The Civil Rights Project Sisak visited the NGO “Information Legal Centre” in Slavonski Brod on 24th January 2013 as an activity within the project “Strengthening the role of NGOs in providing of primary legal aid” funded by the British Embassy in Zagreb.
The meeting was organised in order to discuss the primary legal aid, position of NGOs in providing of primary legal aid and problems encountered in practice. The meeting was held in the IPC premises where they also provide free legal assistance. IPC staff, Natasa Kovačević, head of the office and Marina Barić-Gačić, legal advisor attended the meeting, as well as Dunja Čurčija, legal advisor and Saša Zeljug, legal assistant ; both from CRP Sisak.
Dunja Čurčija presented CRP’s procedure in providing free legal aid to beneficiaries through the state’s system. She says that CRP’s work is based on decisions on free legal aid and points out the fact that CRP fulfils forms (requests for free legal aid) on behalf of clients and sends them to the relevant State’s Administration Office. CRP also takes over free legal aid decisions on behalf of clients through power of attorneys, submits submissions to relevant bodies when necessary and pays administrative fees instead of clients. All these components CRP performs in order to implement free legal aid in a very quality manner although NGOs are not financed for everything they do within the free legal aid system.
Natasa Kovačević said that they did not have the capacity or the financial resources to provide free legal assistance through the Law on Free Legal Aid. As she pointed out, the biggest problem was related to financing of NGOs in the free legal aid system. NGOs within the state’s system of free legal should be offered the project financing. The current practice, where NGO receive 2000 – 3000 HRK from the Ministry during one year is not enough to even cover legal advisor’s salary for one month. She has also pointed out that the system of filing the requests for free legal aid is not functional and that IPC Slavonski Brod does not have either capacity or financial resources for providing of free legal aid in such way. Nataša has also mentioned the importance of resolving the financing of NGOs by the state – from the state’s budget, because NGOs might be faced with the fact that the international donators will not finance providing of free legal aid in future. It has been pointed out also that IPC’s Slavonski Brod main activity is providing free legal and they intend to provide it within the system in the future, but it is not possible for them now.
Finally, the participants agreed that the system itself was over-bureaucratic and it was neither in favour of any users nor beneficiaries, nor providers and that the amendments to the Law were necessary.