PRESS RELEASE

Hate Violence Victims to Receive More Help (31 July 2013)

 

August 2013 will witness the Czech Republic joining the ranks of countries with a serious interest in helping crime victims. Particularly vulnerable victims, especially victims of hate violence, will gain access to professional help and legal information free of charge, which will improve their access to justice and allow for a more effective prevention of secondary victimization. And although the general behaviour towards victims is always in need of improvement, In IUSTITIA welcomes the new law.

The act on crime victims comprehensively adjusts their status. The victim is defined as an individual that has been subjected to damage to health, damage to property or non-proprietary loss. All victims have a right to access information regarding their rights and duties, the possibility of filing a complaint, organizations that provide help to victims, possible monetary help, securing safety, etc.

The new law also defines particularly vulnerable victims: children, disabled persons, trafficking victims, and also victims of hate violence. ‘The new act on hate crime victims is a significant step in the right direction,’ says Klára Kalibová of In IUSTITIA, the only Czech counselling service available to victims of hate violence to date. ‘Starting in August, the police will always inform the injured party of their rights and duties, of the course of the criminal proceedings and also about where they can turn if they are in need of further assistance and help.’ The law expects the direct cooperation of the state of the providers of services to victims, which will become standardized in August 2013. NGOs providing services to victims will be required to pass a mandatory accreditation offered by the Ministry of Justice of the Czech Republic, and will be subjected to periodic quality assessment.

The protection of particularly vulnerable victims is supported also by several other provisions in the act. The injured party will be questioned by persons with special training, with the interrogation being led by one person and in such a way to ensure that it will not have to be repeated. ‘This approach should prevent secondary damage in the prosecution process,’ explains Kalibová, who was part of the team that prepared the law. ‘This can happen when the approach selected by the court and other institutions does not fully respect the victims’ specific needs.’ With victims of sexual assaults in mind, In IUSTITIA initiated a provision allowing the injured party to select the gender of the person in charge of the interrogation. Klára Kalibová explains the provision’s development: ‘The act’s academic drafters proposed that the victims of sexual crimes be questioned by a person of the same gender. Such a provision, however, wouldn’t necessarily meet the needs of those of a non-majority sexual orientation, especially transgender persons.’

Despite this, the law is not completely free of limitations. For instance, the cases in which crime victims can request monetary aid from the state are limited – when their health has been compromised or a close person has died as a result of the crime. The only victims eligible for monetary aid from the state for non-proprietary loss are sexual crime victims, as a compensation for damage to their dignity. ‘That said, it has been proved that the impact on the dignity of the hate violence victim is identical to that of the sexual crime victim,’ says Kalibová. ‘We are doing our best to amend the law to reflect this.’

In 2013, the counselling centre for victims of hate violence was supported by the Open Society Fund and the Errinerung, Vernatwortung und Zukunft foundation.

In IUSTITUA provides counselling and representation services to victims of hate crimes, i.e. to persons subjected to physical or verbal violence due to the colour of their skin, their ethnicity, their religion, their sexual orientation, their social status or the state of their health.


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