The Constitution of Kosovo has emphasized the basic principles in providing free legal aid to those without sufficient financial means if such assistance is necessary to ensure effective access to justice.
As foreseen by the Law on Free Legal Aid, the delivery of free legal assistance is conditional upon the fulfilment of the following criteria: qualification criteria, financial criteria and legal criteria. According to the qualification criteria identified, free legal aid should be provided to the following: the citizens of the Republic of Kosovo residing in the Republic of Kosovo, persons with provisional residence in the Republic of Kosovo, other persons defined by law or international law instruments that bind the Republic of Kosovo, and persons to whom assistance on free legal aid is provided on the basis of reciprocity.
The financial criteria for the delivery of free legal aid is established according to the following: primary legal aid, which is provided to all persons are entitled to social welfare or are in similar situation; and, secondary legal aid, which is provided to all persons whose gross family income is lower than the average national family income.
Lastly, according to the legal criteria, the delivery of free legal aid is subject to an assessment of the validity of the case made by the court on: the monetary value of the claim; the argumentative power of the evidence presented by the applicant; and, the likelihood of success of the claim. The Law on Free Legal Aid also establishes the Agency for Free Legal Aid and provides for its powers.
Info in Albanian
Bosnia and Herzegovina
The current free legal aid system in BiH is unable to provide minimum legal assistance services to all citizens in BiH on an equal basis. As such, it does not fulfil the international and European standards in this regard. The NGO Vasa prava, the largest free legal aid provider in the country, states that the current free legal aid framework “is characterized by the absence of policy planning, many deviations from the Justice Sector Reform Strategy in BiH, as well as fragmentation and different approach in dealing with issues of legal aid. Also, the role of NGOs in the system of free legal aid has been continually minimized, which led to the absolute exclusion of NGOs from the public consultation process.”
Public institutions have not been proactive in organising the provision of free legal aid in a systematic matter.
Several legal aid services have recently been established in Republika Srpska, Brcko District and several other cantons, but these remain unavailable in many other cantons and in most rural areas.
Info in Bosnian
Currently Serbia has no special Law on Free Legal Aid, although Art. 67 of the Serbian Constitution (2006) guarantees the right on legal aid and provides that free legal aid will be regulated by a special law. Public consultation on the newest Draft Law on Free Legal Aid has been carried out from December 5th to December 31th 2013.
The draft law provides differentiation of primary and secondary legal assistance, while the right to FLA has any person obtaining or protecting the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia. If the cost of providing free legal aid is to be reimbursed from the budget of the Republic of Serbia, right to FLA has a beneficiary of social services or the right to financial support, as well as child allowance right beneficiaries.
Primary legal aid is provided by lawyers, notaries, mediators, legal aid services of local governments, social welfare centers and other public authorities, NGOs and legal clinics.
Secondary legal aid is provided by:
– lawyers, notaries and mediators;
– representatives of legal aid services of local governments;
– representatives of NGOs and legal clinics in proceedings before state administrative bodies or organizations entrusted with public authority;
– representatives of NGOs in a case in which they have an independent right to file a complaint for violation of the rights and freedoms of other persons, in accordance with the provisions of special laws;
– representatives of NGOs that may have intervener status in the case to which it shall be decided on the rights, freedoms and interests of the member of NGO, in accordance with the provisions of special laws.
FLA seekers submit their requests to the Centre for Social Work, which, if they meet the legal requirements, direct them to registered providers in their municipality. FLA providers bear the costs of providing it, while the state reimburses lawyers, notaries, and mediators.
Quality control of FLA performs Quality Control Commission, consisting of two representatives of the Ministry of Justice and a representative of the judicial power, public prosecutor’s office, Bar, local government units and NGOs. Supervision of the implementation of this Law is carried out by the Ministry of Justice.
The application of this law is planned from January 1st 2015.
Info in Serbian
As of 1. January 2014. the new Law on free legal aid is in force, since the old legislation was not proven to be working in practice. The main changes are in scope of the primary legal aid, which now encompasses not only legal advice, but more general services. The legislation on secondary legal aid has not been changed that much. The main difference is regarding the wealth of the free legal aid beneficiary. In order to be eligible the income per person should not exceed 3.326,00 HRK, and their value of assets should not be higher than 199.560,00 HRK.
The new legislation has made changes to the financing of free legal aid services as well. The funds are to be drawn directly from the state, since it is recognized as one of the duties of the state. What is more, the providers of free legal aid should get their funds in advance and not after the service has been provided (vaucher system has been abolished), which should in effect cause the system to be more operational.
It remains to be seen weather these changes in the legislation will have an impact on the functioning of the free legal aid system as one of the pillars of democratic society.
Info in Croatian