Croatian Victim and Witness Support Service (VWSS) has been working on improving the rights of crime victims and witnesses for 9 years. VWSS offers psychosocial support, legal information and guidance to those who have fallen victim to crime. Also, VWSS actively influences the legal system and sensitizes the society about the challenges and problems victims are facing. Currently, VWSS has two active programs: the National Call Center for Victims of Crimes and the Reference Center for Direct Support.
The National Call Center for Victims of Crimes has a universal toll-free number 116 006 where volunteers offer legal information, emotional support and refer callers to relevant organizations in both Croatian and English.
The Reference Center for Direct Support offers comprehensive support before, during and after judicial proceedings. Via the Reference Center, VWSS extends its scope to providing free legal aid to victims living in certain areas of Croatia.
Also, VWSS carries out actions focused on strengthening the capacity of NGOs in terms of providing support. Its main goal is the expansion of organizations which provide psychosocial support to victims and witnesses.
More information about the Victim and Witness Support Service can be found on: www.pzs.hr
Support for victims and witnesses in Republic of Croatia is organised within the justice system on two levels:
1. Ministry of Justice, Independent Service for Victim and Witness Support
2. Victim and Witness Support Offices at courts
I. Independent Service for Victim and Witness Support at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is central body for coordination of development of victim and witness support system. Its responsibilities are:
– Coordination of the victim and witness support system in general
– International and national cooperation (with the police, social service, probation service – Sector for Probation MoJ, Prison System Directorate – MoJ, NGOs)
– Coordination of Victim and Witness Support Offices at the courts. Organization and provision of education/training; supervision for employees and volunteers of Support Offices at courts
– Provision of information and support to victims and witnesses that are summoned over the mutual international legal assistance (information about the rights in written form, information and psychological support provided over the phone; referral to other relevant services; for victims and witnesses in war crime cases provision of: logistical support, transportation, police escort and protection, hotel accommodation as well as all the necessary information and support)
– Provision of information to victims about the release of the offender from prison and additional help in coordination with other relevant services
– Contacting victims on the request of the prison in order to determine victim’s attitude towards the criminal offence (the reports on the victim’s attitude can be requested by the prison from MoJ, police, social welfare centres, when deciding whether to allow the prisoner to use benefits of going out of the prison to their address of residence)
– Provision of compensation to victims: according to the Crime Victims Compensation Act
– Coordination of the National Committee for Monitoring and Development of Victim and Witness Support System
– Monitoring the work of the National Call Center for Victims of Crime and Misdemeanors – 116 006, which is established in cooperation between Ministry of Justice and Victim and Witness Support Association
– Membership in different State’s bodies enables our cooperation with relevant stakeholders. Representatives of Independent Service are members of: National team for Prevention and Combating Domestic Violence and Violence against Women, National Committee for Combating Human Trafficking and Operative Team of the National Committee for Combating Human Trafficking
II. Courts – Victim and Witness Support Offices at courts
There are seven Victim and Witness Support Offices at the County Courts in Zagreb, Osijek, Sisak, Vukovar, Zadar, Split and Rijeka. Support is also provided at the Municipal and the Misdemeanor Courts.
Support Offices provide different types of support to victims and witnesses: emotional support, practical help and information; information on victims’ rights; information about the national criminal justice system; assistance in applying for compensation, with special consideration for the needs of vulnerable or intimidated witnesses.
Support Offices are available for victims and witnesses, members of their families and persons accompanying them.
Support is provided by highly qualified employees of the court and volunteers, before, during and after the criminal proceedings – from the moment of reporting the crime to the police until the end of the court proceedings. Victims and witnesses can contact offices by telephone, e-mail, letter or personally at the Support Office premises.
Victims and witnesses are usually informed and referred to the Victim and Witness Support Offices by the police, court’s subpoena, local NGOs, National Call Center for Victims of Crime and Misdemeanors – 116 006, social welfare centres and personally upon arrival at the court.
As a part of interagency cooperation victims and witnesses are also referred by Support Offices and MoJ to relevant institutions and organisations which provide specialised services for victims, in order to address their specific needs and to get additional forms of help.
For more information, visit our Ministry of Justice website: