Constitutional Court of Croatia

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia (Croatian: Ustavni sud Republike Hrvatske) is an institution that acts as the interpreter and guardian of the Croatian Constitution and which monitors the conformity of laws with the Constitution as well as protection of human rights and freedoms of citizens that are guaranteed by the Constitution. It is considered to be de facto the highest judicial authority because it can overturn Supreme Court decisions on the basis of constitutional breaches. It is not considered as being part of the judicial branch of government, but rather a court sui generis, and it is therefore often colloquially referred to as a "fourth branch of government", alongside the traditional model of tripartite separation of powers into the executive (Government/President of the Republic), legislative (Parliament) and judicial (Supreme Court) branches.[2][3]

Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia
Ustavni sud Republike Hrvatske
Established15 February 1964 (in SR Croatia)[1]
25 July 1990 (in Croatia)[1]
LocationSt. Mark's Square, Zagreb
Composition methodElected by the Croatian Parliament with qualified majority
Authorized byConstitution of the Republic of Croatia
Judge term lengthEight years (renewable once)
Number of positions13
President of the Constitutional Court
CurrentlyMiroslav Šeparović
since 13 June 2016

Powers and responsibilities

According to the Articles 126-132 of the Croatian Constitution, Constitutional Court shall:[4]

  • decide upon the compliance of laws with the Constitution,
  • decide upon the compliance of other regulations with the Constitution and laws,
  • decide on the constitutionality of laws and the constitutionality and legality of other regulations which are no longer valid, provided that less than one year has elapsed from the moment of such cessation until the filing of a request or a proposal to institute proceedings,
  • decide on constitutional petitions against individual decisions taken by governmental agencies, bodies of local and regional self-government and legal persons vested with public authority where such decisions violate human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the right to local and regional self-government guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia,
  • monitor compliance with the Constitution and laws and shall report to the Croatian Parliament on detected violations thereof,
  • decide upon jurisdictional disputes between the legislative, executive and judicial branches,
  • decide, in conformity with the Constitution, on the impeachment of the President of the Republic,
  • supervise compliance of the platforms and activities of political parties with the Constitution and may, in compliance with the Constitution, ban non-compliant parties,
  • monitor whether elections and referendums are conducted in compliance with the Constitution and laws and shall resolve electoral disputes falling outside the jurisdiction of the courts,
  • first notify the Government what it finds that a competent body charged with enacting a regulation needed for the application of the Constitution, law or other regulation has failed to do so, and shall notify the Croatian Parliament when the Government has been charged with enacting such regulation and failed to do so,
  • repeal a law or annul any other regulation if it finds it to be unconstitutional or illegal,
  • perform other duties specified by the Constitution.

Recent influence

Palace of the Constitutional Court is situated at the St. Mark's Square, Zagreb

Right to free gathering

Act of Supplements and Alterations to the Law on Public Gathering stipulated that no public gatherings could be held within 100 meters of buildings in which the Croatian Parliament, President of Republic, the Croatian Government or the Constitutional Court are located or are in session (the Parliament, Government and the Court are all located at St. Mark's Square) On July 6, 2011, Constitutional Court ruled that this law, which restricts a Constitutional liberty - the right to free gathering, was not passed by the majority necessary to override the Constitution on that matter. The Court's decision was that the law shall be put out of effect at a date specified by the Court. The Court also provided Parliament with the necessary number of representatives which must confirm the Act to make it legitimate.[5]

2013 referendum and same-sex unions

On November 14, 2013, Constitutional Court in a 13–0 statement sent to the State Election Commission stated that there is no constitutional obstacle to hold a 2013 referendum on defining marriage as a union between men and a woman, in the same time pointing out that the referendum revealed numerous problems in the Referendum law and opened a number of legal questions that required answers.[6] Nevertheless, the Court stressed that decision on the referendum was passed by a majority of 104 MPs and that since it was made with more votes than the majority needed to even change the Constitution itself, the referendum should be held. In addition, the Court asked Croatian Parliament to "provide a stable regulatory framework of the referendum process that meets the standards of a democratic society as soon as possible".[7] The Court also decided that "any amendments to the Constitution which would define marriage as being union between a man and a woman should not have any effect on the further development of the legal framework of the institution of same-sex unions in accordance with the constitutional requirement that everyone in Croatia has the right to be respected and right of legal protection of their personal and family life and human dignity". The Court pointed out that it had never received any request or proposal to review the constitutionality of the provisions of the Family Law that regulated marriage as a union between a man and woman, or provisions of the Law on Same-Sex Unions. The Court therefore considered that the referendum on the definition of marriage is not a referendum on the right to respect for family life, because it is constitutionally guaranteed to all persons, regardless of sex and gender, and is under the direct protection of both, the Constitutional Court itself and the European Court of Human Rights. In conclusion, the Court warned that "incorporation of legal institutes in the constitution shouldn't become a systemic phenomenon" and that exceptional individual cases must be justified by being connected, for example, with deep-rooted social and cultural characteristics of the society.[8]


