How to report domestic violence in Croatia

This post was developed in partnership with Udruga Domine (a women's non-profit organization based in Split)
Image by Külli Kittus

PUBLISHED: 28/9/2021

**If this is an active emergency and you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 112.**

Domestic violence includes all forms of physical force, physical punishment, degrading treatment, psychological violence, sexual harassment, economic violence, and neglecting the needs of a person with a disability.

In Croatia, domestic violence is regulated by:

  • Criminal law (Kazneni zakon) – View the law here
  • Law on Protection from Domestic Violence (Zakon o zaštiti od nasilja u obitelji) – View the law here

Article 8 of the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence says:

Osobe na koje se ovaj Zakon primjenjuje su: bračni drug, izvanbračni drug, životni partner, neformalni životni partner, njihova zajednička djeca te djeca svakog od njih, srodnici po krvi u ravnoj lozi, srodnici u pobočnoj lozi zaključno do trećeg stupnja, srodnici po tazbini do zaključno drugog stupnja, posvojitelj i posvojenik.

Odredbe ovog Zakona primjenjuju se i na bivšeg bračnog druga, bivšeg izvanbračnog druga, bivšeg životnog partnera, bivšeg neformalnog životnog partnera, sadašnjeg ili bivšeg partnera u intimnoj vezi, osobe koje imaju zajedničko dijete te osobe koje žive u zajedničkom kućanstvu.

Which translates to…

Persons to whom this Act applies are: a spouse, common-law partner, life partner, informal life partner, their joint children and children of each of them, blood relatives in the direct line, relatives in the collateral line up to the third degree, relatives by in-laws to the concluding second degree, the adopter, and the adoptee.

The provisions of this Act also apply to ex-spouse, ex-common-law partner, ex-life partner, ex-informal life partner, current or ex-partner in an intimate relationship, persons having a joint child and persons living in a joint household.

If there is violence against a person in a situation not defined in the above excerpt from the law, then it will be regulated by articles in the relevant misdemeanor and criminal laws.

You can learn more about the legal definition of domestic violence in our article that covers domestic abuse in Croatia according to the law. It is available here.

In this article, we’ve cover:

The facts are these…

How to report domestic violence to the Croatian police

Any type of violence that falls into one of the above mentioned categories should be reported to the police. If you want to report violence immediately, the fastest way is to call 112. It is also possible to report violence to the state attorney’s office, or visit the police in person.

A list of all police stations in Croatia organized by Croatian counties is available here.

[Read: How to find administrative police stations in Croatia]

The police have an obligation to respond to all reported cases of domestic violence. This means that they must investigate reported cases and determine what happened.

Police obligations have been clearly stated in the Protocol on the Procedure in Cases of Domestic Violence (called “Protokol o postupanju u slučaju nasilja u obitelji”), which is available here. After they receive a report, they must ALWAYS go to the reported location including closed apartments and houses. It is recommended that both male and female officers attend the intervention whenever possible.

The police are required to:

  • Protect the victim
  • Inform the victim of their rights
  • Provide a translator (if the victim is not Croatian)
  • Organize emergency medical care if necessary
  • Inform the Center for Social Welfare [Centar za socijalnu skrb]
  • Establish the facts and make a report
  • Remove/detain the perpetrator
  • Inform the State attorney’s office of the case

All victims have the right to a person of trust. This person can accompany them to the police and support them throughout the process. Victims might spend 4 to 5 hours at the police, which can be mentally and emotionally exhaustive. This is why it is good to have a person of trust who can support the victim psychologically and emotionally.

If you are a foreigner and Croatian is not your native language, the police must provide a translator. You must not be questioned until the translator is present. Anything said without a translator is not considered valid.

If you visit a doctor and they suspect any type of violence, they are obligated to report it to the police even if you deny it. The police must respond using the above-mentioned protocol.

Everyone has an obligation to report incidents of violence. However, autonomous shelters and counseling centers for women victims of violence do not have an obligation to report. They respect those who survived violence and let them decide when and what they will report. [Read: Shelters and counseling centers in Croatia]

Possible problems with reporting violence in Croatia

The biggest systemic problem is that the police often don’t inform the victim of their rights properly and effectively. The police may give the victim a sheet of paper with their rights on it, but they do not explain the rights to ensure they are understood. For example, it may say that a person is entitled to have a person of trust with them, but the police won’t verbally disclose this.

In the case of rape, emergency gynecological care is the first step for most women. However, sometimes the emergency gynecological care physician may insist on reporting the incident to the police first without completing a medical examination and ensuring psychological help and support to the person reporting the crime. By doing so, they are breaking protocol.

Centers for social welfare are known to judge or question whether the situation is really domestic violence instead of notifying the police or state attorney’s office immediately after the report, which is also breaking protocol.

If you are a victim of sexual violence, you need to know that people included in the process are obligated to report the violence if they know about it, especially if it includes minors. Your rights are the same as the rights of a person surviving domestic violence. This means that the best option is to notify the police immediately and have police escort you to the doctor.

You have the right to a person of trust and a female officer. Larger Croatian police stations usually have both male and female officers that are educated to work with survivors of domestic and sexual violence. It is recommended to always ask for an educated person to be the officer working on your case.

Criminal offenses and misdemeanors

The statute of limitations of a misdemeanor for domestic violence is 4 years. The statute of limitations of a criminal offense for domestic violence is 10 years.

The difference between criminal offenses and misdemeanors is mostly formal or quantitative. There are no strict definitions and this depends on the approach of the police or a district attorney to the case. The police are the first to classify violence as a misdemeanor or criminal offense. After this, the State attorney’s office has to confirm their classification. The judge assigned to the case can accept the classification or change it.

Often, it is impossible to recognize and categorize this form of violence properly. Criminal offenses are usually more serious violations than misdemeanor offenses, resulting in stricter penalties.

In misdemeanor proceedings, a prison sentence of up to 90 days can be imposed. In criminal proceedings for domestic violence, a prison sentence of up to 3 years can be imposed for a criminal offense. The maximum prison sentence for rape is up to 10 years.

Organizations that offer help

If you are unsure of your rights, organizations like udruga Domine can give you support. They can provide you with information you may need before, during, and after reporting violence.

In addition to udruga Domine, there are many women’s organizations that work on autonomous principles who can provide you with legal, psychological, and any other kind of support you may need in that period.

Read more about the realities of domestic abuse in Croatia here.

Read more about domestic abuse in Croatia according to the law here.

View other domestic violence posts

 

Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal advice in any form. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. We can recommend one if you contact us.

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