Victims of crime have a number of rights in pre-trial and criminal proceedings, with particular protection being afforded to children and victims of crimes against sexual freedom and human trafficking
The victim of a crime has:
- access support services for crime victims;
- the right to an effective psychological and other professional assistance and support from an authority, organisation or institution that assists victims of criminal offence in accordance with law,
- protection from intimidation and retaliation;
- protection of his/her dignity while giving evidence as the victim;
- be heard without undue delay after filing a criminal complaint and to subsequently be interrogated no more than is absolutely necessary for the purpose of the criminal proceedings;
- be accompanied by a person of trust in whatever actions he/she takes part;
- endure minimal medical procedures and only if these are absolutely vital for the purpose of the criminal proceedings;
- file a motion to prosecute or bring a private action under the Criminal Code, to participate in criminal proceedings as an injured party, to be informed about the dismissal of a criminal complaint (Article 206(3) of the Act) and about the decision of the state attorney to take no action, and to pursue prosecution individually without the state attorney;
- be informed by the state attorney on the action taken on the basis of his/her complaint (Article 206a of the Act), and to lodge a complaint with a senior state attorney (Article 206b of this Act);
- request and receive information without undue delay on the release of the offender from detention or remand, the offender’s escape or release from prison, and on measures taken to ensure the victim’s protection;
- request and receive information on any final decision terminating the criminal proceedings;
- other rights stipulated by law.
A victim of a crime against sexual freedom or a crime of human trafficking has the following rights in addition to those mentioned above:
- talk to the consultant before questioning, at the expense of the budget;
- a plenipotentiary charged to the budget,
- to be questioned by a person of the same sex in the police and public prosecutor’s office and, if possible, questioned by the same person in the event of a re-examination,
- refuse to answer non-criminal questions relating to the victim’s strict personal life;
- require them to be tested by means of audio-video devices (Article 292(4) of this Act);
- the confidentiality of personal data;
- require that the public be excluded from the hearing.
If a child is the victim of crime, he/she has the following rights in addition to those mentioned above:
- a representative, at the expense of the budget,
- confidentiality of personal data,
- exclusion of public.
Children are all persons under the age of 18 years.
A child witness or victim is examined by the investigating judge at an evidentiary hearing, and the summons is sent to his/her parents or guardians.
When a crime is reported, the state attorney will prosecute ex officio in most cases.
A private prosecution may be brought in the case of crimes for which criminal proceedings are launched on the basis of a private prosecution. The private prosecution must be brought within three months of the date when the authorised natural or legal person learned of the crime and the offender.
Associated action for damages
The application to join a civil action to proceedings may be made by the injured party.
A victim of crime is also an injured party and is entitled to file an associated action for damages before the court.
Such an action may include the following claims:
- compensation for damages, which can be tangible or intangible (pain suffered, fear);
- return of belongings – if the injured party can prove that he/she was the owner or lawful holder;
- cancellation of a specific legal transaction – if the offence resulted in a legal transaction having a property-law character (if the accused person has led you to conclude a contract by force).
An associated action for damages may be filed in criminal proceedings or in separate civil proceedings against the defendant. If the action is filed during criminal proceedings, a prerequisite for its acceptance is that the court finds the defendant guilty.
That is not a prerequisite for the success of an action in civil proceedings.
Rights of injured parties during an investigation and in criminal proceedings
A victim participating in criminal proceedings as the civil party is entitled to:
- use his/her own language, including deaf and deafblind sign language, and to the assistance of an interpreter if he/she does not understand or use Croatian, or to the assistance of a translator or sign language interpreter if he/she is deaf or deafblind;
- file an associated action for damages and motions for temporary injunctions;
- a representative;
- present facts and move to introduce evidence;
- attend the evidentiary hearing;
- attend the proceedings, take part in the evidentiary proceedings and make a closing statement;
- access the case file;
- ask to be informed by the state attorney in respect of action taken on the basis of his/her report and file a complaint to a senior state attorney;
- seek restoration of the previous situation;
- be informed of the outcome of the criminal proceedings.
Both before and at any stage during the criminal proceedings, the State Attorney’s Office and the court must consider the possibility that the defendant may compensate the injured party for any loss caused by the offence. They shall also warn the injured party of the right to use their own language, including the sign language of the deaf and deafblind, and of the assistance of an interpreter if he or she does not speak or understand Croatian, or of an interpreter or sign language interpreter if it is deaf or deafblind, the right to lodge an application for a civil claim and interim measures for security, to lodge a statement of fact and to submit evidence in the proceedings, to lodge a final statement of claim in the proceedings, to lodge a complaint with the lawyer, to lodge a complaint with the lawyer concerned.
Right to financial compensation
The Act on Financial Compensation for Victims of Crime (Zakon o novčanoj naknadi žrtvama kaznenih djela) (Narodne Novine (NN; Official Gazette of the Republic of Croatia) Nos 80/08 and 27/11) lays down a right to financial compensation for victims of crime involving violence committed with intent in Croatia, or for their relatives under the conditions set out in that Act.
It establishes a right to financial compensation for victims of violent crime committed with intent and specifies the prerequisites and procedure for exercising the right to compensation, the bodies that take decisions and participate in the decision-making process on the right to compensation and the bodies and procedure in cross-border cases.
Victims of violent crime committed with intent have a right to financial compensation from the national budget.
