International Criminology World

World : Europe : Croatia

The Croats are believed to be a purely Slavic people who migrated from Ukraine and settled in present-day Croatia during the 6th century. After a period of self-rule, Croatians agreed to the Pacta Conventa in 1091, submitting themselves to Hungarian authority. By the mid-1400s, concerns over Ottoman expansion led the Croatian Assembly to invite the Habsburgs, under Archduke Ferdinand, to assume control over Croatia. Habsburg rule proved successful in thwarting the Ottomans, and by the 18th, much of Croatia was free of Turkish control.

In 1868, Croatia gained domestic autonomy while remaining under Hungarian authority. Following World War I and the demise of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Croatia joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes became Yugoslavia in 1929). Yugoslavia changed its name once again after World War II. The new state became the Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia and united Croatia and several other states together under the communistic leadership of Marshall Tito.

After the death of Tito and with the fall of communism throughout eastern Europe, the Yugoslav federation began to crumple. Croatia held its first multi-party elections since World War II in 1990. Long-time Croatian nationalist Franjo Tudjman was elected President, and one year later, Croatians declared independence from Yugoslavia. Conflict between Serbs and Croats in Croatia escalated, and one month after Croatia declared independence, civil war erupted.

The UN mediated a cease-fire in January 1992, but hostilities resumed the next year when Croatia fought to regain a third of the territory lost the previous year. A second cease-fire was enacted in May 1993, followed by a joint declaration the next January between Croatia and Yugoslavia. However, in September 1993, the Croatian Army led an offensive against the Serb-held Republic of Krajina. A third cease-fire was called in March 1994, but it, too, was broken in May and August 1995 after Croatian forces regained large portions of Krajina, prompting an exodus of Serbs from this area. In November 1995, Croatia agreed to peacefully reintegrate Eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Dirmium under terms of the Erdut Agreement. In December 1995, Croatia signed the Dayton peace agreement, committing itself to a permanent cease-fire and the return of all refugees.

The death of President Tudjman in December 1999, followed by the election of a new coalition government and President in early 2000, brought significant changes to Croatia. Croatia's new government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Racan, has progressed in implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords, regional cooperation, refugee returns, national reconciliation and democratization.



Following World War II, rapid industrialization and diversification occurred within Croatia. Decentralization came in 1965, allowing growth of certain sectors, like the tourist industry. Profits from Croatian industry were used to develop poorer regions in the former Yugoslavia. This, coupled with austerity programs and hyperinflation in the 1980s, contributed to discontent in Croatia.

Privatization and the drive toward a market economy had barely begun under the new Croatian Government when war broke out in 1991. As a result of the war, the economic infrastructure sustained massive damage, particularly the revenue rich tourism industry. From 1989 to 1993, GDP fell 40.5%. Following the close of the war in 1995, tourists reemerged, and the economy briefly recovered.

The solid growth that began in the mid-1990s halted in 1999. A recession, which was caused primarily by weak consumer demand and decrease in industrial production, led to a 0.9% contraction of GDP that year. Furthermore, inflation and unemployment rose, and the kuna fell, inciting fears of devaluation.

In the second half of 2000, the tourism industry once again contributed to a recovery, helping Croatia grow 3.7% that year. This trend continued in 2001, when the economy expanded by 4.3% aided by an approximately 6% increase in industrial production, 12% growth in tourism--which generated about $3.7 billion in revenue--a stringent fiscal policy, and continued remittances from the Croatian diaspora. Unfortunately, forecasts for 2002 are less positive, with growth projected at 3.0%-3.5%. A decline in export markets and a decrease in foreign investment are predicted to temporarily slow the growth of the Croatian economy in 2002. However, the planned privatization of the national insurance, oil, and gas companies, and an expansion of telecommunication services, during 2002-03 should stimulate foreign investment and boost revenue over the near term.

