This report will be presented at the session of the Government of the Republic of Croatia only on October 1, 2020, and if we make a comparison with the Report on the exercise of the right to free legal aid and spending of funds for 2018, which was held at the session of the Government of the Republic of Croatia on April 15, 2019 – then it is evident that the Ministry of Justice and Administration is late and violates Art. 45 of the Free Legal Aid Act (FLAA) / OG 143/13, 98/19/, which states that “The Ministry shall every year by 1 March submit to the Government of the Republic of Croatia a report on the exercise of the right to legal aid and funds spent in the previous year. Also, this is a violation of Art. 46 of the FLAA. The Ministry of Justice, as the body that monitors the implementation of the FLAA, is in direct violation of legal provisions, both in its application and in its reporting.
- INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK IN THE REPUBLIC OF CROATIA
The basic institutional framework of the legal aid system in 2019 consisted of twenty state administration offices in the counties and the City Office for General Administration of the City of Zagreb, within which the Free Legal Aid Sector was established.
The report is based within the subject point on the provision of exclusively secondary legal aid and the action of the county administrative bodies upon the submitted requests of the beneficiaries. The definition of the provision of primary legal aid by the offices in question was missing here.
They are authorized to provide primary legal aid – general legal information, legal advice and drafting of submissions /Art. 6 paragraph 1 and paragraph 2 of the FLAA /. The same must be expressed statistically by county offices, and not only define the total number of: 2450 cases / point 4.1.Primary legal aid / and distribute it by forms of legal aid provided. For a better insight into the exercise of the right to primary legal aid, the figures must also be presented graphically by county administrative bodies.
Within the Institutional Framework in the Republic of Croatia, the Convocation and work of the Commission for Free Legal Aid for the previous reporting period, in this case 2019, must be defined and indicated in the future.
In addition to defining its advisory role and describing the tasks entrusted to it, it should be emphasized that this body continues to be defined by the Ministry of Justice and Administration as a figurative-formal body in the system of monitoring free legal aid.
The report should contain the following: During 2019, the Commission held only two sessions on April 15, 2019 and June 10, 2019. This is a violation of Art. 5 Rules of Procedure of the Commission for Free Legal Aid, which stipulates that the sessions of the Commission are convened at least three times a year, and more often if necessary.
4.2. SECONDARY LEGAL AID (SLA)
Here we must point out that in accordance with the adoption of the Regulation on the value of the amount for determining the fee for the provision of secondary legal aid (SLA) for 2019 / OG 45/2019 / there was an increase in the remuneration for the work of lawyers – Article 3, paragraph 2, the value of points for 2019 from the previous HRK 5 per point, to HRK 7.
For 2019, for SLA the amount of HRK 1,901,195.29 was paid.
5.1. PRIMARY LEGAL AID (PLA)
For 2019 HRK 1,500,000.00 was provided in the state budget and by the Decision of the Minister of Justice of 16 May 2019 (CLASS: 701-03 / 19-01 / 148, REGISTRATION NUMBER: 514-05-01-01-02 / 1- 19-89) this amount was increased by HRK 418,498.62, which amounts to a total for PLA: HRK 1,918,498.62.
Note: the Decision in question was not published on the Ministry’s website and we point out the non-transparency of the allocation of additional funds and the violation of the Law on the Right to Access Information. Namely, it is about allocating additional funds to the Associations that were on the reserve list. It is interesting that some of them received higher amounts than those that received funds first, which means that they had higher scores and were listed at higher places for financing.
In the state budget for 2019, a total of HRK 4 million and 200 thousand was provided in the name of free legal aid.
Insight into the annual monitoring of PRIMARY LEGAL AID TO PROVIDERS AND THE FORM OF LEGAL AID FOR THE PERIOD FROM 1 JANUARY TO 31 DECEMBER 2019 – Authorized associations – Civil Rights Project Sisak (CRP Sisak) continues to take 1st place in the chain of legal aid 3720 of the total number of all forms of primary legal aid provided.
CRP Sisak is still of the position, which we will emphasize at the session of the Commission in October 2020, how the funds for primary legal aid are still insufficient for the functioning of the work of associations, legal clinics and the system of primary legal aid in general. The ratio in favor of PLA should be at least 70% versus 30% for SLA.
Therefore, primary legal aid is of a preventive nature and it is very important to reduce the number of court and other unnecessary proceedings, which burden Croatia. It is also very important because it deals with administrative procedures, which lawyers do not deal with much in practice, and they are very important for citizens, because it concerns their pensions, rights from the social welfare system, health insurance, status issues, personal documents and the like.
Although not reported in the report, CRP considers it very important that the tender for the financing of associations for the provision of FLA is announced and implemented on time, in accordance with the law, and not that everything is resolved practically in the second half of the year, as it raises the question of how associations can function all year round. This leads us to the fact that it is necessary to change the law and enable multi-year, continuous funding of associations, so that they can deal with quality and continuous provision of FLA, all for the benefit of citizens in need.
The Ministry of Justice and Administration, as the central body of state administration, is responsible for the proper functioning of the system as a whole, active approach and strengthening of joint dialogue with all stakeholders, and must more effectively contribute to the development of free legal aid with a focus on primary legal aid. their needs as well as the requirements of society as a whole.
It is at this time of this Covid crisis that the need for free legal aid is even greater as some legal issues have become more pronounced in society, requiring prompt assistance to citizens in the form of general legal information and legal advice. Therefore, the primary legal aid system requires financial and institutional support more than ever.