www.opferhilfe-schweiz.ch is the official website of the Swiss Liaison Centre Committee for the Victims of Crime Act (SVK-OHG), a sub-commission of the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Social Affairs.
The coming into force of the revised Victims of Crime Act on January 1st 2009:
What is new?
The revised VCA from the 27th of March 2007 is still based on three pillars including counselling, financial support and the victim’s rights in penal procedures. Also unchanged is the term “victim”. Changes mainly apply to the financial section of the victim’s help. More details about the changes and the interim arrangement can be found here.
What is Victims’ Help?
Help according to the Victims of Crime Act (VCA) is available to anyone whose integrity is directly impaired, either bodily, sexually or psychologically as a result of a criminal act, regardless if the offender is sentenced or not, or if the offender is culpable or not.
The criminal acts which substantiate a victim’s case, have not all been accounted for in the VCA. Recognised acts include:
- Cases of violence (e.g. murder, physical injury, robbery)
- Sexual offences (e.g. rape, sexual assault)
- Domestic Violence (e.g. physical injury, grievous bodily harm, threat)
- Road accidents involving physical injury.
If certain conditions are fulfilled the following people can also benefit from the victims’ help: family members (husband or wife, parents, children, siblings) or other people (partner) close to the victim. The victims’ help centres can be addressed for further information.
The Victims’ Help is primarily based on the federal Victims of Crime Act (VCA) and Victims of Crime Decree. In the various cantons of Switzerland there are also further supplementary laws. Since 1 January 2011, the rights of victims in the criminal procedure have been governed exclusively by the Swiss Code of Criminal Procedure of 5 October 2007 (StPO) and the Swiss Code of Juvenile Criminal Procedure of 20 March 2009 (JStPO). More information concerning the legal fundamentals.
What does Victims’ Help include?
Counselling: Victims are entitled to free counselling, information and guidance from a recognised Victims’ Counselling Centre.
Immediate assistance and longer-term assistance: The Victims' Counselling Centres arrange for and provide the victim and his or her family with the appropriate medical, psychological, social, material and legal assistance. Immediate assistance for the most urgent needs after a crime is provided free of charge to the victim. Victim's Help can contribute to the costs of longer-term assistance, based on the financial situation of the victim or his or her family.
Financial Services: According to the VCA, victims are entitled to claim financial support (for damages and/or reparation) from the Cantonal Compensation Office.
Rights in the criminal procedure: Victims have various rights in the criminal procedure that are governed by the Swiss Code of Criminal Procedure of 5 October 2007 (StPO) and the Swiss Code of Juvenile Criminal Procedure of 20 March 2009 (JStPO).
A distinction is made between the following types of procedural rights:
- Rights to information (e.g. obtaining information about the various types of victims' help and about victims' counselling centres upon the initial hearing by the police or public prosecutor)
- Rights to protection (e.g. to be accompanied by a confidant during all procedural steps if the victim so wishes)
- Rights to participation (e.g. enforcing civil claims against the offender)
While rights to information and protection can be claimed regardless of whether or not the victim acts as a private plaintiff, rights to participation depend on the victim being a party to the procedure. The victim is a party to the procedure if he or she acts as a private plaintiff.
Detailed explanations of victims' specific procedural rights, on acting as a private plaintiff and on the risk of costs to the victim in criminal proceedings can be found in the information sheet provided by the cantonal victims' help office of the Department of Justice and Internal Affairs of the Canton of Zurich (in German only).