- Published: 22.09.2022.
National Day of Combating Violence against Women
In memory of the three women killed at the Municipal Civil Court in Zagreb on 22 September 1999, the National Day of Combating Violence against Women has been observed in Croatia every year since 2004.Commemoration of the National Day of Combating Violence against Women aims to raise awareness and sensitise society to the issue of violence against women and to send a message of zero tolerance towards all forms of violence against women.
The Ministry of Justice and Public Administration has tightened the criminal law sanctioning policy with respect to a number of crimes through amendments to the Criminal Code, the Criminal Procedure Act and the Protection Against Domestic Violence Act.
In particular, the 2019 amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act were aimed at minimising the possibility of abuse of the institute of exemptions and strengthening the precautionary measures by introducing an additional measure of prohibition of internet access and a new institute of independent precautionary measure, which is a measure the court can impose by a decision even when the maximum duration of pre-trial detention has expired, and a greater degree of protection was provided for victims of rape as the jurisdiction for the crime was transferred to a higher court – county court.
2020 amendments to the Criminal Code limited the possibility of imposing alternative sentences such as community service and suspended sentence in relation to crimes committed against a close person. The crime of domestic violence was extended by introducing the state of long-term suffering as a new consequence of the crime and the crime of sexual intercourse without consent was abolished, whereas the amendments to the Protection Against Domestic Violence Act made a clearer distinction between violent behaviour within families which falls into the sphere of misdemeanour liability and behaviours that constitute a crime. Physical violence was further specified as the use of physical force that has not resulted in physical injury, and the circle of persons subject to the Protection against Domestic Violence Act was expanded.
In 2021 amendments to the Criminal Code, the Ministry redefined the prosecution of the crime of sexual harassment from Article 156, so it is now prosecuted ex officio rather than on the victim's motion.
The amendments also introduced a new crime of "Misuse of a recording with sexually explicit content" (so-called revenge and deepfake pornography), extended the term of a 'close person' to include current or former intimate partners and strengthened the security measures of compulsory psychosocial treatment, removal from the common household and prohibition of the performance of an office or activity. Furthermore, it was prescribed that the security measure of protective supervision upon full execution of custodial sentence is imposed during the pronouncement of court judgement, which means that a violation of the measure constitutes a criminal offence.
The Protection against Domestic Violence Act was also amended in 2021 to further extend the circle of 'close persons' to include current or former intimate partners.
The 2022 amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act introduced the so-called prohibition of double reversal of first-instance judgments, in order to prevent repeated referrals of cases back to the first instance.
Apart from tightening (amending) the criminal and misdemeanour legislation, the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration has been providing, enhancing and strengthening the system of victim and witness support through its Victim and Witness Support Division as well as VWS departments established at the county courts in Zagreb, Vukovar, Osijek, Zadar, Split, Sisak and Rijeka. In cooperation with the Network of Support and Cooperation for Victims and Witnesses of Criminal Offences, which consists of 11 civil society organizations and operates in 17 counties, coordinated by the Women's Room, it provides additional support to victims and witnesses by providing financial support from a portion of the lottery revenue on the basis of a tendering procedure.
So far, a total of HRK 16.6 million has been allocated for the work of the Network and the National Call Centre for Victims of Crimes and Misdemeanours.
The Ministry of Justice and Public Administration and the Ministry of the Interior have signed an agreement on cooperation on the project for establishing a system of referring victims to the Victim and Witness Support Service Croatia. The pilot project is currently being implemented at the Koprivnica-Križevci County Police Department, Zagreb County Police Department and 7th Police Station Zagreb. Police officers are informing victims of violence about their rights and the assistance and support they can receive through the National Call Centre for Victims of Crime and Violence - 116 006. The pilot project will include additional two police stations in 2023.
In order to improve the system of protection from violence against women and domestic violence, the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration has envisaged the following:
- establishment of 10 new victim and witness support departments in all the remaining county courts, the Municipal Criminal Court in Zagreb and the Municipal Court in Split;
- establishment of a broad working group that will comprehensively analyse the legislative framework related to the sanctioning of perpetrators of domestic violence and violence against women and provision of support to victims of violence, for the purpose of amending the Criminal Procedure Act, the Criminal Code, the Protection against Domestic Violence Act as well as the Courts Act and the Judicial Rules of Procedure;
- proposing amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act to improve the protection of victims of violent crimes in such a way that a precautionary measure cannot be imposed as a substitute for investigative prison in a situation where there is a risk of repeating the violent criminal offence;
- in relation to the Criminal Code and the Protection against Domestic Violence Act, the sanctions imposed will be analysed and revised, with particular emphasis on tighter sanctioning of violations of measures;
- proposing amendments to the Courts Act and the Judicial Rules of Procedure and proposing specialization of judges for crimes related to domestic violence and violence against women, modelled on the existing family departments. The purpose of these amendments is to have specialised judges with five-year licenses for handling cases related to domestic violence and violence against women in the courts responsible for handling criminal and misdemeanour proceedings, and work on those cases would be monitored with special care.