Macedonia Gets Law on Legal Aid

On 7 January 2010 a new law on legal aid came into force in Macedonia. The adopted law represents a major step forward in improving access to justice for vulnerable social groups. Moreover, it provides further possibilities for citizens associations providing free legal aid to represent their target groups with financial support from the state.

The Macedonian Young Lawyers Association, in co-operation with Civil Rights Defenders, have been working actively for the adoption of this law and will continue to do so for the coming months, as implementation of the law will have to be monitored and sub-acts adopted. The sub-acts need to be adopted within the next 6 months.

The implementation of the law however still faces many problems. The law has certain weaknesses which may lead to increased difficulties in getting access to justice for certain groups. For instance, the basic requirements for receiving free legal aid (financial requirements) may lead to more difficulties rather than increased access to justice for many of the groups targeted. In Croatia similar conditions were set which have had negative consequences. Moreover, it is foreseen that free legal aid will be provided by authorised official persons from the local offices of the Ministry of Justice and authorised citizens associations. The latter selection process will be crucial to follow.

Civil Rights Defenders have been co-operating with the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association throughout this process and will continue to do so throughout 2010. Civil Rights Defenders is working with several organisations in Macedonia who provide free legal aid to their target groups who will hopefully benefit from the adopted law.

Statement by Macedonian Young Lawyers Association in regard to the law, published in the daily newspaper Utrinski Vesnik on 5 February 2010.