Branko Tomašić and others v. Croatia |2009

Justice for family of murdered mother and daughter

. . . all reasonable steps should have been taken in order to protect [M.T. and V.T.] from those threats . . .

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, January 2009


The jailing of M.T.’s mentally disturbed ex-partner for making violent threats against her and her infant daughter, V.T., should have brought an end to their terrifying ordeal. The Croatian courts ordered the man to undergo psychiatric treatment. 

But just weeks after being released from prison, he shot and killed M.T. and her daughter, and then committed suicide by turning the gun on himself. 

It later emerged that the man had seen the prison doctor just five times while serving his sentence, and only because of other unrelated illnesses. He had not undergone any psychiatric or psychotherapeutic treatment. Before he was jailed, psychiatrists had warned of a “strong likelihood” that the man would repeat the same or similar criminal offences if he was not given treatment.  

Relatives of M.T. and V.T. decided to take a case to Strasbourg after the Croatian authorities ignored their complaint alleging failures to protect their loved ones and to investigate the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court found that the Croatian authorities took no adequate steps to make it less likely that the perpetrator would carry out his threats against M.T. and V.T. upon his release from prison. The authorities failed to prevent the deaths of the mother and daughter and were therefore responsible for violating their right to life. 

The court awarded the family €40,000 in compensation.

. . . the Government have failed to show that the compulsory psychiatric treatment ordered in respect of [the perpetrator] during his prison term was actually and properly administered . . .

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, January 2009


Since the judgment, Croatia has made significant changes to ensure that victims of domestic violence are better protected: 

  • The first five-year national strategy on protection against domestic violence was introduced in 2011. A second five-year strategy, launched in 2017, aims to strengthen the legal framework and coordination among public bodies.
  • In 2013, a new Criminal Code entered into force. It introduced specific security measures for perpetrators of domestic violence, including compulsory psycho-social treatment and protective supervision following release from prison.
  • A new Probation Act, adopted in 2018, helped protect victims by putting in place a process for assessing a perpetrator’s risk of reoffending.
  • Croatia ratified the Council of Europe convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (“Istanbul Convention”). The convention entered into force in Croatia in October 2018. The authorities have allocated significant funds to its implementation. 
  • An additional change to the Criminal Code in 2020 provided for a minimum prison sentence of one year for domestic violence offences.

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