Director of the Child Protection Center of Zagreb, prof. dr. sc. Gordana Buljan Flander, participated as consultant of the UNICEF Office for Croatia in designing and conducting the fourth consecutive three-day trainings for the professionals in the justice system under the title: “Legal protection of crime victims and witnesses”, in Opatija from 4 to 6 June 2014.

Trainings started in May 2014 in the organization of the UNICEF Office for Croatia and the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Croatia. A total of 125 professionals in the justice system have been included in the training: judges, state attorneys and their deputies as well as professionals in the justice system who work with children (social educators and social workers)with the aim of improving the conditions and methods of taking testimony from children victims and witnesses of crime.

Child-friendly approach

Training has been conducted by experts in child protection, a judge, Lana Peto Kujundžić, a coroner, Ljiljana Maletić, a senior state attorney adviser, Helenca Pirnat-Dragičević and a psychologist and psychotherapist, prof.dr. sc. Gordana Buljan Flander, director of the Child Protection Center of Zagreb. The particular aim of the training is empowering the professionals in our justice system to provide adequate help for children victims and witnesses of crime, taking into consideration the specificity of their experience and to approach children appropriately, adjusting to their developmental level and emotional state. This model of workshops was developed in collaboration with dr. Ingrid van Welzenis, an expert in child-friendly justice.

Some topics of this training include specificities of child development, the nature of traumatic experience in childhood, introduction to the principles of forensic interview of children and the development of approach adjusted to children’s age, cognitive capacity and the nature of the event they have experienced or witnessed.

Forensic interview of children which is sensitive to their development level

Topics covered by the director of the Child Protection Center of Zagreb, Buljan Flander, include forensic interview of sexually abused children and child victims and witnesses in a non-suggestive and developmentally sensitive manner, learning appropriate manner and wording of the questions asked according to the type of abuse, preparation of the child victim of abuse for the court, developmentally appropriate approach to children regarding their cognitive, socio-emotional and moral development, with an emphasis on the interview procedure and the credibility of the testimony, as well as the understanding of the causes, consequences and the complexities of the impact of traumatic experience.

Technical support to courts in 8 cities by UNICEF

Together with the training of professionals, adjustment of justice to children’s needs includes technical support to courts. In this context, together with the Ministry of Justice and other partners, in the course of 2014, UNICEF will equip courts in eight cities (Zagreb, Split, Osijek, Rijeka, Bjelovar, Sisak, Varaždin and Velika Gorica) with audio-visual recording equipment for children’s testimonies. Issuing written materials  manuals for professionals, brochures for children and parents, carers and foster parents is also planned.

On the importance of training in achieving European standards of protection and promotion of children’s rights

Head of UNICEF Office for Croatia and the Minister of Justice deputy Sandra Artuković-Kunšt expressed their positive opinions on these trainings:

“These trainings are important in adjusting the justice system to children and the protection of their rights when they are witnesses or victims. Children are one of the most vulnerable groups in our society and that is why we have to do everything to protect them and minimise their traumas”, said the Head of the UNICEF Office for Croatia, Valentina Otmačić.

„We have developed and started this programme in order to educate youth court judges, state attorneys and other involved professionals in applying new technologies we provided to question children, based on their unquestionable professional competences. Participants in the programme, professionals working with children in the justice system and the Ministry of Justice and, certainly, our respectable partner UNICEF, have a common goal – realize general and European standards of protection and promotion of children’s rights” said the Minister of Justice deputy, Sandra Artuković-Kunšt.

More on this training is available on the web-site UNICEF-Office for Croatia.

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