Centre for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights Osijek; Centre for Peace, Legal Advice and Psychosocial Assistance Vukovar and SDF organised round table “Experiences in implementing the Law on Free Legal Aid – The role of free legal assistance in combating discrimination” in Zagreb on 12 of June 2012 which was attended by numerous representatives of various civil society organizations from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, representatives of the Croatian Bar Association, Legal Clinic of the Law Faculty in Zagreb, Ministry of Justice, Office of State Administration and others.
Ljiljana Božić-Krstanović – Centre for Peace Osijek; presented their Report on monitoring of the implementation of the Law on Free Legal Aid in combating discrimination. Nine associations, including CRP Sisak, from Croatia participated in monitoring the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of the law for purposes of this report. She concluded that the Amendments of the Law on Free Legal Aid from 2011 did not make quality step forward as it was expected. It did not even contribute to the effectiveness and efficiency of the free legal aid system.
Professor Alan Uzelac from the Law faculty has stressed the importance of legal assistance for the implementation of human rights standards. He concluded that the Croatian Government should listen advices and analysis conducted, initiate a process of changing of the Law, revise bylaws of the Ministry of Justice, implement personnel changes in the management of the free legal aid system and encourage research and use of the best practices in achieving of human-rights standards in access to justice.
Dunja Čurčija, CRP legal advisor pointed out the problems related to the implementation of the Law. She presented the statistics of the CRP Sisak. CRP has had the biggest number of free legal aid cases since the Law came into force. However, the proportion of provided free legal assistance “through the system” continues to be negligible, it is 1.91%. Furthermore, she pointed out that the beneficiaries could not fulfil application forms by themselves and often it was complicated for them to deliver it to the providers. Problems that are encountered by CRP Sisak, as a free legal aid provider, show that it is faster and easier in fact to provide free legal aid “outside the system”. Just fulfilling the forms on behalf of beneficiaries, taking over free legal aid decisions from the relevant office, drafting of the legal notices, daily telephoning to the State Administration Office, to the beneficiaries and others, is a complex administrative process that ultimately requires other financial resources. Finally, her point is that it is necessary to pass a new Law that will regulate provision of legal advices in all legal areas, without even fulfilling the forms / requests and meeting the financial requirements. Legal assistance in cases of discrimination should also be included in the Act. Furthermore, NGOs as non-profit organizations should be offered grant financing.
Conclusion of all is that the law is ineffective, over-bureaucratised and it is necessary to change it and adapt it to the needs of citizens.
As presented in the report, the amendments should contribute to the greater utilization of funds allocated for free legal assistance to citizens, less administrative costs, all in favour of increasing the number of people who receive free legal aid.