Legal Aid Provided in Rural Bosnia and Herzegovina

Helsinki Committee for human rights in a temporary legal aid office in Zenica. Photo: Civil Rights Defenders

People in Bosnia and Herzegovina continue to face tangible difficulties in accessing their rights. The provision of free legal aid remains fragmented and unregulated to a great extent. The adoption of a state-level Law on free legal aid is still pending.

In an effort to provide free legal aid to citizens, especially those belonging to marginalized and discriminated groups outside of Sarajevo, our partner Helsinki committee for human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina organise field visits to a number of smaller cities.

These mobile legal aid offices offer legal advice. Useful brochures containing information about discrimination and useful contacts are handed out. The latest visit was to the city of Zenica.

The delegates of Republika Srpska (RS) in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Parliament continue to reject the adoption of a Law on free legal aid, stating that RS has its own law on the matter. However, the RS’s Law on free legal aid relates only to court proceedings, leaving out administrative proceedings in which violations of human rights are more frequent. When it comes to the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBIH), the law has been adopted only in a couple of cantons.

With the growing number of violations of human rights, and the difficult financial situation in the country, the failure to adopt this law is to a significant extent preventing members of marginalized groups to receive adequate protection of their rights.

Civil Rights Defenders has worked for the adoption of Laws on free legal aid, together with partners in the Western Balkan region, for years and will continue to do so.

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