2012: A milestone for access to justice in Montenegro
PODGORICA, Montenegro – 9 January, 2012 – In an effort to provide equal access to justice for all, Montenegro opened its first legal aid office.
"Opening of the first legal aid office is important in the overall judicial system, because it provides equal access to justice for all, regardless of financial or social status," said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice, Duško Marković.
As of January 2012, the first legal aid office in the country is fully operational.
It was opened in the basic court in Podgorica at the end of last year by the Ministry of Justice, with support from UNDP in Montenegro and the Governments of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Kingdom of Norway.
UNDP equipped two new legal aid offices in Pljevlja and Rožaje, and the United Nations in Montenegro will provide funding to establish two more offices in Nikšić and Kotor.
"This will create the preconditions for the full implementation of the law on legal aid planned for 2012," said Rastislav Vrbensky, UNDP Resident Representative and United Nations Resident Coordinator in Montenegro.
The law on legal aid was adopted on 5 April 2011, and ensures the right to a fair trial, including for those who are not able to afford legal costs. The law ensures access to legal aid, which includes legal advice in the specialized legal aid offices, in all courts in the country and through legal representation in court.
"This is proof that Montenegro does not enact laws only in order to meet its European obligations and the European agenda, but to benefit all citizens and the whole of society," said Mr. Marković.
"The law on legal aid prescribes that legal assistance is to be provided to all inhabitants who are in a poor financial situation, for proceedings before the basic courts, prosecution and the constitutional courts," he said.
"Through legal aid offices, citizens will be assisted by legal experts so that they can submit professionally prepared requests and cases to the court," said President of the Judicial Council and Supreme Court of Montenegro, VesnaMedenica. "This will contribute to conducting more quality court proceedings, making them faster and more effective."
Ms. Medenica also said it is her hope that the courts now do their part, and provide qualified experts for the legal aid offices.
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
- Representation in out-of-court dispute settlement.
Establishing a legal aid system in Montenegro helps ensure equal access to justice for all, a principle that is enshrined in the country’s constitution, as well as being an international standard, and a condition for European Union (EU) accession.
"By implementing the law on legal aid and establishing legal aid offices, we are taking the first steps to achieve one of the United Nations commitments - legal empowerment of the poor," said Mr. Vrbensky.
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