Centre for Monitoring and Research organized a conference “Access to information and legal assistance in Montenegro: Situation analysis and guidelines for improvement”, within the project “Triple A for Citizens: Access to Information, Advice and Active Help” which was implemented in the framework of the European Commission’s Partnership programme for Civil Society organizations. The conference was held on 18th of July 2016 in the premises of PR Center.
It was announced at the conference that in Montenegro, from 2012 to 2015, there were submitted 2,453 requests for free legal aid from which 1,968 have been approved which is about 80 percent.
Director of the Legal Department in CeMI, Vlado Dedovic, said that in the past five years, the state has invested significant efforts for providing efficient access to the courts through the introduction of the institute of legal aid. He also said that in Montenegro were opened 15 offices for free legal aid as a part of courts of first instance. Through the work of these offices all interested clients had the opportunity to be informed and to be advised about legal problems. According to him, the system of legal aid did not cost much the citizens of Montenegro, which justifies its initiation.
Dedovic said that total amount of spent money for a system of free legal aid, which was used in the court proceedings in Montenegro, was 234 thousand euros. He also said that the establishment of a system of free legal aid can be judged as successful, but he is warned because there are some problems regarding the enforcement of the Law on free legal aid and functioning of institutional framework. Therefore, it is necessary to work continuously on improving the system of legal aid. Dedovic expressed his concern because citizens of Montenegro are not appropriately informed about the system of free legal aid. Despite that, he said that the Law on Free Legal Aid should include a larger number of providers of that legal institute and that NGOs should be recognized as a service for free legal aid.
Dedovic concluded that thanks to help of the EU funds, CeMI provided legal office which worked every day at full capacity and provided free legal aid in connection with the implementation and protection of citizens’ rights as patients in Montenegro.
Deputy Minister for Judiciary in the Ministry of Justice, Marijana Lakovic Draskovic, reminded that the Law on Free Legal Aid has been enforced for four and a half years. She also mentioned that in the past, the enforcement of this law was very effective because a significant number of citizens used the services for free legal aid and their demands were mostly approved. Through this service the equal access to justice to all regardless of their financial or social status was showed.
Representative of ECAS, Kenan Hadzimusic, said that 21 organizations from the Western Balkans and Turkey were awarded by grants for the project. He expressed amaze about work that these organizations have managed to achieve with small grants. Each state, as he said, determined priority areas that need to be improved throughout providing to citizens easier access to justice.
Member of the Council of the Agency for Personal Data Protection and Free Access to Information of Montenegro, Radenko Lacmanovic, said that body which he represents solved 721 appeal for free access to information this year until 30th of June. He accented that 220 actions have been suspended and 243 complaints were made because of the silence of the administration. Lacmanovic said that if this trend continues in 2016 compared to last year, we will have more than 50 per cent of complaints in cases of silence of administration. He also mentioned that the Council issued a binding decision in 158 cases and in 12 cases the Council disclaimed competence. In 93 percent of cases the appeal was dismissed as unfounded. Lacmanovic said that until 15th of July, there were in the information system registered 2,715 submitted requests for free access to information from which 1,542 requests were positively resolved, 685 were rejected and 318 were partially adopted. According to his words, NGOs filed the complaint in 1798 cases followed by private individuals, companies, the media, other legal entities and political parties.
Executive Director of the Association of Youth with Disabilities in Montenegro (UMHCG), Marina Vujacic, said that despite system of legal aid and Law provide many opportunities, problems exist because in many cases the access for people with disabilities has been denied. She also mentioned one another problem: lawyers and judges are under-educated when it comes to represent the rights of persons with disabilities. She pointed out that until 1st of July UMHCG had 70 requests for free legal aid and 76 provided assistance to persons with disabilities and members of their family.