On February 21, 2017, Constitutional Court announced that it held in a 12–1[9] decision that it won't accept constitutional complaints submitted by the conservative NGO's Croatian Movement for Life and Family (in 1991) and In the Name of the Family (in 2010) to review conformity of the 1978 Law on Health Measures for the Realization of the Right to Freely Decide on Childbirth with the Constitution.[6] While presenting the decision, Chief Justice Miroslav Šeparović stated that abortion was a controversial and a deep moral, philosophical, legal and medical issue about which there was no consensus and which therefore causes serious divisions in many societies, adding that the question on when life begins was not for the Court since it can only answer questions of legislation.[10] According to Court's decision, it recognized constitutionally guaranteed value of unborn being and not its right to life but rather public interest of the state to protect it. The Court considered that abortion as a constitutional or a human right doesn't exist. According to the Court, the right of privacy of women, which includes the right of freedom, dignity and the protection of family and private life, exists, which gives woman autonomy to a certain period (in Croatia 10 weeks after conception) during which woman can freely decide whether she wants to give birth or not, but after that period of time birth becomes public interest which protects the right to life of the unborn.[11] With this decision, the Court obligated the Croatian Parliament to enact new law within two years and has warned it to take into account the fact that existing law contains certain institutions that no longer exist in the Croatian constitutional order (since the Law is based on the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution) and that the adoption of the 1990 Croatian Constitution built a brand new legal and institutional framework of health, social, scientific and educational system.[12] New law should determine the educational and preventive measures "so that abortion should be an exception".[13] In sole dissenting opinion, Judge Miroslav Šumanović, among other things, stated that the 1978 Law should be formally and substantially aligned with the Constitution, abolished with a deferment effect, that the new one should be enacted, and that it is the duty of the state to protect the right to live of the unborn being.[13] Following Court's decision, the Croatian Parliament is permanently banned from enacting a law which would effectively ban abortion.


Justices of the Constitutional Court in 2009. From left to right: Mario Jelušić (2008-), Ivan Matija (1999-2016), Snježana Bagić (2007-), Miroslav Šeparović (2009-), Duška Šarin (2008-2016), Aldo Radolović (2007-2016), Jasna Omejec (1999-2016, President of the Court 2008-2016), Nevenka Šernhorst (2002-2011), Mato Arlović (2009-), Antun Palarić (2009-2017), Slavica Banić (2008-2016), Davor Krapac (2007-2016), Marko Babić (2007-2016)

The Constitutional Court consists of thirteen judges elected by the Croatian Parliament with qualified majority (101 out of 151) for a term of eight years from among notable jurists, especially judges, public prosecutors, lawyers and university professors of law. The Court elects its own President for a term of four years. Before they take the office, judges must take an oath in front of the President of the Republic.

Current composition

Following table contains names of sitting justices as of 11 October 2017 when the last appointments occurred.

In office since Full namePosition Term due to end
14 April 2009 Miroslav ŠeparovićPresident 11 October 2025
7 December 2007 Snježana BagićVice-President 7 December 2023
7 June 2016 Ingrid Antičević-MarinovićJustice 7 June 2024
21 July 2009 Mato ArlovićJustice 11 October 2025
7 June 2016 Branko BrkićJustice 7 June 2024
27 May 2008 Mario JelušićJustice 27 May 2024
7 June 2016 Lovorka KušanJustice 7 June 2024
7 June 2016 Josip LekoJustice 7 June 2024
7 June 2016 Davorin MlakarJustice 7 June 2024
7 June 2016 Rajko MlinarićJustice 7 June 2024
11 October 2017 Goran SelanecJustice 11 October 2025
7 June 2016 Andrej AbramovićJustice 7 June 2024
7 June 2016 Miroslav ŠumanovićJustice 7 June 2024

