Croatia - Administrative Court of Rijeka, judgment no. 4 UsI-491/15-8

The applicant was born in Yugoslavia on the territory of Croatia, to parents who were born on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The applicant's birth registration erroneously included an entry "Muslim", which was subsequently crossed out and replaced by a reference to his origin from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The applicant argued that he should have been registered as a Croatian national at birth, just like his brother was, and that denial of Croatian nationality status would mean that he became stateless after the dissolution of Yugoslavia. 

Case name (in original language)
4 UsI-491/15-8
Case status
Case number
4 UsI-491/15-8
Date of decision
Court / UN Treaty Body
Administrative Court in Rijeka
Language(s) the decision is available in
Applicant's country of birth
Yugoslavia {former}
Applicant's country of residence

The applicant was born in Yugoslavia, on the territory of Croatia, to parents who resided in Croatia at the time of his birth, but were born on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The hospital where the applicant was born entered "Muslim" in as the response to the question on applicant's nationality, and "Muslims" as a response to the question on the nationality of the parents. Those entries were subsequently crossed out and replaces by a "B i H" entry - an abbreviation for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The applicant's nationality was subsequently registered as "Bosnia and Herzegovina" on his birth certificate. The applicant's brother was registered as a Croatian national at birth, even though the situation did not differ with regard to the relevant facts. 

Decision & Reasoning

The Court reasoned as follows: 

“The Court concludes that the entry in the Registry is not incorrect, and finds that all the sections of the birth certificate are duly and accurately filled out, are legible and clear, and the changes (crossed out “Muslim” and “Muslims” in sections 12 and 13 in the Statement of the health institution on the basis of which the entry into the registry was made) did not lead to inaccuracies in the registration of birth. The Court fully accepts the reasons stated by the authorities, both the reasons that accompanied the relevant administrative decision, as well as the reasons presented to the Court during the proceedings”.

“Information on nationality was entered in accordance with the regulations governing nationality at the time of the applicant’s birth”.

“The parties do not dispute that, at the relevant time, federal citizenship (SFRY) and republican nationalities [of the constitutive republics] existed. At the time of the applicant’s birth, the law regulating republican nationality [of Croatia] stipulates in Article 2 that a child whose both parents are nationals of SR [Socialist Republic] Croatia acquires the nationality of Croatia by birth if both parents have had a permanent residence status in Croatia at the time of the child’s birth […]. Article 3 stipulates that a child whose both parents are unknown or of unknown nationality or are stateless acquires the nationality of Croatia if born or found on the territory of Croatia. In the opinion of the Court, in this specific administrative matter, the republican nationality of the applicant’s parents at the time of his birth is of decisive importance, since the law required them to have Croatian republican nationality in addition to permanent residence in Croatia”.

“It is not disputed between the parties that the applicant’s parents were born in [Bosnia and Herzegovina]. […] Applying the regulations which were in force at the time and place of the birth of applicant’s parents, it can be concluded that they acquired at birth by operation of law, in addition to the federal citizenship of SFRY, the republican nationality of Bosnia and Herzegovina (regardless of when the acquisition was registered, since, as the authorities rightly argued, the registration is not an act constitutive of the acquisition of nationality but is instead based on the legal fact of acquisition of nationality ex-lege or on the basis of an act of a competent body, and a mere registration cannot indicate a deviation from a legal provision on the basis of which a person acquires nationality ex-lege). This does not leave room for a conclusion that at the time of the applicant’s birth his parents had unknown nationality. […] There is no evidence that the applicant’s parents acquired the nationality of the Socialist Republic of Croatia through a prescribed procedure conducted by competent authorities”.

“Furthermore, in the opinion of the Court, the fact that the applicant’s brother […] was registered in the same registry office as a national of Croatia does not lead to the conclusion that the same should have happened in the case of the applicant, since the entry of data for each individual is a separate administrative procedure, and the legality and accuracy of the registration of the applicant’s brother's birth is not the subject of this administrative procedure. […] The applicant rightly argues that it is unfeasible for the contemporary administrative institutions to clarify all the ambiguities and uncertainties of the administration in the 1970ies, but from this he draws the erroneous conclusion that it should lead to granting him his request of correcting the entry in his birth registration, which the Court, for all the reasons stated above, does not find to be incorrect”.

“The fact that the applicant's nationality was not registered in Bosnia and Herzegovina since his birth, and the applicant’s reference to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stipulates in Article 15 that everyone has the right to a nationality and will not be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality or denied the right to change his nationality, in the context of which the applicant insists that the circumstances and facts as established by the authorities would lead to the conclusion that from the moment of disintegration of the former SFRY until he acquired the nationality of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the applicant was in fact stateless, does not lead to a different outcome”.


The Court ruled against the applicant, and upheld the administrative decision denying to register Croatian nationality in his birth registration.