On 30 September 2021, the final conference of the project “Access to Justice for the Most Marginalized” was held, organized by the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia together with the partner organizations PET Station and HOPS. The project was financially supported by the Delegation of the European Union and was implemented in the period from January 2020 to October 2021.
Introductory speeches at the event were held by Mr Frick Janmat, Head of the Department for Economic Development, Rule of Law and Public Administration at the EU Delegation to North Macedonia, Mr Bojan Maričikj, Minister of Justice of the Republic of North Macedonia and Ms Fani Karanfilova-Panovska, Executive Director of the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia.
FRICK JANMAT stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic made this project even more relevant by emphasizing the need for access to justice for the most marginalized who were disproportionately more affected by the health crisis. Access to justice is one of the most important elements of the rule of law, it is a fundamental right and it is a way to access other fundamental rights. That is why access to justice is an important element considered in the EU accession process. Regarding the free legal aid, Janmat emphasized that the Law itself is the first step, which is especially important and will provide effective legal aid for the citizens, but of course, the implementation must be followed by monitoring, in order to measure the impact it will have. He pointed out that although we still face challenges, a strong commitment by institutions as well as civil society will be necessary to maintain and upgrade access to the justice system for the most marginalized.
BOJAN MARIČIKJ stressed that justice is not real if it is not available to all equally. “That is why last year court fees were reduced by eight times, and from October 2019 the free legal aid is in force, which provides primary and secondary legal aid for the most vulnerable.” Thus, citizens who are in an unenviable financial position can turn to the Ministry of Justice and its regional offices and ask for legal aid or a lawyer to be paid from the Ministry’s budget. “Last year, a total of 2,727 people received primary legal assistance through the regional offices, which speaks of the need for this measure,” said the Minister.
FANI KARANFILOVA-PANOVSKA pointed out that the project “Access to Justice for the Most Marginalized” is a continuation of the efforts of the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia to promote access to justice for marginalized communities, which are the focus of FOSM’s work for years. The pandemic caused by COVID-19 showed how important and necessary legal and paralegal assistance is for the citizens, and especially for the most marginalized. The project provided more than 5,000 services to the most vulnerable citizens – those who lost their jobs – to exercise their rights, citizens who faced discrimination and systematic human rights violations, victims of domestic violence, and citizens who had a need to exercise social, property and other rights. The Foundation Open Society – Macedonia will continue to support the access to justice and legal strengthening of the most marginalized communities, said Karanfilova-Panovska.
The final results of the project and the most common human rights violations during the pandemic were presented at the final conference and the Law on Free Legal Aid and the Goal for Sustainable Development 16.3 at the national level were discussed.
The report on the implementation of the Law on Free Legal Aid can be read at the following link https://bit.ly/3kuevfR.
—————————————————30 September 2021