In a stunning reversal of lower court rulings, multiple Croatian appeals court judges have ruled in favor of Liberland in recent months. Last year Liberland activists endured more than 50 arrests and convictions by Croatian authorities despite clear and irrefutable evidence that no illegal river border crossings into Croatia had taken place. As we’ve been reporting, the local judges refused to consider cadastral maps, video and photographic evidence, witness testimony or even contradictions from other Liberland court cases which, Liberland attorneys argue, prove the innocence of the accused.
Liberland government attorneys promptly filed appeals against all of the convictions and the appeal decisions are finally starting to trickle in. We first obtained a judgement regarding Crom, a native of Brazil who defiantly refused to pay heavy fines to those who illegally arrested and abducted him into Croatia. Crom spent seven weeks in a Croatian prison known for housing hardened criminals. Upon appeal, the high court in Zagreb ruled that the lower court “committed a fundamental breach of misdemeanor proceedings” and ordered a retrial from the lower court. The appellant court also stated that “the facts were incorrectly and incompletely established [by the prosecutor] which could lead to misapplication of substantive law.” The higher court even went so far as to say that the ruling’s “wording is incomprehensible” which shines light on what many Liberland backers have been saying for many months now, that the courts were not treating our people fairly. A date for Crom’s retrial has not yet been set.
In three other remarkable decisions by the high Croatian courts, Liberland won three additional retrials as the judges consistently agreed that the lower courts “committed essential procedural violations” and noted in all of the cases that the prosecutors “incorrectly and incompletely established the facts.” In these three decisions, the high courts not only ordered retrials, they also ordered the lower courts to rule on the exact location of the border. This is significant not only for Liberland and its supporters but also Liberland’s regional neighbors Croatia and Serbia who have debated the location of the border for the last 25 years.
In several of the decisions the high court judges pointed out that according to the Croatian law on state borders, a border should have been clearly defined within six months of the law’s creation. Liberland attorneys have collected dozens of relevant pieces of evidence, including official government maps and other documents, which clearly prove that Liberland is not part of nor claimed by Croatia. During the retrials, the lower courts have been ordered to:
“determine where the border is and where the border crossing is according to the regulation on border crossings which should have been made within six months of implementation of the law on state border control, and bring about a new law.”
This is all Liberland has ever asked of the Croatian authorities who frequently arrest its supporters. If Croatia does not claim Liberland (which they have said they do not) why do they enter this territory and arrest people who come from Serbia to this land? Where exactly is the border line? Who has the right to administer this land? With these upcoming retrials, it is hoped that the judges will take this opportunity to fairly consider the evidence and rule according to the law. At the very least, it is hoped that the judges will carefully weigh the decades long Croatian-Serbian border dispute. Should these judges incorrectly rule that Liberland sits within Croatia’s borders they will be undermining Croatia’s long-held claims to other land, ten times greater in size, across the Danube from Liberland.
Out of five appeals court judgments, Liberland has won four of them. Only one appeal has been upheld in favor of the Croatian prosecutors thus far. This early case involved a land crossing from Croatia into Liberland. As it is clearly illegal to exit Croatia outside of an established border crossing, Liberland fully admits its guilt for this case and therefore agrees with the decision of the appeals court. However, as the lower courts have now been asked to define where exactly the border is, it is hoped that they will consider some of the findings of this failed appeal. In it, the judge states “It is indisputable that all defendants were caught in the territory of Serbia, and that they had arrived from the Kopački Rit Nature Park, and so crossed the Croatian border.” It is likely that the judge was unaware of the official statement issued by the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs which states unequivocally that the land in question is not and never has been a part of Serbia. As we have covered in the past here on Liberland Press, no nation can claim a piece of land for another nation. Regardless, it is beneficial to Liberland’s status as a sovereign territory when Croatian courts rule that the land is not Croatian territory, even if they incorrectly state whose territory it actually is.
Justice is slow in Croatia, but Liberland continues to advance towards recognition of its claims. The movement does not appear to be losing any steam nor are its supporters showing any signs of giving up. The President continues to travel the world sharing his vision of a country with limited government and ultimate freedoms.
On the anniversary of Liberland’s founding, while awaiting further results from appeals and retrials, the government of Liberland held a conference in Croatia to sell to locals the idea of having an economic powerhouse on its doorstep. Liberland does not aim to steal land. Liberland only seeks to make use of previously unused, unclaimed land. Liberland does not want to cause trouble or use violence. Liberland has always encouraged peace even in the face of violence. Liberland will continue to work though the proper Croatian legal channels, with the hope of being treated fairly. Liberland Press will continue to report on further court developments as they happen. In the meantime, the dream of Liberland lives on.
UPDATE: Liberland Press has just obtained three additional appeals court decisions, all wins for Liberland. In total this means Liberland has won six out of seven appeals and six retrials.
Liberland Press can make available to other members of the press copies of the appeals court decisions. The author of this article can be reached at liberlandcitizen[AT]gmail.com