Opening conference of the project “Establishment of the Barnahus model in Croatia”

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The project aims to improve access to and quality of the justice system for child victims and witnesses of violence in Croatia.

“A society is as effective as it protects those most vulnerable, and there isn’t a more vulnerable group in our society than children, especially those who have survived any form of violence or abuse. The establishment of the Barnahus model in Croatia will bring significant changes to our legal and institutional system and society as a whole”, said Minister of Justice and Public Administration Ivan Malenica at the opening conference of the project “Establishment of the Barnahus model in Croatia”, which took place at the National and University Library on Tuesday 30 January 2024.

The objective of the joint project of the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration, the European Commission and the Council of Europe is to improve the access and quality of the justice system for child victims and witnesses of violence in Croatia, to ensure that undue delays in the treatment of such cases are diminished, and that all children who are victims and witnesses of sexual violence benefit from a child-friendly access to justice.

“The Government of the Republic of Croatia has recognised the Barnahus model as an example of good practice in the treatment of child victims of sexual abuse and exploitation, in a safe and child-friendly environment. The establishment of a Children’s House in the Republic of Croatia, under the Barnahus model, is embedded in our strategic documents as one of the measures of the National Plan for the Suppression of Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment 2022-2027.

“Our primary objective is to prevent the retraumatisation and revictimisation of the child, while at the same time ensuring the validity of testimonies and obtaining lawful evidence for the purposes of court proceedings”, the minister concluded.

The conference was attended by representatives of the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration as the beneficiary, of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support (DG REFORM), the Council of Europe, members of the project’s Advisory Group and other national stakeholders working on the project, including NGOs and civil society organisations.

“The Ministry of the Interior will continue to be an active participant in all the processes of realisation and wishes to give its contribution to adjusting and improving the system of protection of child victims of violence”, said State Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior Irena Petrijevčanin.

“We have already prescribed that a school employee is obliged to calmly listen to children who are victims of violence and that the conversation should be conducted in a child-friendly manner and environment, and using child-friendly language. We also stressed that it is important to inform the child about the follow-up and to inform them of their duty to report violence”, said Iva Ivanković, State Secretary of the Ministry of Science and Education.

State Secretary of the Ministry of Health Marija Bubaš stressed that abuse has profound consequences for both the victim and people close to them, and that it is necessary to include all state administration systems in supporting victims of violence.

The Ombudswoman for Children Helenca Pirnat Dragičević thanked Minister Malenica for recognising the need to improve the position of child victims of violence in criminal proceedings and for the demonstrated willingness and interest to launch the Barnahus model in Croatia.

“This model is a precise response to children’s needs because the Barnahus model aims to help the entire system and develop a child-friendly judiciary that will take hold in everyday practice”, said the Ombudswoman.

Head of Council of Europe Children’s Rights Division Regina Jensdottir expressed her satisfaction with the launch of this project and emphasized the importance of compliance of the Barnahus model services with the standards of the Council of Europe, the European Union and international judicial standards.

Ms Jensdottir highlighted that the Council of Europe was honoured to work closely with the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration in the implementation of the project, as it would lay the foundations for major changes in addressing the challenges of sexual violence and abuse. She deemed it an obligation rather than just an ambition, concluding that the conference had demonstrated a collaborative spirit that would contribute to the success of the project.

The project is co-funded by the European Union via the Technical Support Instrument, and co-funded and implemented by the Council of Europe’s Children's Rights Division in close co-operation with the Croatian Ministry of Justice and Public Administration and DG REFORM.