusable until damage is repaired;
  • Zagreb Commercial Court, Amruševa 2 / II (entrance from Petrinjska 8) – temporarily unusable until damage is repaired;
  • High Commercial Court of the Republic of Croatia, Berislavić 11 – partly open.

Civil proceedings

In civil proceedings, pending deadlines are only interrupted on a case-by-case basis, based on a decision of a respective judge. If a civil proceeding is interrupted, the consequences of the stay of proceedings are prescribed in Art. 214 of the Croatian Civil Procedure Act and are as follows:

  • the suspension of all deadlines set for taking procedural actions;
  • the court may not undertake any action in the proceedings;
  • the procedural actions which a party undertakes during the suspension of the proceedings do not have any legal effect towards the other party. Their effect begins after the proceedings are continued.

Either party may request the continuation of the proceedings when the reason for the suspension falls away.

Unless by audio-visual means, oral hearings, etc. may only be conducted if absolutely necessary until further notice.

Delivery is possible by post, by e-mail or official e-communication. Personal delivery of all documents directly to the desks of respective courts is suspended until further notice.

Insolvency and enforcement proceedings

All the above stated regarding pending deadlines, hearings and delivery in civil proceedings is also applicable in pending insolvency and enforcement proceedings.

Additionally, the Ministry of Justice recommends the postponement of enforcement proceedings and in particular the enforcement of real estate and evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Criminal proceedings

All the above stated regarding pending deadlines, hearings and delivery in civil proceedings is also applicable in pending criminal proceedings.

Additionally, following the current epidemiological indicators on the increased risk of infection from COVID-19, from 14 March 2020 onwards, the following measures are being gradually introduced and implemented in criminal authorities:

  • Prisoners' visitation rights are limited. Visits may be granted only with the special permission of the manager, and where necessary to protect a prisoner's rights in court proceedings or in other unforeseen cases.
  • Prisoners are not accorded the benefits of more frequent contact with the outside world, which includes the benefits of longer and more frequent visits and the convenience of going out.
  • All activities of civil society organisations in penitentiary and criminal authorities are suspended.
  • The use of video links with the competent courts has been intensified to reduce the number of prisoners leaving the respective penitentiaries.
  • Referral of prisoners to work outside the penal system is suspended.
  • Protocols for receiving packages have been established in cooperation with officers of the health and security departments in penal institutions.

authors: Vice Mandarić and Gina Grancarić


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