The police, the state attorney’s office and the courts are required to provide information on the right to compensation, supply the necessary application forms and, at the victim’s request, give general guidance and information on how to fill out an application and on the supporting documents that are required.
Applications for financial compensation must be submitted to the Ministry of Justice on the form which can be downloaded from the Ministry’s website.
Applications must be submitted within six months of the date on which the crime was committed. If there are legitimate reasons why a victim was unable to submit such an application within the deadline, he/she must do so within three months of the date on which those reasons cease to exist, and in any event within three years of the date on which the crime was committed.
If the victim is a minor or a person deprived of legal capacity and his or her legal representative has not submitted a claim within six months of the date on which the act was committed, the six-month period begins to run from the date on which the person reaches the age of 18 or from the day on which criminal proceedings were initiated after the victim reached the age of majority or from the date on which the person’s legal capacity was restored.
Persons entitled to financial compensation:
- victims of crime involving violence who are citizens of the Republic of Croatia, citizens of a Member State of the European Union or permanently resident in the European Union, and if the crime was committed in Croatia;
- a victim who has suffered grievous bodily harm or whose health has deteriorated as a result of the crime (such a person is entitled to compensation for the costs of treatment, provided that it is not covered by mandatory health insurance, up to the amount of health insurance in the Republic of Croatia, and compensation for loss of earnings up to the amount of HRK 35 000);
- a person who is a close relative of the deceased victim (spouse or partner, child, parent, adoptive parent, adopted child, step-parent, step-child, same-sex partner, grandparent and grandchild if they belonged to the same household as the victim) (such a person is entitled to compensation of up to HRK 70 000 for the loss of statutory maintenance);
- in the event of the death of a victim, the person who paid the funeral expenses is entitled to compensation of up to HRK 5 000;
- if a crime is reported to or filed by the police or the public prosecutor’s office within six months from the date on which it was committed, regardless of whether or not the offender is known.
When the amount of compensation is established, account is taken of the victim’s conduct during and after the crime or his/her contribution to the causing of the damage and to the extent of the damage, whether the person is an immediate victim and whether he/she reported the crime to the competent authorities and when. In addition, an assessment is made of the victim’s cooperation with the police and the competent authorities in order to bring the offender to justice, account being taken of whether the immediate victim helped to cause the damage or exacerbated the damage; in any of these cases the compensation to which the victim is entitled will be reduced accordingly. An application for compensation will be refused, or the amount reduced, if the victim is found to be involved in organised crime or a criminal organisation. Compensation may also be refused, or the amount reduced, if the granting of full compensation would be contrary to the principle of fairness, morality and public policy.
Notice of offender’s release
When the defendant is sentenced to imprisonment, the Ministry of Justice, Victims and Witness Support Service will inform the victim of the date of release (on ordinary and conditional release) of prisoners serving imprisonment.
Statutory obligation to inform victims of prisoner release
In accordance with the provisions of the Act amending the Prison Enforcement Act of the Ministry of Justice, Victims and Witness Support Service) inform the victim, injured party or their family about the release of prisoners from imprisonment.
Victims are notified of the release of a prisoner in cases of crimes against sexual freedom and sexual morality, life and limb or crimes involving violence.
The information mentioned above is provided to a victim, injured party or his/her family, irrespective of whether the prisoner is being released unconditionally or on probation.
Also, when deciding whether or not to leave a prisoner to their place of residence or residence, penitentiaries/prisons may request information from the Victim and Witness Support Service on the reaction of the victim or victim’s family regarding the identification of the possibility of benefiting from the exit. On the basis of interviews with the victim, the Victims and Witness Support Service produces reports that are delivered by the penitentiary/prison.
Support for witnesses and victims
Support for victims and witnesses in the Republic of Croatia is coordinated by the Victim and Witness Support Service established at the Ministry of Justice.
Victims and witnesses can obtain support and information on their rights and on procedures from the Victim and Witness Support Department of a court.
Victim and Witness Support Units are established in 7 county courts in Zagreb, Zadar, Osijek, Vukovar, Split, Sisak and Rijeka. The departments provide emotional support, practical information and information on victims’ rights, as well as support and information for witnesses and accompanying persons. Support is also provided by departments of competent municipal and misdemeanour courts (općinski and prekršajni sudovi).
Victims can also obtain information about their rights and the types of assistance available to them by calling the free phone number 116 006 of the National Call Centre for Victims of Crimes and Misdemeanours ( see the website of the National Call Centre).
The Ministry of Justice, including victims and witnesses, provides information on rights and support, and enquiries may be referred to: e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org or to the website of the Croatian Ministry of Just ice: https://pravosudje.gov.hr/
Support for victims and witnesses in cross-border cases
The Victims and Witness Support Service, established under the Ministry of Justice, provides support and information to victims and witnesses summoned to court through international legal assistance (including witnesses of war crimes).
Information letters are sent to witnesses who are summoned to give testimony at courts in the Republic of Croatia, or to Croatian witnesses who are summoned to appear before foreign courts.
Witnesses of war crimes shall be provided with a physician, where necessary, and assistance in preparing departures and organising access to the competent judicial authority (for witnesses and other participants called for questioning in criminal proceedings of war crimes before the competent judicial authorities in the Republic of Croatia, as well as outside the Republic of Croatia where such support is the subject of a request for international legal assistance).
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