The Government has pursued economic reforms including privatization, public sector reductions, anticorruption legislation, and reforms of banking and commercial laws.  In June the Government adopted a development strategy to transform socialist-era structures into a functioning market economy.  An interim association agreement with the European Union was signed in October and was scheduled to enter into effect in January 2002.  During the year, the economy overcame the effects of the 1998-1999 recession and banking sector crisis.  The population of the country is 4,677,000 and per capita GDP in 2000 was approximately $4,600 (39,500 kuna).  During the year, real GDP rose an estimated 4.2 percent over the previous year.  The exchange rate and prices remained stable.  Income from tourism increased an estimated 20 percent over 2000, reaching prewar levels.  While retail price inflation was 7.4 percent in 2000, by the end of the third quarter of the year, inflation had fallen to 3.8 percent.  Croatia's unemployment rate was 15.3 percent during the first half of the year, measured by International Labor Organization (ILO) methodology.  (Due to improved methodology, this figure is not directly comparable to 2000's reported unemployment rate of 22.4 percent.  Year-end data suggests that the unemployment level remained constant or fell slightly during the year.) 



The crime rate in Croatia is low compared to industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Croatia. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Croatia will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2000 was 5.96 per 100,000 population for Croatia, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.51 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2000 was 2.68 for Croatia, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2000 was 16.76 for Croatia, 4.08 for Japan, and 144.92 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2000 was 21.09 for Croatia, 23.78 for Japan, and 323.62 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 2000 was 348.87 for Croatia, 233.60 for Japan, and 728.42 for USA. The rate of larceny for 2000 was 229.79 for Croatia, 1401.26 for Japan, and 2475.27 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 2000 was 52.86 for Croatia, compared with 44.28 for Japan and 414.17 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 678.01 for Croatia, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4123.97 for USA.



Between 1995 and 2000, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder decreased from 8.23 to 5.96 per 100,000 population, a decrease of 27.6%. The rate for rape increased from 1.65 to 2.68, an increase of 62.4%. The rate of robbery decreased from 198.56 to 16.76, a decrease of 91.6%. The rate for aggravated assault decreased from 23.02 to 21.09, a decrease of 8.4%. The rate for burglary increased from 326.31 to 348.87, an increase of 6.9%. The rate of larceny increased from 157.77 to 229.79, an increase of 45.6%. The rate of motor vehicle theft increased from 13.19 to 52.86, and increase of 300.8%. The rate of total index offenses decreased from 728.73 to 678.01, a decrease of 7%.



The Ministry of Interior oversees the civilian national police, and the Ministry of Defense oversees the military and military police.  The national police have primary responsibility for internal security but, in times of disorder, the Government and President may call upon the army to provide security.  Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.  Security forces committed a few abuses.

The Constitution prohibits torture, mistreatment, or cruel or degrading punishment, and the authorities generally observed these prohibitions in practice; however, police apathy regarding societal crimes against Roma was a problem (see Section 5).  Unlike the previous year, there were no reports that police occasionally abused prisoners.

Societal intimidation and violence against Serbs continued in war-affected areas during the year.  In the Danubian region (Eastern Slavonia), senior Interior Ministry authorities removed several police commanders who were responsible for fomenting tensions between ethnic Serb and ethnic Croat police officers as well as for discouraging ethnic Serbs from reporting incidents to police.  There were periodic reports of ethnic tensions between ethnic Serb and Croat police officers in the Danubian region.

The Government undertook a major reform of the police during the year, cutting nearly 15 percent of the police workforce.  In undertaking this sensitive downsizing, the Government committed itself to honoring its obligations under the 1995 Erdut Agreement to maintain "proportionality" in the numbers of ethnic Serb and Croat police officers in Eastern Slavonia; however, full compliance with these obligations was not yet achieved by year's end.  Continuing problems in the police included poor police investigative techniques, acute social sensitivity to ethnic issues, indecisive middle management in the police, and pressure from hard-line local politicians.  These factors continued to impede development of local police capability.

