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YUCOM and NGOs on Draft Law on Free Legal Aid

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The Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights — YUCOM and 25 other civil society organizations criticized certain solutions from the Draft Law on Free Legal Aid, which, as they state in the statement, can directly affect the right to a balanced and fair access to justice for all citizens to whom this type of assistance is allowed.

The statement claims that, after many years of drafting the new law, the most important remarks by YUCOM and other organizations that have been providing free legal aid for decades have not been acknowledged.

These organizations argue that the Draft Law limits the possibilities to provide legal assistance for lawyers and attorneys engaged in citizen associations, who, due to the absence of an adequate law, have been engaged in this activity for the last 20 years.

“The draft law limits citizens’ associations to provide free legal aid only on the basis of the provisions of the Law on Asylum and the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination, while neglecting other laws, such as the Law on Public Information and the Media, which also gives this possibility to citizens’ associations“ as said in a statement.

It also claims that the draft law introduces confusion into already existing legal solutions with an unclear provision — that is, on behalf of associations granted by law to provide free legal aid, such assistance is provided by lawyers.

YUCOM pointed out that the lowest number of free legal aid services consists of representation services in court or in front of state bodies, and most of them are giving free legal advices and filing of submissions.

Therefore, YUCOM resents the Ministry of Justice, which, as stated, did not envisage shared responsibility for the provision of free legal aid to all interested providers, and expresses concern that the law, if adopted, cannot be economically viable.

The draft law, YUCOM further adds, discriminates lawyers in relation to the place where they are employed or engaged.

“It is unacceptable that a law intended to provide an effective and fair access to justice for the most vulnerable groups of citizens, such as the Law on Free Legal Aid, instead of guaranteeing rights to citizens, limits these rights by derogating existing legal solutions and recognizing the right to free legal aid to a very limited circle of people, “the statement said.

It is added that YUCOM and civil society organizations for the protection of human rights do not seek funding of free legal aid from the budget but only want to enable civil society organizations to continue providing free legal aid to a wide range of citizens who need this kind of assistance.

In addition to YUCOM, the announcement was signed by Civic Initiatives, the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, the Centre for Practical Policy, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, the Child Rights Centre, the International Aid Network — IAN and others.

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