Croatia-Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women-Domestic Violence-July 2015

The Advocates for Human Rights, along with Autonomous Women’s House Zagreb (AZKZ), submitted a shadow report on domestic violence in Croatia for the 61st session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.   

Croatia has failed to meet international and internal standards on the protection of women from domestic violence, which remains a widespread problem. Not all women are protected under the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence, and funding for shelters is inadequate and insecure. By arresting and charging female victims, Croatia’s laws treat victims as criminals and deter women from reporting violence. Requiring medical certificates creates a significant barrier for criminal prosecutions, and judges do not always order safety measures under the Criminal Code or precaution measures under the Misdemeanor Act that could protect victims. Violations of protective measures and punishments under the LPDV are not adequately enforced, and Croatia’s programs to treat perpetrators of violence are untested, unaccountable, and often unavailable. Croatia’s new Family Law places victims and their children at risk, due to mandatory mediation in divorce cases and requiring parents to cooperate in raising their children. Appeals suspend protective measures when they are needed most, after the victim has chosen to separate from her abuser, and police fail to appeal denials of protective measure requests. Legal aid procedures are complicated and limit access to legal support, and Croatia’s laws force women to choose between seeking prosecution and seeking protection.

Recommendations to the Government of Croatia:

  • Implement policies that direct legal system officials, particularly police, to identify the primary aggressor in domestic violence cases so as to avoid continued arrests of domestic violence victims, including when they are acting in self-defense.
  • Expand the scope of the LPDV to protect victims of domestic violence who have never lived with their offender, but are in or have been in an intimate relationship, and expand the Criminal Code definition of close person to ensure that public prosecutors can pursue prosecution in these circumstances.
  • Amend the LPDV so that an appeal does not eliminate the effectiveness of protective measures.
  • Provide adequate and consistent funding to shelters and adopt legislation that would guarantee such funding to the shelters while ensuring their autonomy.
  • Clarify that protective measures serve a different role than criminal punishments, so that victims are not forced to choose between protection and punishment, but rather can obtain protection in one proceeding without interfering with the government’s duty to punish wrongdoers in a separate proceeding.
  • Amend the Criminal Procedures Code to provide precautionary measures with the specific purpose of protecting the victim during criminal proceedings until the final court decision when safety measures can be issued. Precautionary measures should include: a restraining order; prohibitions against stalking, harassment, and communication; and eviction.