Article 2. of the Security and Intelligence System Act of the Republic of Croatia (as published in the Official Gazette, no. 79/06. 105/06 – amended, hereinafter: Act) provides that the work of security and intelligence agencies is monitored by Croatian Parliament, President of the Republic of Croatia, Government of the Republic of Croatia, Office of the National Security Council and the Council for Oversight of the Security and Intelligence Agencies.
Croatian Parliament monitors the work of security and intelligence agencies directly and indirectly, through its parliamentary committee in charge of national security and the Council for Oversight of the Security and Intelligence Agencies.
In addition to the direct monitoring, Croatian Parliament decided to institutionalize civilian oversight by forming the Council for Oversight of Security and Intelligence Agencies, which was established with the objective of “exercising civilian oversight of the operations of security and intelligence agencies”.
With this solution, the Republic of Croatia facilitates the participation of citizens in oversight of those components of the state system which are entitled to employ special measures and procedures for the needs of national security. This approach is a major democratic step forward in the development of parliamentary and civilian oversight in this field.
Council for Oversight of the Security and Intelligence Agencies was established as a new entity pursuant to the Security Services Act Republic of Croatia of 28 March 2002. Decision on the Council for Oversight of Security Services of 7 May 2003 regulates those issues essential to the Council’s work not otherwise regulated by aforementioned Act.
Persuant to the Security and Intelligence System Act of the Republic of Croatia (hereinafter: Act) of 17 May 2006, the Council’s name was changed to the Council for Civilian Oversight of Security and Intelligence Agencies (hereinafter: Council) and its competencies were partially reduced.
The Council is consists of a chairperson and six members, all of whom are appointed by the Croatian Parliament. All Council members have to be Croatian citizens with university degrees, while at least one member must have a degree in law, one in political science and one in electrical engineering. The Council chairperson and members are appointed for a four-year term, with the possibility of reappointment.
The legal framework specifies civilian oversight tasks (under the authority of the Council), which are functionally different from the professional oversight conducted by the National Security Council’s Office, and each individual agency through their own internal oversight systems. According to regulations and based on its jurisdiction and duties, the Council only performs a portion of oversight of security and intelligence agencies and the legality of their operations.
The Council performs the following tasks: monitors the legality of security agencies work, including monitoring and overseeing the application of confidential data gathering measures restricting constitutionally-guaranteed human rights and fundamental freedoms. Any findings and information thereon are submitted as a notification to the National Security Council, the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament, the chairperson of the parliamentary committee in charge of national security and the directors of security and intelligence agencies. The Council also provides information about the methods on how citizens, governmental bodies and legal entities may file complaints on any illegal or irregular procedures in the work of security and intelligence agencies that they might have observed, with an emphasis on violations of constitutionally-guaranteed human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Council notifies a requestor on oversight exerted. The Council’s response to complaints is limited exclusively to the objections specified in the request.
For the purposes of performing the above specified tasks, the Council may inspect reports and other documents of security and intelligence agencies and conduct interviews with agency heads and other officers, when required to ascertain the facts crucial for assessing the legality of agencies’ activities. If detecting the existence of any illegality, the Council chairperson reports on the oversight results to President of the Republic of Croatia, Speaker of the Croatian Parliament, Prime Minister and Chief Public Prosecutor.
The Council chairperson must submit a report on Council’s work at the request of Speaker of the Croatian Parliament and at least once every six months.
The Council chairperson and members are obliged to maintain the confidentiality of all data to which they become privy trough Council’s work, while and after they cease performing their duties. The Council chairperson and members are accountable to the Croatian Parliament for their work, but the legality of Council’s activities is monitored by parliamentary committee in charge of national security affairs.
On 27 April 2007, Croatian Parliament adopted the Decision on the Council for Oversight of Security and Intelligence Agencies (hereinafter: Decision) which defines: the method of nominating candidates for the Council chairperson and six members, the procedure of adopting proposals for their appointment, the rights and duties of the Council chairperson and members, the Council’s operating methods, handling of the Council’s data and materials, Council’s administrative support, finances, facilities, and equipment necessary for the Council’s work.
Furthermore, the Decision specifies that the Council chairperson and members may not participate in the top management of any political party and may not engage in party or other political activities in the Council. The Council chairperson is responsible for the implementation of Council’s Program, as approved by the Croatian Parliament’s committee in charge of national security affairs. The Council operates under the aegis of the competent parliamentary committee, but is independent in its work. After obtaining the approval of the competent parliamentary committee, the Council adopts Rules of Procedure which thoroughly specify all matters under its purview, including the methods whereby it handles materials and information, storage and safeguarding thereof, the Council’s support staff and other matters not regulated by the Decision. The Council may not adopt Rules of Procedure prior to obtaining approval from the Committee.
Up to now, the Council has operated in three mandates, and pursuant to Article 81 of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia and Article 110, paragraph 2 of the Security and Intelligence System Act of the Republic of Croatia, the Croatian Parliament, at its session held on 13 July 2018, issued a Decision on the Appointment of the Chair and six members of the Council for Civilian Oversight of Security and Intelligence Agencies (Official Gazette No. 66/18), thereby establishing the composition of the Council in the fourth term.