There were no reports of political killings during the year by the Government or its agents.  During the year, eight persons were killed in landmine incidents, most caused by landmines laid by Croatian and Serb forces during the 1991-95 war.  The Croatian Center for Demining reported that from 1991 through the end of the year, 1,350 land mine incidents were recorded in which 418 persons were killed



The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, the Government did not always respect this right in practice.  Police normally obtain arrest warrants by presenting evidence of probable cause to an investigative magistrate.  Police may make arrests without a warrant if they believe a suspect might flee, destroy evidence, or commit other crimes; such cases of warrantless arrest are not uncommon.  The police then have 24 hours to justify the arrest to a magistrate.

Detainees must be given access to an attorney of their choice within 24 hours of their arrest; if they have none and are charged with a crime for which the sentence is over 10 years' imprisonment, the magistrate appoints counsel.  The magistrate must, within 48 hours of the arrest, decide whether to extend the detention for further investigation.  Investigative detention generally lasts up to 30 days, but the Supreme Court may extend the period in exceptional cases (for a total of not more than 6 months, or 12 months in serious corruption/organized crime cases).  Once the investigation is complete, detainees may be released on their own recognizance pending trial unless the crime is a serious offense or the accused is considered a public danger, may influence witnesses, or is a flight risk.  However, lengthy pretrial detention remained a serious problem, particularly for ethnic Serbs accused of war crimes.  Suspects generally are held in custody pending trial, and there have been several cases of suspects held in pretrial detention for several months on weak evidence.  In March the Supreme Court ordered two Bosnian Croat suspects freed in the investigation of the 1993 Ahmici massacre in central Bosnia.  The two were arrested in Zadar in September 2000, and the court freed them after they had been detained for the legal maximum of 6 months without charges being brought.  The option of posting bail after an indictment is available but not commonly exercised.   

The Government improved its record of applying the 1996 Amnesty Law (which amnestied acts of rebellion by ethnic Serbs), and appropriately granted amnesty to several individuals during the year, particularly returning ethnic Serb refugees.  However, in October 2000, the state prosecutor directed local prosecutors to reopen old war crimes cases and execute dormant arrest warrants, although there appeared to be no new evidence to justify the arrests.  Arrests of ethnic Serbs for war crimes continued but decreased in frequency throughout the year.  From October 2000 to May 2001, over 50 persons were arrested, 28 of whom were refugees.  In some of these cases, the subject was released in a few days after the Amnesty Law was applied or charges were dropped; however, in other cases, persons were detained for long periods.  In January authorities in Pozega arrested Natasa Jankovic on war crimes charges; she remained in detention until June, when a judge threw out the case because Jankovic was not the person named in the indictment.  Several ethnic Serb defendants convicted in absentia or at nontransparent, politicized trials conducted by the previous regime continued to be held in detention for extended periods as their cases progressed slowly through the overburdened judicial system. 

In April a domestic court convicted a Serb police officer from the Danubian region of war crimes; the police officer had been arrested in 1999 and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.  There was no further information regarding the case of four ethnic Serb members of the Croatian police who were arrested and detained in 2000 despite being cleared by the Ministry of Interior of involvement in war crimes.  In October 2000, 13 Serbs were arrested and detained in Baranja on war crimes charges based on 1996 indictments from the Osijek county court, despite the fact that these indictments had little or no supporting evidence; 7 of the Serbs eventually were released but 6 remained in detention at year's end.  Evidentiary hearings began in September and continued at year's end.

NGO and international observers in the Danubian region noted that police occasionally called ethnic Serbs to police stations for "voluntary informative talks," which amounted to brief warrantless detentions intended to harass Serb citizens.

The Constitution prohibits forced exile of citizens and the Government does not employ it



The Constitution provides for an autonomous and independent judiciary; however, the judiciary continued to suffer from some political influence, a backlog of over 1.1 million cases, and funding and training shortfalls. 