Presidents of the Court

No. Image Full name Term began Term ended Notes
1. Jadranko Crnić 7 December 1991 6 December 1999 *First term (1991-1995).
*Second term (1995-1999).
*Justice of the Constitutional Court (1991-1999).
2. Smiljko Sokol 7 December 1999 6 December 2003 *Served one full term (1999-2003).
*Justice of the Constitutional Court (1999-2007).
3. Petar Klarić 7 December 2003 6 December 2007 *Served one full term (2003-2007).
*Justice of the Constitutional Court (1999-2007).
- Željko Potočnjak 7 December 2007 12 June 2008 *Interim Presiding Justice of the Constitutional Court.
*Justice of the Constitutional Court (2001-2009)
4. Jasna Omejec 12 June 2008 7 June 2016 *First term (2008-2012).
*Second term (2012-2016).
*First female President of the Constitutional Court.
*Justice of the Constitutional Court (1999-2016).
5. Miroslav Šeparović 13 June 2016 Incumbent *Serving first term as President.
*Justice of the Constitutional Court (since 2009).

Former justices

  • Zdravko Bartovčak (1991-1999)
  • Velimir Belajec (1994-2001)
  • Nikola Filipović (1991-1999)
  • Marijan Hranjski (1999-2007)
  • Ante Jelavić Mitrović (1991-1999)
  • Mario Kos (2001-2009)
  • Vojislav Kučeković (1991-1999)
  • Jurica Malčić (1994-2002)
  • Hrvoje Momčinović (1991-1999)
  • Ivan Mrkonjić (1999-2007)
  • Željko Potočnjak (2001-2009)
  • Agata Račan (2001-2009)
  • Emilija Rajić(1999-2007)
  • Ivan Marijan Severinac (1991-1999)
  • Nevenka Šernhorst (2002-2011)
  • Vice Vukojević (1999-2007)
  • Milan Vuković (1991-1992/1995-1997/1999-2007)
  • Mladen Žuvela (1991-1999)
  • dr. sc. Marko Babić (2007-2016)
  • Slavica Banić (2008-2016)
  • akademik Davor Krapac (2007-2016)
  • Ivan Matija (1999-2007/2007-2016)
  • dr. sc. Aldo Radolović (2007-2016)
  • dr. sc. Duška Šarin (2008-2016)
  • Antun Palarić (2009-2017)[14]

See also


  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 7, 2015. Retrieved September 14, 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. Čepulo Dalibor, Croatian legal history in the European context from the Middle Ages to modern times, Zagreb, 2012.
  3. Margetić Lujo- Sirotković H., History of State and Law of peoples Yugoslavia, Rijeka-Zagreb, 1990;
  4. "Hrvatski sabor". Archived from the original on 2015-05-30. Retrieved 2016-05-03.
  5. "Odluka Ustavnog suda Republike Hrvatske br. U-I-295/2006 i U-I-4516/2007 od 6. srpnja 2011". Retrieved 2017-03-02.
  6. Toplak, Jurij; Gardasevic, Djordje (2017-11-14). "Concepts of National and Constitutional Identity in Croatian Constitutional Law". Review of Central and East European Law. 42 (4): 263–293. doi:10.1163/15730352-04204001. ISSN 1573-0352.
  7. Tomislav Kristo; CROPIX (2013-11-14). "USTAVNI SUD OBJASNIO ODLUKU 'Evo zašto 1.12. moramo na referendum o gay brakovima' -Jutarnji List". Retrieved 2017-03-02.
  8. "HRT: Referendum o braku 1. prosinca - Ustavni sud prozvao Sabor" (in Croatian). 2016-09-17. Retrieved 2017-03-02.
  9. Piše: R.I. Objavljeno prije 6 sati. "DOKUMENT Samo jedan od 13 sudaca bio je za zabranu pobačaja, ovo je njegovo obrazloženje - Vijesti". Retrieved 2017-03-02.
  10. Piše: D.H. Objavljeno prije 6 sati. "Ustavni sud odbio zahtjev za zabranu pobačaja, Markićkina udruga sazvala pressicu - Vijesti". Retrieved 2017-03-02.
  11. Press conference <>; 30:30-31:37
  12. "HRT: Ustavni sud: Sabor u roku od dvije godine mora donijeti zakon o pobačaju" (in Croatian). 2016-09-17. Retrieved 2017-03-02.
  13. "Ne prihvaćaju se prijedlozi za ocjenu ustavnosti tzv. Zakona o pobačaju - Več". Retrieved 2017-03-02.