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Discrimination against Roma, Serbian and other minorities is still a problem in Croatian society, the ombudsman said on Tuesday, the UN's anti-discrimination day.
Marking March 21, the UN's international day for the elimination of racial discrimination, Croatia's ombudsman, Jurica Malcic, noted that almost a third of complaints filed to his office concerned racial discrimination.
Croatia's anti-discrimination law, adopted in 2009, enables citizens to file complaints to the ombudsman if they feel racially abused.
Of 503 complaints filed since then, 174 concerned alleged racial discrimination, which suggests that the problem remains "widespread" in Croatia, the ombudsman warned.
Discrimination can be seen in hate speech on internet sites and at sports events and also in the behaviour of individuals and institutions that impede others from taking part in public life because of their race, ethnic or national background, or colour, the ombudsman said.
He urged courts to improve protection against discrimination and called for an enhancement of public awareness that racist and xenophobic attitudes are unacceptable.
The ombudsman's office is a state institution tasked with protecting human rights and citizen's interests. The ombudsman, Jurica Malcic, is a former constitutional court judge.
An international day for the elimination of racial discrimination has been celebrated since 1979 ever March 21.
The UN established it in memory of the day in 1960 in South Africa when police opened fire and killed 69 peaceful anti-apartheid demonstrators in Sharpeville.
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