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Volunteers of the Witness/Victim Support Offices

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Today we are awarding prizes to witness and victim support units volunteers. We are awarding prizes to seven volunteers. The seven volunteers, as well as other volunteers, indeed contributed to developing the witness and victim support system in Croatia. The today's manifestation is a part of the "Engaging Youth to Improve Delivery of Services for Victims and Witnesses of Crimes in Croatia" project. Project is run by UNDP, the Ministry of Justice and the Victim and Witness Support Association, and the ultimate aim of the project is actually the establishment of a national call center for victims of crime. The call centre will be run by the volunteers of the Victim and Witness Support Association. It is about people who are most vulnerable, who already are victims. They are traumatized and they have yet to go through the process. Sometimes they have to face the offender, and sometimes they talk about horrible things they have experienced. Without a well-functioning system established through this project, we would not have such good results as we have now. Firstly, the victims would have been more traumatized than they are now. Secondly, the witnesses would not have decided to do what they are supposed to do. I would say the results are very positive. On one hand, the victims and witnesses get support, they feel they are not alone and it is easier for them to go through it, which is always unpleasant. On the other hand, the judicial proceeding is more effective, which is essential. So, to conclude, justice is better served this way. 2007 was the year when we decided that we would start with this important project. Today it is 2013, the project is alive and it has got positive references. It is not important how much money has been invested in a project, but whether it does or does not have a vision, whether it does or does not have support, support of those who work on it, and support of the volunteer network. I think that last year we ended up with already around 100 volunteers, in other words, with a big number of people who put effort into project, and that is something immeasurable. We offer both emotional support and legal advice. We want to help victims and witnesses to be better prepared for testifying in court, and to make it easier for them to get information about the rights they have, how the courtroom looks like, about the course of the process and we work with them before, during and after the judicial proceeding. Department for Support to Witnesses in War Crime Trials is the best thing that happened to the judicial system. I notice that victims who have passed through heavy, suffering experience during the Homeland War experience everything again. They are even more traumatized, because of the whole victimization going on through all these years. That is why the volunteers are here, as well as the employed, in order to help them alleviate the suffering and stress they experience again by recalling all the traumatic events from the Homeland War. The state can not and does not have to do it by itself. Volunteerism is a substitute for authentic solidarity. Not even a substitute, more like an extension of it. And I believe that the level of civilizedness of society is measured by the level of participation of volunteers in what is going on. That is why we will definitely keep on fostering it. Not because we need that, but because the citizens of our country need that. I see the award as a kind of acknowledgement for my effort, because it was not easy to make it, while combining the responsibilities at college with other things and life in general. It means to me that I have put effort into this and I hope I will justify getting the award in the future.

Video Details

Duration: 7 minutes and 22 seconds
Country: Croatia
Language: Croatian
Producer: Antina Bratic
Director: Antina Bratic
Views: 174
Posted by: alenalen on Jul 5, 2013

Eight volunteers from 7 Croatian cities: Osijek, Rijeka, Sisak, Split, Vukovar, Zadar and Zagreb, have received special acknowledgements for their contribution providing help to witnesses and victims of crime summoned to testify in court. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has worked in partnership with the Croatian Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Court to create a national network of offices that provide crime victims with the information and reassurance they need to appear in court and testify with confidence. The success of these efforts has depended on a small number of professional staff and the energy and dedication of a far larger network of young volunteers, many of whom are drawing on this experience as a practical introduction to a career in law or social work.

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