The judicial system consists of municipal and county courts, an administrative court, and the Supreme Court.  In May Ivica Crnic--a former non-party Justice Minister and labor law expert known for his independence--became the new president of the Supreme Court.  The independent Constitutional Court determines the constitutionality of laws, governmental acts, and elections, and serves as the court of final appeal for individual cases.  In March pursuant to constitutional amendments, the Constitutional Court was expanded from 11 to 13 justices.  The three new justices are respected professionals and were chosen in a transparent process; the rest of the Court judges were appointed under the former Tudjman regime.  Justices of the Constitutional Court are elected for 8-year terms by Parliament, while all other judges are appointed for life.  A parallel commercial court system adjudicates commercial and contractual disputes.  The State Judicial Council (consisting of 11 members serving 8-year terms) is a body independent of both the judiciary and the Ministry of Justice.  It is charged with the appointment and discipline, including removal, of judges.  In the past, the State Judicial Council was criticized for the politicization of its decisions.  In July the State Judicial Council was reconstituted pursuant to legislative amendments modifying the Council's authority with the goal of depoliticizing the Council and judicial appointments and, by extension, improving the quality of sitting judges.  In July Parliament passed a new law designed to contribute to transparency and reduce politicization of the Prosecutor's offices, which creates a similar council for public prosecutors.  This legislation enabled Chief State Prosecutor Radovan Ortynski to begin to renominate or replace the chiefs of municipal and county prosecutors' offices.  Similarly a new Law on the Courts, passed in December 2000 and implemented during the year, introduced reforms in the appointment of court presidents of the various municipal, county, commercial, and misdemeanor courts.  The law was designed to depoliticize the positions while streamlining administrative oversight; however, it has been criticized by some observers as giving too much control over judicial appointments to the Justice Ministry.  By year's end, some of the county court presidents were being either renominated or replaced; the municipal court judges are to be addressed next.

Judges are prohibited constitutionally from being members of any political party.  Over the past 2 years, the judiciary has been subject to far less political influence than under the Tudjman regime, although there continued to be reports of political influence at the local level.  The politicization of hard-line judges appointed by the previous Government, who at times made decisions in a nontransparent manner seemingly at odds with the evidence or the law, also continued to be a problem.  The greatest problems facing the judiciary are outmoded procedural codes and court rules, inexperienced judges and staff, bureaucratic inefficiencies, and funding shortfalls, which have created a massive backlog of over 1 million cases, some dating back 30 years or more.  The inexperience of young and newly appointed judges continued to be a problem, and there continued to be areas of the country without a permanent judge. 

Although the Constitution provides for the right to a fair trial and a variety of due process rights in the courts, at times citizens were denied these rights.  Excessive delays in trials remained a problem.  Courts tried and convicted in absentia persons for war crimes.  Courts convicted persons in mass trials and in trials with weak supporting evidence, particularly in Eastern Slavonia.  In January authorities in Pozega arrested Natasa Jankovic on war crimes charges while she was entering the country from Bosnia; she had been convicted in absentia in 1996 for inhumane treatment of prisoners while she purportedly worked as a guard in a prison camp.  Jankovic was unaware of the charges and had entered the country seven times previously before being arrested.  At two hearings in April, dozens of witnesses stated that Jankovic had been in Bosnia the entire time she was alleged to have been a camp guard.  No prosecution witnesses identified her as being at the camp, and at least one confirmed that her case was one of mistaken identity.  However, the prosecutor refused to drop the charges and Jankovic remained in detention until June, when a judge threw out the case for lack of evidence.  In March mass trials in the "Babska group" and "Tompojevci group" cases resulted in absentia convictions for 11 and 10 ethnic Serbs respectively.  In a long-standing pattern, armed activities that should have qualified for amnesty under the 1996 Law on General Amnesty were classified mistakenly and prosecuted as common crimes or war crimes.  Particularly for those who previously exhausted their appeal procedures, there is no mechanism to review these cases.

Nevertheless, domestic courts continued to adjudicate war crimes cases arising from the 1991-95 conflicts in Bosnia and Croatia; courts opened and reopened several outstanding allegations involving Croatian forces and took steps to depoliticize cases against ethnic Serbs.  For example, by midyear the chief State Prosecutor had initiated a case-by-case review of war crimes cases and sought to limit sharply the use of in absentia proceedings.  Instructions were issued to county prosecutors not to initiate criminal proceedings or in absentia proceedings without consultation with the state prosecutor.

