Round table on the free legal aid held in Sisak

The Civil Rights Project Sisak organised a roundtable “Legal aid: a right or an illusion?” within the British Embassy financed project “Strengthening the role of NGOs in providing of free legal aid” in the hotel Panonija, Sisak on 23rd of April 2013.

The roundtable aimed to discuss the current amendments to the Law on Free Legal Aid and to point out the problems in practice.

In fact, the current free legal aid system in Croatia does not work, the beneficiaries do not receive decisions on free legal aid and NGOs, as the most significant providers of the primary legal aid, are not able to provide primary legal aid through the law because of the fact that the state allocates only symbolic fund for that purpose, which cannot cover even a part of the basic costs of providing of free legal aid. As a result, some NGOs are faced with the closing down of their offices.

Milana Kreća presented the Civil Rights Project Sisak and its programme at the beginning of event, stressing that CRP had more than 15,000 beneficiaries, with 45,000 cases, some resolved and some of them still pending.

Dunja Čurčija talked about the “Free Legal Aid: a right or an illusion?” She pointed out to problems that CRP Sisak encountered since the Law on free legal aid has entered into force, as well as to recommendations for improvement of the Law.

Alan Uzelac presented the experience of the Legal Clinic from Zagreb as legal aid provider, and pointed out why the legal aid system in Croatia had to be changed, comparing the most successful systems of free legal aid abroad.

Ljiljana Božić Krstanović, representative of the Centre for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights Osijek has also pointed out the obstacles in provision of the Law, and clearly stated that NGOs as providers of primary legal aid were brought in an uncomfortable position, that the whole legal aid system has collapsed and that amendments to the Law were urgent.

Mirjana Matov, representative of the Ministry of Justice informed the present that the Ministry, considering the whole situation, had prepared the new Law on Free Legal Aid.

With respect to the secondary legal aid problems in practice, Dušanka Nenadović, an attorney, was listing problems she has been faced with on daily basis.

Besides the above mentioned attendees, many other representatives of the NGOs, lawyers from the Sisak-Moslavina County, representatives of the Public Ombudsman Office, State’s Administration Office in the Sisak-Moslavina County, and others attended the round table.

The conclusion of the round table was that it was needed to adopt a new Law on Free Legal Aid. Currently, it is difficult, even impossible, to implement the present Law, both for NGOs and legal clinics, as well as for the attorneys.

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