Equal access to justice and protection of human rights for all its inhabitants, regardless of their socio-economic circumstances is a serious challenge for the Government of Montenegro. The costs of legal services remain unaffordable for the majority of people, especially those who lack employment, which is shown in the information provided by the Ministry of Justice. According to some estimation, the cost of filing a lawsuit is between 25-75 per cent of the average monthly salary, which means that effective access to justice remains not affordable for all citizens. In addition, such a situation especially affects women and persons with special needs.
Based on the Strategy and Action plan for the reform of judiciary for 2007-2012 and in follow-up actions to Law on Legal Aid adopted in 2011, the UNDP in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and with support of the Governments of the Netherlands and Norway launched a project on Reform of the legal aid system to make legal counseling affordable and widely available.
The implementation of the Law started in January 2012, after opening of the legal aid offices in all 15 basic courts across the country.
The project’s impact is of a high significance for the country, given that, until its adoption, Montenegro was one of the few countries in Europe lacking a specific Law guaranteeing legal aid to its citizens. According to the most recent information, 787 legal aid applications were filed in 2016, out of which 510 applicants were women and 277 applicants were men. In 2015, 628 legal aid applications were filed, out of which 399 applicants were women and 229 applicants were men, while in 2014, 700 legal aid applications were filed, out of which 438 applicants were women and 262 applicants were men. Besides the benefit which the introduction of the legal aid system brought to Montenegrin inhabitants, it is to be emphasized that the reform of the legal aid system was a necessity in order to achieve legislative harmonization with the EU standards in this field, which was one of the conditions for further progression towards European integrations. The country, thus, fulfilled its obligations under international human rights laws and made one important step toward overcoming the problem of a fundamental inequality of citizens in terms of access to the justice system.
Budget: The resources for the implementation of this solution need to be allocated by the state government, since the emphasis is on the fact that the legal aid system needs to be state-funded and accessible to all.
Partners: Supreme Court of Montenegro, 15 Basic courts in Montenegro, Bar chamber, Other partners have included Montenegro’s Ministry of Justice, the Judiciary and the Bar Association of Montenegro, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Open Society Foundation and the Council of Europe, as well as several municipal governments and NGOs.
Stanka Dragojevica BB, Podgorica, Montenegro
Contact persons: Mr Tomica Paovic
Phone: +382 20 447 465