The constitution provides for freedom of religious thought and expression and prohibits incitement of religious hatred. All religious communities receive the same religious protections, and are free to worship, proselytize, own property, and import religious literature. The government has written agreements with the Roman Catholic Church that provide for state financial support and tax and other benefits; other registered religious communities with agreements with the state receive equivalent benefits. Registered religious communities without such agreements and unregistered religious groups receive fewer benefits. The ombudsman reported some health institutions denied operations to Jehovah’s Witnesses who refused blood transfusions for religious reasons. The ombudsman recommended the two ministries concerned act to ensure Jehovah’s Witnesses received adequate medical care. The government did not resolve outstanding property restitution cases with the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC). Senior government officials attended an annual commemoration of victims of the World War II (WWII)-era Jasenovac death camp, which Jewish and Serb (largely Orthodox) leaders boycotted to protest placement near the camp of a private plaque bearing a salute of the fascist Ustasha organization and the lack of government action to remove the plaque. Government leaders later condemned the plaque and moved it elsewhere. The government formed a council to make recommendations on the use of totalitarian symbols and slogans used during and after WWII.
Jewish community leaders continued to report concerns about Holocaust denial, distancing, and minimization and the use by some of Ustasha symbols and slogans. Some Jewish community leaders said there were incidents of significant historical revisionism and downplaying of the country’s role in the Holocaust, and expressed dissatisfaction with how the government responded to cases of anti-Semitism, such as the placement of the controversial plaque at Jasenovac. Jewish, Serb, and other groups organized separate commemorations for the victims of the Jasenovac death camp after boycotting the government’s ceremony. In February a nonparliamentary political party organized a demonstration in which marchers bore Ustasha symbols, and in August a singer led pro-Ustasha chants during a concert. SOC Patriarch Irinej of Serbia called on the government and Catholic clergy to respond to crimes against Croatian Serbs and to address what he described as the desecration of SOC churches in the country.
The U.S. embassy continued to encourage the government to restitute property seized during and after WWII, particularly from the Jewish community during the Holocaust, and advocated amendments to existing legislation that would allow for restitution and compensation claims with a revised deadline for new applications. The embassy sponsored a visit by four teachers to the U.S. for a Holocaust education exchange program.