First Legal Aid office in Montenegro: Equal access to justice for all

“Opening of the first Legal Aid Office in the Basic Court of the capital of Podgorica is an important project in the overall judiciary system, because it provides equal access to justice for all, regardless of their financial or social status,” said Mr. Duško Marković, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice in the Government of Montenegro. The first Legal Aid Office was opened by the Ministry of Justice of Montenegro, with the support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Montenegro and the Governments of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Kingdom of Norway.

The Legal Aid Office in the Basic Court in Podgorica will become fully operational as of January 2012. In the scope of the project, two more pilot offices in Pljevlja and Rožaje will be equipped, while additional two offices in Nikšić and Kotor will be funded through One UN facility since Montenegro is ‘Delivering as One’ self-starter country.

The Law on Legal Aid was adopted on 5 April 2011, and its implementation is envisaged to start from 1 January 2012. This Law enables realization of the right to fair trial, i.e. equal access to justice through providing opportunities to all individuals, who according to their financial situation are not able to exercise their right to legal protection, without damage to necessary support of themselves and their families. The law envisages the opening of Legal Aid offices or delegating special officers to provide legal aid in all basic courts in Montenegro.

Mr. Duško Marković, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice in the Government of Montenegro also said that this is a proof that Montenegro does not enact laws only in order to meet its European obligations and the European agenda, but to the benefit of all citizens and the whole society. “This is the best answer to those who doubt in the ability of the Montenegrin society, and therefore in the Government’s ability to implement the adopted laws. The Legal Aid Law prescribes that legal assistance is to be provided to all inhabitants who are in poor financial situation, for the proceedings before the basic courts, Prosecution and the Constitutional Court,” Deputy Prime Minister Marković underlined.

Mr. Rastislav Vrbensky, UNDP Resident Representative/UN resident Coordinator to Montenegro, said: “Through the implementation of the Law on Legal Aid and establishment of legal aid offices, we are making first steps to achieve one of the UN’s commitments – legal empowerment of the poor.In the aim of reaching out to the entire Montenegrin population and enabling all the inhabitants to use legal aid services on an equal basis, legal aid offices will be established in all the Basic courts in the country.” He further explained that UNDP with its own resources equipped three pilot offices in Podgorica, Pljevlja and Rožaje, while additional two offices will be funded through One UN facility since Montenegro is Delivering as One self-starter country. “This will create the preconditions for the full implementation of the Law on Legal Aid planned for 2012,”Mr. Vrbensky emphasized.

Ms. Vesna Medenica, President of the Judicial Council and Supreme Court of Montenegro said: “Through the network of legal aid offices, inhabitants will be assisted by legal experts so that they can submit professionally prepared requests and cases to the court, which will contribute to conducting more quality court proceedings, thus making them faster and more effective as well.” She also expressed her hope that the courts would do their part of the task now, and would provide adequate experts for legal aid offices.

The opening of the Legal Aid Office was also attended by Deputy Minister of Justice Branka Lakočević and President of the Basic Court Zoran Radović.

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Legal aid includes provision of necessary resources to fully or partially cover the cost of legal advice, drafting of documents, representation in court proceedings, at the State Prosecution and the Constitutional Court of Montenegro, as well as representation in out-of-court dispute settlement.

Establishing of the legal aid system in Montenegro will allow equal access to justice for all, which will enable practical implementation of the constitutional principle and the international standard that everyone is equal before the court regardless of any particularity or personal feature. All this will contribute to further democratization of society and it represents fulfilment of one of the conditions for EU accession.

The Right to Legal Aid brochure (in Montenegrin)/Brošura:
Pravo na besplatnu pravnu pomoć