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European Court Rejects Croatian Footballer’s Fascist Chant Suit

The European Court of Human Rights dismissed a lawsuit against Croatia filed by footballer Josip Simunic, who claimed he was wrongly fined for chanting a slogan associated with the WWII fascist Ustasa movement at an international match.

Simunic (right) during a World Cup qualification match with Iceland in Zagreb, 2013. Photo: EPA/ANTONIO BAT.

Former Croatian international footballer Josip Simunic lost his case against the Croatian state on Tuesday at the European Court of Human Rights, which rejected his complaint against his conviction for chanting a World War II Ustasa slogan after the national team’s World Cup play-off win over Iceland in 2013.

Simunic was fined 25,000 kunas (3,200 euros) in 2013 by the Croatian state attorney’s office in Zagreb for spreading racial hatred for chanting the Ustasa slogan, ‘Za Dom Spremni’ (‘Ready for the Homeland’). Football’s world governing body FIFA also launched disciplinary proceedings against him.

The player brought a case against Croatia at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, arguing that ‘Za dom spremni’ was “an old Croatian greeting”. He also argued that his freedom of expression had been violated.

He further argued that he had been discriminated against because others who has used the same chant had been acquitted while he had been found guilty and fined.

But the European rights court said that the “Ustasa movement had originated from fascism, based, inter alia, on racism, and thus symbolised hatred towards people of a different religious or ethnic identity and the manifestation of racist ideology”.

It ruled that Simunic’s rights and freedoms had not been violated by his conviction for chanting the slogan.

The court concluded that “the applicant, being a famous football player and a role-model for many football fans, should have been aware of the possible negative impact of provocative chanting on spectators’ behaviour and should have abstained from such conduct”.

 

Anja Vladisavljevic