On February 14, 2014 a Conference on ‘Strengthening free legal aid’ was held and organised by the AFLA and UNDP which gathered most relevant domestic and international mechanisms. Among those present was the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice, Prof. Dr. Hajredin Kuçi, the UNDP’s Permanent Representative Mr. Andrew Russell, the Chairwomen of the Human Rights, Gender Equality, Missing Persons and Petitions Committee of the Kosovo Assembly, Ms. Suzan Novoberdaliu, People’s Advocate Mr. Sami Kurtishi, President of the Kosovo Chamber of Advocates Mr. Ibrahim Dobruna, Head of the Council of the Agency for Free Legal Aid Mr. Alban Sutaj etc.
Ms. Virgjina Dumnica UNDP Program Analyst moderated the Conference and welcomed all participants.
Later, Mr. Alban Sutaj the Head of the Council of AFLA addressed the participants with a speech and briefly presented the role of AFLA, it’s functioning, free legal aid coverage and challenges that the Agency faces today. For AFLA successes Mr. Sutaj extended special thanks to the UNDP for its invaluable contribution to the expansion and advancement of AFLA services.
Mr. Sutaj invited local institutions to see for the possibility of including in the Budget of the Republic of Kosovo the eight free legal aid offices which are currently supported by the UNDP, knowing that this support will cease in April 2014. Also, Mr. Sutaj urged other donors with good will to save this very well consolidated institution for the sake of citizens who need realisations of their rights. The cease of funding of eight offices by the UNDP means their closure and termination of contracts for 28 employees.
On the other hand 352,074.00 (35.66%) inhabitants of the Republic of Kosovo will be left without access to justice. If we add to this figure the number of population of 24 municipalities in which we haven’t provided free legal aid, which is 792,735.00 (44.53%), than not only will drastically reduce the number of parties and cases, but the number of population that will have no access to justice will amount to 1,144,809.00 (64.31%). So, in the whole territory of the Republic of Kosovo legal aid will be offered only to 635,215.00 (35.68%) of population, which means about 30 % of population, Mr. Sutaj said.
When addressing the Conference, Justice Minister Mr. Hajredin Kuçi in his speech said that free legal aid as a legal obligation that will continue to be supported in many respects. According to him, the increase of current capacities and creation of new ones will be supported, in particular the professionalization of the free legal aid. He said that the infrastructure of the Agency for Free Legal Aid will be supported too.
Kuçi said that the Law on Free Legal Aid guarantees citizens adequate legal protection by the courts of the Republic of Kosovo and in this regard the Agency for Free Legal Aid will be fully supported by the Kosovo Government. He also conveyed his strong belief that the Agency will be supported by other intuitions as well. Minister Kuçi said that access to justice, equality before law, is equal to all, not only in sense of treatment, but also in sense of other legal proceedings.
Conference was addressed by Andrew Russell the Permanent Representative of UNDP who underlined the important role that the continuing provision of free legal aid plays for the categories in need and encouraged central institutions to provide more support to AFLA in order to provide a sustainable free legal aid throughout Kosovo.
For free legal aid as a basic human right and its need for sustainable funding spoke the panel that was consisted of Ms. Suzan Novoberdaliu the Chairwomen of the Human Rights, Gender Equality, Missing Persons and Petitions Committee of the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo, Mr. Sami Kurteshi People’s Advocate and Mr. Ibrahim Dobruna President of the Kosovo Chamber of Advocates.