According to the UNDP data, 35% of Croatian citizens believe that the penal system is efficient in finding and prosecuting perpetrators of criminal offences. However, 40% of citizens believe that the penal system does not satisfy the needs of victims of criminal offences. Citizens express certain doubts concerning the functionality of the penal system, and the level of trust must definitely be increased. A certain proportion of citizens who experienced a criminal offence failed to report this offence to the police.
Experience from many European countries has indicated that the nature of the support a victim or witness receives immediately after an offence has occurred can make a huge difference to the way they feel and recover from the incident, the quality of information they provide to the police, prosecutors and judges as part of any investigation and the likelihood that they will attend court and give evidence at a later stage.
Croatia is taking measures for the improvement of protection of rights of victims, as well as of the status of victims and witnesses in criminal proceedings in terms of establishing Department for Support to the Witnesses and Other Participants in War Crime Trials which later became Directorate for Probation and Victim Witness Support. By establishing a National Committee for Witness/Victim Support in 2010 the Government has demonstrated its awareness of the value of the issue and its commitment to a solution.
The necessity of further improving witness and victim support was mentioned repeatedly in numerous international documents (EC, OSCE, UN). Development of WVS system was obviously important reform needed for combating the impunity and prosecution of crime but equally significant in terms of fulfilment of the rights of victims and witnesses according to international standards.
Since 2007 UNDP Croatia has provided assistance to the Government of the Republic of Croatia for development of witness/victim support system in the country (WVS system). After six years of the project implementation, the institutionalization of witness/victim support offices (WVS offices) in seven pilot courts largely contributed to a more efficient and effective criminal proceedings.
The project has led to attainment of crucial changes within the court system – development and promotion of new WVS policy, institutionalization of WVS offices and establishment of WVS offices in 7 county courts which were successfully integrated in the structure of the Courts. These results are sustainable and the Government is keen to continue the reform based on the UNDP strategy.
As of January 2009, Croatia started implementing the Anti-discrimination Law which expanded the mandate of the Croatian People's Ombudsman office (CPO). Under the new Law, the CPO's mandate includes:
- Notifying the public about discrimination phenomenon,
- Data collection and analysis,
- Advising the Government of Croatia on appropriate legislative and strategic solutions related to eradication of discrimination.
In anticipation of its changing role and added responsibilities, the CPO office invited UNDP to assist with a capacity assessment in November 2008. Assets and needs were identified related to: structure, strategy and planning, human resources management, performance management, and accountability. The project that followed translates into practice recommendations of the capacity assessment team in order to support the establishment of the CPO as an effective organisation providing a redress mechanism for the Croatian people.
Today, Croatia continues to undertake measures for Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) control, development of community policing and crime prevention. Building on six year arms amnesty, collection and awareness raising campaign, as well as the successful implementation of safer community plans in large number of Croatian counties, preparation and implementation of the National Strategy on SALW Control and establishment of Crime Prevention Departments within Ministry of Interior, the Government tries to empower the police together with law-abiding public to take constructive, safe and sustainable action against criminal and anti-social behaviour in Croatian communities. This is implemented in partnership with Croatian Government and the criminal justice system, as well as other stakeholders.
The Human Security Programme provides such a forum with all stakeholders necessary to address grievances through practical, community-based solutions (projects, services, actions) that restore confidence and deter the escalation of conflict.
The ability of the law-abiding public to take constructive action against criminal behaviour is dependent on 'their trust, faith and confidence in the police, local government and criminal justice system. In Croatia, the judiciary and local government still suffer from 'dismal' levels of public confidence, yet the Police enjoy higher levels of public trust. Crime Prevention Councils give the public a voice and a practical forum for their concerns and further enhance their level of trust in the Police by sharing a decision-making forum.
Furthermore Croatia also focused its interest in sustainable development of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) System through constructive Policy Dialogue and Recommendations set up by the relevant DRR counterparts.
The aim of the research, conducted among witnesses and judges, was to provide the comparative analysis of existing system of support to victims and witnesses in criminal offence cases in courts, and experiences and needs of the witnesses.
National public opinion survey on citizen perception of safety and security in the Republic of Croatia
The fundamental goal of this publication was to determine the feeling of security of citizens and their fear of crime as subjective indicators of personal and public safety, as well as to determine the perceptions of police efficiency and the return of citizens' trust towards the police.