Roundtable on the draft of the Law on Free Legal Aid

The Ministry of Justice organized a Roundtable on the draft of the Law on Free Legal Aid in Zagreb on 12th of June 2013. The Minister, Mr. Orsat Miljenić gave an opening speech and said that the new law would improve the current system of free legal aid.

Ms. Renata Duka, Head of the Sector for Regulations of the Civil and Commercial Law in the Department for Civil, Commercial and Administrative Law presented the draft of the new Law. According to the new law, primary legal aid will cover all legal areas and beneficiaries will be granted free legal aid without prior application for it, meaning that the legal counseling will be provided to beneficiary without obtaining documents whose purpose is verification of beneficiary’s financial income/status. In relation to the legal aid providers, it is proposed that they will be sponsored through implementation of projects.

Property/financial criteria for secondary legal aid should not be strict as in the current Law and they should be based on household budget in the amount of 3,326.00 Croatian Kuna per person.

Dunja Čurčija from CRP Sisak, a member of the Commission for legal aid and member of the working group, pointed out that the most important element was the financial one because it prevented from professional providing of the legal aid. She also pointed out that the CSOs were providing free legal assistance through donations of international organizations, especially UNHCR. She highlighted the problem of further existence of CSOs as legal aid providers considering the fact that international organizations would not fund legal aid for ever. Ljiljana Božić Krstanović, representative of the Centre for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights Osijek agreed with that statement and added that many organizations were forced to “close down their activities.”

Prof. Alan Uzelac also emphasized that the most important was the financial element, comparing the successful European systems of free legal aid.

Jagoda Novak from the Office of the Ombudsman proposed that the citizens, affected by execution procedures, would be assisted through the free legal aid system.

The new law will be forwarded to the parliamentary procedure before the summer recess.

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