Federal Office of Justice

Assistance to victims of criminal offences

Only victims who have suffered physical, moral or sexual injury can benefit from the law on the assistance to victims of criminal offences: close relatives of the victims, such as spouses, partners, parents, children, brothers and sisters, can also benefit partly from the law.

The federal law on the assistance to victims of criminal offences is divided into three parts. The first part deals with counselling. Victims can get assistance at counselling services all over the country in medical, psychological, social, financial or legal matters. Immediate help is free. Assistance on a longer period of time is also free if the victim's personal situation calls for it.

The second part of the law deals with the victims' rights in the criminal proceedings. Members of the police force and of the judicial power have a legal duty to protect the victims' personal rights: they must refrain, when necessary, from revealing the victim's identity, they must deny the press and the public access to court meetings when the interest of the victim requires it or when the victim has requested it, they must avoid any confrontation between the victim and the offender when such a meeting would be unwelcome to the first. Victims have the right not to testify on matters that concern their intimacy. They can demand compensation in the penal procedure.

The third part of the law deals more specifically with compensation: victims get compensation from the state for the financial and moral damage they have suffered, if they cannot obtain such compensation of the offender (for instance because the offender is unknown or without financial means). Compensation for material damage is limited to 100'000 francs and takes into account the damage suffered and the financial means of the victim. Victims get no compensation from the state for material damage if their financial means exceed a limit set by law. Compensation for moral tort is granted regardless of financial means: requirements are that the victim has to deal with severe personal suffering.

For the complete documentation see the pages in German, French or Italian.

Federal Office of Justice
Legislation Projects and Methodology Unit
Bundesrain 20
CH-3003 Berne
T +41 58 462 47 44, F +41 58 462 84 01