In the past, in cases where courts have made decisions on property claims, courts have overwhelmingly favored ethnic Croats over ethnic Serbs, particularly in the Danubian region



Prison conditions generally meet international standards.  Jails are crowded, but not excessively so, and family visits and access to counsel generally are available to prisoners.  Men and women are housed separately, juveniles are held separately from adults, and pretrial detainees are held separately from convicted prisoners.

The Government permits visits by independent human rights monitors, and such visits occurred during the year by both international organizations and domestic NGO's.



Although the Government collected only limited statistics on the problem, credible NGO observers have reported that violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a widespread and underreported problem.  Alcohol abuse and poor economic circumstances were cited as contributing factors.  Rape and spousal rape are illegal under the Penal Code; however, NGO's report that many women do not report rape or spousal rape.  There is only one women's shelter, in Zagreb.

In 2000 the Government revoked 1997 Penal Code amendments that removed domestic violence from the categories of crimes to be prosecuted automatically by the state attorney.  As a result, a domestic violence case can be initiated by persons other than the victim; for example, cases can be initiated on the basis of suspicions of health care workers or police rather than requiring the victim to press charges.  Legislation passed in autumn 2000 created a specific Penal Code provision for family violence to replace inadequate existing provisions, and to direct that perpetrators of family violence, in addition to being punished, be placed under supervision and receive psychiatric treatment.  Amendments to the Law on Misdemeanors passed in 2000 are designed to protect victims by extending detention (for up to 30 days) of perpetrators of family violence, even during the defendant's appeal.

The country is a transit route as well as a lesser country of origin and destination country for trafficking in women for the purposes of sexual exploitation. 

Workplace sexual harassment is a violation of the Penal Code's section on abuse of power but is not specifically included in the employment law.  NGO's reported that in practice, women who were sexually harassed often did not resort to the Penal Code for relief for fear of losing their jobs. 

The labor law prohibits gender discrimination; however, in practice women generally held lower paying positions in the work force.  Government statistics from previous years showed that, while women constituted an estimated 48 percent of the work force, they occupied few jobs at senior levels, even in areas such as education and administration where they were a clear majority of the workers.  Considerable anecdotal evidence gathered by NGO's suggested that women hold the preponderance of low-level clerical, labor, and shopkeeping positions.  Women in these positions often are among the first to be laid off in times of corporate restructuring.  NGO's and labor organizations continued to report a practice in which women received short-term work contracts renewable every 3 to 6 months, creating a climate of job insecurity for them.  While men occasionally suffered from this practice, it was used disproportionately against women to dissuade them from taking maternity leave.  This practice has become less common since 1999 legislation limited the use of short-term work contracts to a maximum of 3 years.  The Labor Code authorizes 1 full year of maternity leave, although changes enacted in October reduced the 3-years' leave for multiple births to 1 year.  

Government efforts on gender equality improved during the year.  In March the Parliament created a Committee for Gender Equality, chaired by Gordana Sobol (SDP).  The committee met several times during the year to review pending legislation for compliance with gender equality criteria, and to offer amendments and modifications.  In September the Government established a new human rights office, an existing office on gender equality within the Labor Ministry was upgraded and attached to this human rights office.  Among its ongoing tasks were the implementation of the 2001-05 National Action Plan on gender equality and the coordination of tasks among ministries, parliamentary offices, unions, and the NGO community to promote gender equality. 

The Government ratified the U.N. "Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women" (CEDAW) in 1991, and in March the Government ratified the "Optional Protocol" to the convention.  This ratification represents implementation of the final element of the previous year's "Beijing Plus Five" platform on international legal instruments on women. 

While there is no national organization devoted solely to the protection of women's rights, many small, independent groups were active in the capital and larger cities.



The Government is generally committed to the welfare of children.  Education is free and mandatory through grade 8 (generally age 14).  Schools provide free meals for children.  The majority of students continue their education to the age of 18, with Roma being the only notable exception.  Romani children face serious obstacles in continuing their schooling, including discrimination in schools and a lack of family support.  An estimated 10 percent of Croatian Romani children begin primary school, and of these only 10 percent go on to secondary school.  There were only an estimated 50 Romani students in secondary school throughout the country during the year.  Nearly all Roma children drop out of school by grade 8.  In Medjumorje County, local officials operate segregated classrooms for Romani children, reportedly with less-qualified staff and fewer resources.  Subsidized daycare facilities are available in most communities even for infants.  Medical care for children is free.   

