Addressing the needs of wartime victims of sexual violence in Croatia

Project description

 Members of Sunčica NGO / Photo by: Inia Herenčić

During the Homeland War in Croatia in 1991-95 many women (and some men) were victims of sexual violence perpetrated by enemy forces as an act of war. In the two decades since the war, the needs of the survivors of these crimes have not been adequately addressed. Uncertainty prevails as to the exact number of victims, but it is widely believed to be well in excess of the 67 cases that the state has on official record; fewer than 20 prosecutions have been attempted; and only a handful of convictions have been handed down, most of them issued against in absentia defendants. For most victims, therefore, there has been no justice. Moreover, in sharp contrast to the extensive benefits provided to veterans, Croatia's survivors of sexual violence have only rarely received the recognition, status, or support they need and deserve.

Until recently, the stigma surrounding rape has impeded any open discussion of this issue in Croatia, and it has been left largely shrouded in silence. However, recent efforts by civil society organizations and activists have helped to bring the issue into public focus. Most prominently, the publication by Marija Slišković of NGO Sunčica, a collection of testimonies describing personal experiences of sexual violence from the war, has ignited a public discussion of the need to address this unresolved legacy. These efforts have received important support from the Parliament, the President's Office, and the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and other UN organizations. A rise in social compassion for the victims is evident, alongside a growing frustration that so much time that has passed without tangible remedies.


The project objectives will be achieved by providing:

1) Continued advocacy to deepen public compassion for victims of sexual violence;
2) Support to the creation of an association of survivors of wartime sexual violence;
3) Outreach activities in war-affected areas to encourage other victims to come forward;
4) Legal advice on legislative changes that would grant survivors recognition and privileged status;
6) More accurate statistics and information on the prevalence of wartime rape; and
7) Legal and logistical support to prosecutors and police in evidence collection to secure convictions.

In implementing these activities, UNDP will leverage existing programs and partnerships. These include the network of Witness Victims Support Offices created in county courts in partnership with the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Court, including in Vukovar, where many survivors of wartime sexual violence live, and established partnerships with the President's Office and the Ministries of Social Policy and Youth, War Veterans, and Interior aimed at fighting violence against women and pursuing gender equality.

In the future, the project activities will be aimed at building the capacity of the Commission for victims of sexual violence so that the members of the Commission could successfully work and assist victims of sexual violence in the application of sexual violence and exercise of their rights related to the compensation of the same. In this context, the training for the members of the Commission, which began in late 2015 will continue further.


Donor Amount
UN Women, headquarter NY $50,000
Swiss Embassy Croatia/Zagreb $42,406
UNDP BDP, autorisation $50,000
Ministry of Social Policy and Youth $6,000
UNDP CO Croatia $30,500