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Child-Friendly Courts

Child victims and witnesses of criminal acts are extremely vulnerable and therefore a judicial system that is not adapted to their needs can do them additional harm. Between 2000 and 2014 in Croatia almost 1,500 child victims or witnesses of crimes were interviewed without protective measures. The children were asked several times to describe the situations that they had gone through or were interviewed without appropriate legal safeguards, which caused them additional trauma.

UNICEF in response to this and in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice initiated a project to protect child witnesses and victims of criminal offences. The aim of the project is to facilitate change by adapting court procedures to respect the rights and needs of children.

"The UNICEF Regional Office has supported the adaptation of the Croatian judicial system to become more child-friendly by donating 1.6 million Kuna for the refurbishment of ten courts with the latest audio-visual equipment and for the provision of expert legal training. "

This equipment can be used to record interviews with children by specially trained experts in an appropriate environment and under the authority of the investigative judges.

UNICEF’s investment has enabled the monitoring of interviews with the defendant, the defendant’s lawyer, representatives of the prosecution and the child’s legal representative on a TV screen in a separate room. A video recording of an interview can be used several times during the court proceedings in case of indictment against the suspect and therefore the child does not have to repeat the testimony in the final court hearing. This procedure, conceived with the aim of ensuring a professional criminal investigation and a fair procedure and trial for the suspect, is in the best interests of the child.

More than 150 legal experts – judges, state attorneys and their deputies as well as experts working with children in the justice system (social pedagogues and social workers) – have been trained to treat children in a manner that respects their dignity, age and level of intellectual development.

The training of judges and state attorneys was conducted by UNICEF in cooperation with leading experts from Croatia and abroad. Around 15,000 children in Croatia are growing up without a parent, because one or both parents are incarcerated. Often neglected and discriminated against, these children become victims and therefore need the support and understanding of society to help them deal with a situation they did not create.

In 2013, UNICEF refurbished prison rooms used for meetings between children and their incarcerated parents with furniture and toys.

Publications are available only in Croatian.

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Updated: 04 July 2016
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