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MDTF Activities > Regional Conference on Free Legal Aid (FLA) Law - Skopje, July 2011

Regional Conference on Free Legal Aid (FLA) Law - Skopje, July 2011

On 7 July, 2011, MDTF-JSS’ s Senior Justice Sector Advisor, Mr. John Furnari, accompanied Asst. Minister Vojkan Simic of the Serbia Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to Skopje, Macedonia to participate in this OSCE Conference designed to foster knowledge sharing amongst the region’s government and non-government free legal aid providers.   The conference coincided with the first anniversary of the coming into force of the Republic of Macedonia’s Law on Free Legal Aid, and provided an opportunity for the MDTF-JSS team to learn about the Macedonian FLA system and its recent success and implementation challenges, as well as recent FLA implementation experiences from several other Balkan region jurisdictions such as Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Kosovo.

Presentations from both government and non-government FLA providers led to stimulating group and one-on-one discussions regarding such challenges as determining beneficiary eligibility, and controlling the quality of government-funded FLA whether provided by municipal government lawyers, or other  non-government providers (bar, NGO, law clinics).   In light of the recent introduction of adversarial systems of criminal justice in the region, government representatives acknowledged the importance of providing immediate FLA to indigent criminal defendants, and the concept of designating “on-call” FLA providers – currently used in Brcko, BiH – was introduced .  With regard to civil and administrative FLA cases brought against the government, participants acknowledged government’s inherent conflict of interest as both the potential defendant and the assessor of the applicant’s FLA-eligibility.  One jurisdiction explained that it had successfully avoided this conflict by ensuring the full independence of its Legal Aid Commission from government.

Several FLA model were discussed including a Catalunya model currently used in many Serbian municipalities whereby municipal governments contract with private bar members to handle requests for primary and secondary FLA.  Meanwhile, a Macedonian NGO described an innovative “mobile” FLA service targeting the Roma community, a model which may also have application within rural areas where lack of transportation severely limits access to justice.  Finally, the concept of expanding the use of law school legal clinics as FLA providers – so long as they are led by a practicing bar member- was discussed as a potential to cost-saver as well as an excellent teaching tool for students and future members of the bar.

In The MDTF-JSS team  left Skopje with a members to deliver FLA in partnership with  A matter The range of FLA presentations from these governments were complimented by presentations from various non-governmental providers such as the private bar.