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Croatia Announces New Bill to Include Femicide in Criminal Code

Croatia will amend laws in order to combat violence against women and protect children’s rights, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic announced on Wednesday.

At a meeting with representatives of institutions, associations and initiatives dealing with these issues, Plenkovic said that “the most extensive and perhaps the most significant changes so far” are now being introduced.

“The proposed measures are a confirmation of what we keep repeating – the political will to fight violence against women exists. It is unquestionable, constant, ethical, and it is our value system,” Plenkovic said.

The laws are the result of the work of a working group established in September 2022.

The changes will be released for public consultation by the end of next week. The goal is for them to be adopted by the end of this year and come into force in January 2024.

“When violence reaches the judiciary, it is already too late. The goal is an unequivocal message that violent people should be excluded from society, and victims should be given full support,” said Minister of Justice and Administration Ivan Malenica when presenting the changes to the law.

A new Criminal Procedure Act grants greater rights to victims, so, among other things, the anonymization of all data based on which the victim’s identity can be revealed will be mandatory.

The right of the victim to appeal against the decision on the determination, extension or cancellation of precautionary measures, i.e., a restraining order, is also prescribed. Courts must consider an appeal if the victim submits it for pretrial detention.

In case of a restraining order violation, courts will be obliged to issue a decision on pre-trial detention within 24 hours.

The grounds for arrest are to be expanded, and police will be able to arrest the defendant when there is reasonable suspicion that he has violated a restraining order, or when the victim reports that he is violating that measure.

The victim will be involved in the procedure, and the court will have to take into account the victim’s statement about the danger to her safety when deciding on a restraining order, and the victim also has the right to appeal the decision.

Victims for whom special protection measures have been established, especially victims of crimes against sexual freedom and domestic violence, will be questioned via audio-video devices.

The victim will be informed about the release of the abuser, and the court will do so immediately after making such a decision through the police.

A new criminal offence is to be introduced, of aggravated murder of a woman, for which the penalty will range from 10 years’ imprisonment to long-term imprisonment.

Penalties for rape are to increase. The jail sentence for the basic form will rise to three to eight years, instead of one to five years. For the more serious form, sentences increase to five to 12 years, instead of three to 10. And for a serious crime against sexual freedom, the prison sentence increases to five to 12 years, instead of three to 10.

The statute of limitations for crimes of paedophilia is abolished.

The legal provisions are defined more precisely, so from now on intrusive behaviour and sexual harassment will be considered criminal offences.

Amendments to the Law on Courts introduce specialized judges for cases of violence against women and domestic violence.

Reporting a violation of the child’s rights additionally implies exposing the child to violence by a violent family member.

A new Alimony Fund will make it easier to exercise the right to alimony.

Neva Tolle, from the Autonomous Women’s House, hailed the changes as “a great job”.

“This time, the government has done a great job and made a big step forward for the benefit of women and children who are still living in violent relationships,” she said.

Source : Balkaninsight