While there is no societal pattern of abuse of children, NGO's operating hotlines for sexual abuse victims reported numerous cases of abuse of children.  



The law does not specifically prohibit trafficking in persons, although other existing laws may be used to prosecute traffickers; trafficking in women was a problem.  Little statistical information on trafficking exists, although U.N. officials tracking the issue regionally and local research indicate that Croatia is primarily a transit country for women trafficked to other parts of Europe for prostitution, as well as a lesser country of origin and destination country for trafficked women. 

Police failure to identify trafficked women among illegal aliens smuggled into the country and shortcomings in the readmission agreement with Bosnia, which puts police under pressure to process and repatriate illegal migrants within 72 hours after their initial arrest, resulted in a significant underestimation of the trafficking problem in the country.  Women from Hungary, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and other countries reportedly were trafficked through Bosnia-Herzegovina and Yugoslavia to Croatia, where some remained to work as prostitutes or were trafficked to other destinations.  Women are transported through the country by truck or boat.  In addition women from Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Slovenia, and Yugoslavia were detained in incidents of illegal entry into the country; some of these women were believed to be victims of trafficking.  Anecdotal information indicates that international organized crime groups are responsible for trafficking. 

Although there is no law specifically prohibiting trafficking in persons, trafficking can be prosecuted under laws prohibiting slavery, the illegal transfer of persons across state borders, international prostitution, or procurement or pimping.  However, police awareness of the problem is low, and the police are not trained or encouraged to identify and document possible cases of trafficking.  Police are reluctant to acknowledge that trafficking in persons might occur in the country.  Victims are not encouraged to take legal action against their traffickers.  According to the Ministry of the Interior, from 1998-2000 the Government prosecuted 5 persons under the law prohibiting slavery and 21 persons under the law prohibiting international prostitution.  However, no data is available regarding the final disposition of the cases.

Public awareness of trafficking is low, and there were no government or NGO programs to deal with the prevention of trafficking during the year.  There have been no trafficking awareness campaigns in the country.  While government officials, international missions, and NGO's are working to develop an antitrafficking strategy, progress has been slow.  The Government appointed an official from the Interior Ministry as the national coordinator for trafficking issues, who was engaged in the issue by year's end.  In November the Government hosted a ministerial-level conference for Stability Pact participants to coordinate regional antitrafficking approaches; however, there was little publicity for the event and no broad substantive discussion of the problem occurred during the brief conference.

There were no support services available for trafficking victims.  Trafficking victims typically are detained for illegal entry and voluntarily deported.  Victims generally are detained at a Zagreb detention facility on immigration violations.  Detention may last several days or several weeks.  Foreign embassies usually do not organize repatriation for its citizens, and victims typically are returned to their countries of origin by train organized by the Croatian Government.  There is one women's shelter that occasionally helps trafficked women.



With the consolidation of peace in the region, the GOC opened several border crossing points with northern Bosnia, and regularized the status of border crossing points with western Bosnia and Serbia. MUP officials have commented that they lack funds to purchase equipment (particularly equipment to x-ray truck traffic) to adequately search traffic from Serbia at the busiest crossing at Bajakovo. The volume of traffic transiting the Zagreb/Belgrade highway increased dramatically over the year, although the GOC maintained adequate customs controls along the Serbian border. There was a large increase in the volume of cocaine transshipping the Dalmatian seaports, particularly the port of Rijeka. There has also been an upsurge in drugs transiting Bosnia, particularly in conjunction with traffic in stolen vehicles. Domestic organized crime gangs allegedly are cooperating with Kosovar and Albanian traffickers to move narcotics through Croatia to Europe and possibly onward to the US.


Internet research assisted by Phy Long Ngov

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Dr. Robert Winslow
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