V-START – “Support System for Victims of Hate Crime in Croatia”

Human Rights House Zagreb has published a report “Support System for Victims of Hate Crime in Croatia”, which is the result of a survey conducted in Croatia within the transnational project “V-START – Support to Victims through Raising awareness and networking”. The project is funded by the Directorate-General Justice and Consumers of the European Commission and is implemented by the Human Rights House Zagreb, COSPE – Cooperation for the Development of Emerging Countries (Italy), ZARA – Civil Courage and the Fight Against Racism (Austria) and efms – European Migration Studies Forum (Germany). The project focuses on the protection of victims of criminal acts, particularly racist and homophobic hate crimes, and aims to contribute to a better understanding of the specificity of hate crimes and the correct implementation of Directive 012/29 / EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012. on establishing minimum standards for the rights, support and protection of victims of criminal offences.

Hate crimes committed against persons or property are a daily reality throughout the EU. In many EU countries, policies aimed at combating hate crime focus primarily on sanctioning perpetrators, and only secondary to victim protection, partly due to limited understanding of the specificity of hate crimes and the consequences of such a crime for vulnerable groups.

In order to obtain a comprehensive overview of the support system for victims of hate crimes, we conducted a qualitative research. The first stage of research comprised an overview and analysis of the existing legal framework for combating hate crime. This included the analysis of the rights of all victims of criminal offences (introduced with the transposal of the above-mentioned Directive), as well as accompanying laws and other legal acts allowing victims to exercise their rights.  The second stage of research consisted of mapping the existing associations that provide legal and/or psychosocial support to victims of criminal offences as a form of non-institutional support, as well as court departments for victim and witness support as a form of institutional support.

In the third phase of the study, a total of 10 semi-structured interviews were conducted with respondents offering support to victims of criminal offences (and hate crimes) and with hate crime victims themselves. Although the intention was to include as many victims as possible, the low rate of reporting hate crimes and victims’ unwillingness to share their experiences were also reflected on the number of victims who agreed to participate in the study. With hate crime victims, we talked about their experience with police officers and judicial bodies, trying to determine to what extent victims have access to legally prescribed rights. In the fourth phase we have analysed the provision of support to hate crime victims through the example of the association and the victim and witness support departments.

Hate crime is insufficiently recognised in Croatia, both by the bodies in whose purview it is to participate in identifying, monitoring and prosecuting it, and by the society as a whole, including its very victims. There is a significant problem of non-reporting of hate crime because the victims are insufficiently informed that it is a criminal offence, or due to fear of retaliation by the perpetrator and lack of trust in the efficiency of the system, that is, due to fear that the crime will not be adequately prosecuted, the perpetrator punished and the victim protected.

The report is fully available on the official website of the V-start project here.

On www.vstart.eu you can find more information on the project itself as well as the reports from partner organizations from Italy, Germany and Austria.

This report is funded by the European Union Justice Program (2014-2020). The content of this report reflects the views of the author and is the sole responsibility of the author. The European Commission is not responsible for the possible use of the information contained in this report.

This project is co-financed by the Government of the Republic of Croatia Office for Cooperation with NGOs. The views expressed in this publication are the sole responsibility of the Human Rights Chamber of Zagreb and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office for the Association of Government of the Republic of Croatia.

This document was created with the financial support of the City of Zagreb. The content of this document is the exclusive responsibility of the Human Rights House Zagreb and under no circumstances can it be considered a reflection of the views of the City of Zagreb.