22.05.2000 | L. Klochko, Kharkiv

Seminar ‘Legal aid in the countries of the former Soviet Union’


The Constitutional and Legal Policy Institute (COLPI), which is a branch of the Institute of open society (Budapest), and the Central-European University, held on 22 – 23 November in Budapest the seminar ‘Legal aid in the countries of the former Soviet Union’. Representatives of public organizations which render a free legal aid to poor population in the in the countries of the former Soviet Union took part in this seminar. Only representatives from Belarus and Tadjikistan were absent.

Some delegations from the former republics of the USSR delivered reports on the systems of legal aid in their countries and analyzed these systems relative to Article 6 of the European Convention on protecting human rights and freedoms.

Besides, reports were delivered on legal aid in the former socialist countries of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as in the USA, South Africa and Western Europe.

Certainly, the reported problems differed very much. Valery Wattenberg told about various new schemes of rendering free legal aid in different states of the USA. In his report Lukas Boyarski analyzed the quality of legal service rendered by the appointed advocates in Poland. The representatives of Bulgaria told that their government began to treat legal aid more seriously after loosing several cases in the European Court of human rights and having paid compensations. It appeared that in several countries on the territory of the former USSR the guaranteed by state free legal aid to the poor is insufficient, by which reason the functions of the state are taken by various NGOs and individual advocates-volunteers. For example, one of the advocates told that each tenth case he conducts gratis. There was a lengthy discussion on the quality of the free legal aid and professionalism of human rights protection activists.

The initiative of the city administration of Tbilisi that supported the project ‘Town advocate’ was discussed. According to this project, in every police precinct an advocate is on duty around the clock. His duty is to render legal aid to the detained. The project is financed by the city administration.

In Shaulay (Lithuania) is created the Public Office of advocates, whose duty is to render legal aid in criminal cases, in which legal aid is obligatory. This project was financed the first two years by the Foundation of Open Lithuania and the COLPI. After two years the expenditures will be paid by the state and other potential donors.

In Lithuania, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Estonia they organized the so-called ‘juridical clinic’. There students of last courses of juridical institutes render free legal aid instructed by experienced advocates. This work is counted to students as practicals.

Alina Biriukova, the vice-rector of the Juridical Institute at Kyiv State University, told about the Ukrainian experience.

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