Croatian CSO Files Appeal Against Denial of Information

16 April 2015

A civil society organization in Croatia is appealing a court ruling that overturned the information commissioner’s order for the government to disclose its legal bills to defend two persons before the International Tribunal in the Hague.

GONG, the CSO, is challenging the recent decision by the High Administrative Court, which ruled that the commissioner had exceeded her authority by applying the wrong legal act – the Right of Access to Information Act instead of the Data Secrecy Act, according to a report on GONG website.

The decision “represents  a dangerous step towards the culture of secrecy,” according to the group.

The ruling concerns a request filed three years ago to learn how much the government paid to the American law firm Patton Boggs LLP for the defense of Ante Gotovina and Mladen Marka? in the appellate procedure before the International Tribunal in the Hague.

GONG has filed a constitutional complaint challenging the High Administrative Court’s ruling, saying citizens have the right to know how budgetary funds are spent.

“The Court has expressed the opinion that the Information Commissioner has no authority to assess whether the owner of a piece of information – in this case, the Government – has decided to classify the information on valid grounds or not, only to inquire whether a public authority has conducted a proportionality test and a public interest test,” according to GONG, continuing, “Bearing this interpretation in mind, then, GONG would like to ask – what is the purpose of the Information Commissioner?”

GONG is arguing that Article 16 of the Right of Access to Information Act “unambiguously states” that the Information Commissioner has that authority to conduct public interest tests for classified data.

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