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On the occasion of the European Day for Victims of Crimes (22.2.), a conference was held within the project the project Rights, support, protection and compensation of Victims of Criminal Offenses. The event was organized by Documenta – Centre for dealing with the past, Centre for peace, nonviolence and human rights Osijek, White circle of Croatia and Victim and witness support service Croatia.

Besides the activists of civil society organizations and victims’ and witness support organizations, representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ombudswoman of the Republic of Croatia and representatives of the judiciary and the scientific community, spoke at the conference.

Conference report is provided below /

ZAGREB, February 22, 2017 (HINA) – Victims of criminal offenses in Croatia, can not yet exercise rights of the injured parties in other EU members, while the biggest problem is that European Directive on the protection of crime victims has not yet been incorporated into Croatian legislation. This was heard at the gathering of representatives of ministries, civil society organizations and the scientific community, held on the occasion of the European Day for Victims of Crimes.

Coordinator of the National call centre for crime victims Ana Pšeničnjak told reporters that the Directive should have been implemented by November 16, 2015, but it has not been done yet. Pšeničnjak said that she does not know if the problem is in the finances, but she thinks that this is due to the lack of sensitization of the competent institutions and the representatives, in order to put the victims’ rights in the first place.

Pšeničnjak said that citizens still need to know that they can already accomplish what the Directive guarantees, since civil organizations can provide support that includes legal and psychological counseling.

During the three years of its existence, the Centre received more than 4500 calls, and the main problem was the lack of information of citizens about their rights, Pšeničnjak said. She also pointed out that the victims should know that there is a National call centre – 116 006, the number to which a criminal offense can be reported anonymously.

Ministry of justice representative Vedrana Šimundža-Nikolić said that amendments to the law on protection against domestic violence and criminal code were sent to the parliamentary procedure, so that the provisions of the Directive on the Protection of Victims of Criminal Offenses will be implemented in practice.

However, the amendment itself does not offer guarantees for full victim support, so the joint task is to raise awareness of the need for full victim support so that the victim would not remain alone, as well as that there was no secondary victimization, Šimundža-Nikolić said.

According to her, so far a decision has been made on requests for more than 130 victims, but only a small part of them has been compensated because the law provides compensation only to those victims who have suffered directly from violence. In two years the right to compensation was realized by approximately 40 people, while the victim remains entitled to receive compensation from other grounds.

Ombudswoman for children, Ivana Milas Klarić, warned that the situation was unsatisfactory when it comes to child victims of criminal acts, since their Office received numerous complaints from victims themselves, but more often from their parents, who complain of the length of court proceedings and low sentences for abusers.

When it comes to the most serious criminal offenses, such as sexual violence against children, Milas Klarić warns that protective measures do not work and that the statutory limitations may be longer. She mentioned cases in which child victims were repeatedly questioned by police, social welfare centers and courts.

Maja Bukovac Puvača from Faculty of Law in Rijeka said the fees paid by the state were exceptionally low and covers the minimum of victim’s needs. Bukovac Puvača considers it necessary to simplify the procedure to relieve the victims of difficult moments after the crime.

Vesna Teršelič, Head of Documenta, said that a large number of victims do not have adequate support although the judicial system has been developing since the first day of independence, but great steps have been taken over the past years, especially in terms of court support which greatly humanized the work of the judiciary.

Teršelič believes that support should be provided in all courts, and that the network should be extended to the police and the State Attorney’s Office. She also warned of the burden of the legacy of the past, because war victims and civilian war victims are in most cases still awaiting compensation.