Educating experts to help victims of sexual violence in the war

Dec 10, 2015


ZAGREB, 10 December 2015 - Experts who deal with the victims of sexual violence committed during the Homeland War started a three-day training organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Croatia and the Ministry of War Veterans. The training started yesterday at the Clinical Hospital Centre in Zagreb with the aim to familiarize experts with the legal framework for the exercise of rights and consequences of violence and to give them concrete advice for better provision of psychosocial, medical and legal help to the victims.

The exercise of the rights, possibility of reparations and recognition of experienced trauma are deriving from the Law on the rights of victims of sexual violence during the armed aggression against on the Republic of Croatia during the Homeland War, which was put into effect in the middle of this year. It is estimated that the number of victims of these crimes in Croatia range from 1501 to 2437, and two-thirds of them were committed at the beginning of the war. Although more than two decades have passed since then, those women and men are just now getting the chance for adequate support and justice.

"The law is an expression of political will and the moral and social responsibility to provide the necessary assistance to involve the victims of sexual violence during the Homeland War with the dignity in the social life. Specific legislation related to the victims of sexual violence strengthens social awareness about this issue, and on the other side, it is a clear condemnation of the culture of impunity of sexual violence during the war,” said Vesna Nađ, Deputy Minister of War Veterans.

The law comprehensively defines all the rights of the victims presenting a positive example in the region and in the world. An important starting point for legislative drafting was the work of UNDP on assessment of the number of victims of sexual violence in the war, the legislative analysis with the guidelines for the preparation of the law and the implementation of project of psychosocial assistance to the victims and their families. It is being implemented with the cooperation of a number of associations and partnerships at regional and international levels.

„The process of drafting the law was long-lasting and systematic, including the process that the Ministry of Veterans led devotedly. With its entry into force, the most important part of the work began, in which every link in the chain of its implementation is important: from the Commission which assesses the grounds for vesting, tailoring packages of financial rights and services, relationship with the people undergoing the process, the systematic recording of what works and what needs to be improved, training of experts, and the general public. The way of law enforcement and the first information about its effects, contributes to the symbolic forms of compensation that are sometimes more important for the victims than other aspects,” said Jasmina Papa from UNDP Croatia.

It is extremely important that the law focuses on the victims, not on the perpetrator, and enables equal protection regardless of gender, age or ethnicity of the victim. The law provides one-time allowance and ongoing monthly fee, psychosocial and health care, medical rehabilitation, physical examination, medical insurance, legal aid and other. These rights can be exercised by submitting a request to the Ministry of War Veterans and without the time limit, where a special task has the Commission for victims of Sexual Violence, which recently began its work and so far has received hundreds of requests.

Social condemnation and stigmatization is the reason why many victims never talk about their trauma even in the peacetime. Rape and sexual violence are sensitive topics that require sensitization and ongoing training of all involved professionals, same as the public. Only a society that is aware of the terrible consequences of these crimes and trauma for the victim, their family, and on the entire community can be a guarantee of protection for victims and non-recurrence of sexual, as well as other forms of violence, it was concluded at the end of the first day of training.