Brochure on Free Legal Aid06 Mar 2013
Principles of equality and non-discrimination, which presume equality before the law, are the basis of international human rights law.
To ensure the respect for these principles, countries around the world are required to provide efficient legal aid to the most vulnerable, socially-marginalized categories of the population, to serve the interests of justice. Low-income citizens, who do not have the means to pay for legal services, are a vulnerable group, which cannot effectively protect its rights and interests from the State. Their right to have access to courts and other judicial organs is severely restricted by their means.
Equality before the courts and other judicial organs is most frequently ensured by provision of free legal aid. It requires the development of mechanisms, which will, under given conditions, enable those who would otherwise be precluded from realizing their rights because of their limited economic means, to protect those rights in courts, as well as in other governmental institutions. In that sense, free legal aid abates the negative effects that destitution can have on the most vulnerable categories of population.
Therefore, a functional and efficient system of free legal aid is a guarantee of equal access to court, for vulnerable groups, as well as of the protection of their rights and interests.
United Nations Development Programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNDP BiH) is through the project Access to Justice – Facing the Past and Building Confidence for the Future supporting the Ministry of Justice BiH, in addition to entity and cantonal ministries, in the process of developing an efficient and harmonized system of free legal aid, which will ensure efficient access to justice for everyone, on the territory of the whole of BiH. It is as important to inform the citizens of their rights and obligations, and the existing mechanisms that are available to them within the framework of free legal aid.
Therefore, by providing an overview of the existing legal norms and the available mechanisms for the provision of free legal aid in BiH, this brochure aims to contribute to the citizens’ awareness and effective protection of their human rights, which will in turn strengthen the citizens’ trust in the State apparatus and will prompt the integration of marginalized groups in to the social and political processes.