For a long time, crime victims used to play a marginal role in criminal proceedings and served primarily for ascertaining the truth. This has changed significantly in recent years, not least owing to NGO lobbying and to victimology research which studies the concerns and needs of crime victims. Meanwhile, many victim rights are firmly embedded in the Code of Criminal Procedure and provide for a closer involvement of victims in the criminal proceedings. With victim rights being considered human rights today, international and European organisations have also taken up the issue.

For that purpose, the European Union has enacted a directive on minimum standards of victim protection, which is to ensure in all 27 EU member states that

  • Victims are treated respectfully and that the police, public prosecutors and judges are trained in how to deal with victims in an appropriate manner;
  • Victims are informed about their rights and their case in a manner they understand;
  • Victims may participate in the proceedings and receive support if they want to attend the trial;
  • Victim support is being provided in all member states;
  • Particularly vulnerable victims such as children, rape victims, or disabled victims are adequately protected;
  • Victims are protected during police investigations and during the trial.

The Austrian Code of Criminal Procedure grants special rights to crime victims both during and after criminal proceedings.Austria has numerous victim assistance organisations which provide victim support and inform them of their rights.

The law distinguishes between three categories of victims:
  • 1 Victims of an intentionally committed crime or duress or such who are violated in their sexual integrity;
  • 2 Close relatives of a person having been killed;
  • 3Every other person affected by a crime;

This differentiation is important, because the different groups of victims enjoy different rights in criminal and civil proceedings. Moreover, the first two groups are entitled to special protection and to a sparing treatment in the proceedings.

The very moment a victim files a complaint with the police or the public prosecutor, he/she enjoys a range of rights which are explained in the following.