Praxis Watch

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

NGO Criticism of New Draft Law on Free Legal Aid Partially Considered

Draft Law on Free Legal Aid has been partially changed after the harsh criticism of non-governmental organizations which provide free legal aid. The objections to the Draft Law referred mainly to significant reduction of the circle of free legal aid beneficiaries, the selection of social welfare centres (SWCs) to be responsible for deciding on request for free legal aid and manner of regulation of work of free legal aid providers. 

Partially or utterly adopted criticism refers to the volume of free legal aid providers, the manner of submitting the request for free legal aid and working conditions of free legal aid providers.

Draft Law remained unchanged in regard to the competence of SWCs. Non-governmental organizations drew attention to the fact that SWCs do not have enough capacities in relation to necessary knowledge that exceeds the issue of social welfare, but also in relation to the scope of work that is already large. Also, there is a possibility of conflict of interests of SWCs with potential free legal aid beneficiaries. Irrespective of the aforementioned, the only change that has been made is already mentioned longer deadline for deciding upon requests. Draft Law keeps the provisions stipulating non-financing of primary legal aid. Finally, the Draft Law does not respect the specialization of free legal aid providers in certain legal areas.

Although it is obvious that new version of the Draft Law is a step forwards, since at least some comments and criticism of non-governmental organizations were met with understanding of competent ministries, there is still a fear that due to certain deficiencies, the functioning and efficiency of the free legal aid system will be seriously threatened. Considering the above stated, the organizations that provide free legal aid will still point at the deficiencies which they find key for the functioning of free legal aid system.

For more information, see the announcement: New Draft Law on Free Legal Aid Partially Considered NGO Criticism

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