Croatian Justice Minister Drazen Bosnjakovic and United States Attorney General William Barr signed in Washington on Tuesday agreements whereby the two countries regulate extraditions and mutual legal assistance.
Speaking to Hina, Bosnjakovic said "this is a big step forward, notably concerning the extradition agreement because the current one is from 1901."
Until now, extraditions between Croatia and the US were based on a 1901 handover convention between the Kingdom of Serbia and the US which Croatia succeeded after gaining independence.
Aside from not being aligned with contemporary legal practice, the 1901 agreement does not cover modern crimes such as cyber crime, drug abuse and corruption.
Bosnjakovic said the agreements signed today were much more modern than the ones that were in force and were also a consequence of EU-US agreements which stipulate that every member state regulates its relations with the US bilaterally.
"The extradition agreement regulates the whole extradition procedure and envisages all process mechanisms that are important to us," he said.
He added that the agreement regulates all exemptions in case of certain obstacles as well as restrictions, for example that persons who have been convicted cannot be handed over.
The legal assistance agreements regulates technical matters such as the establishment of joint investigation teams which can work in the country where the crime was committed, Bosnjakovic said.
This agreement was signed because the existing legal framework was not sufficiently effective for enhancing cooperation between the two countries in the judiciary and the fight against organised crime and corruption as well as their transnational aspect such as in combating terrorism, cyber crime and other serious crimes.
"This is a big step forward from the mechanisms and regulations we have between the two states," the minister said.
The United States Department of Justice says on its website that "the new agreements enhance bilateral relations by affording both nations with better information-sharing and cooperative capabilities."
"The new extradition agreement modernizes the extradition relationship between the countries, which had been governed by a 1901 treaty. The instrument provides a dual-criminality basis for extradition, and it streamlines the procedures to be followed in pursuing extradition," says the US Department of Justice.
"The mutual legal assistance instrument, the first such bilateral instrument between the countries, will better enable prosecutors to exchange information facilitating the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of crime. It will improve cooperation in the fight against terrorism, organized crime, corruption, cybercrime, and other serious transnational criminal offenses.
The instruments stem from the legal framework of the U.S.-European Union Agreements on Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance signed on June 25, 2003, prior to Croatia entering the EU.
Attorney General Barr was quoted as saying that "the instruments will further strengthen our bilateral law-enforcement relationship, improving the ability to extradite fugitives and exchange evidence needed for prosecutions."
Barr commended "the negotiators from our countries for their work on U.S.-Croatia law enforcement cooperation agreements, and for expeditiously preparing these texts for signature before Croatia begins its EU presidency next month."