On 25th December 2018, the Humanitarian Law Center submitted to the Constitutional Court of Serbia an initiative for assessing the constitutionality and compliance of the Law on Free Legal Aid (ZBPP) with the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, generally accepted rules of international law and ratified international conventions. The HLC considers the legal solutions foreseen in the ZBPP on the one hand deny equal access to justice to citizens, since they exclude a wide range of persons who could be users of free legal aid, whilst, on the other hand, they narrow down the circle of providers of free legal aid, leaving a large number of Serbian citizens without adequate legal protection.
At the end of November 2018, the National Assembly adopted the ZBPP, although its actual implementation was postponed until 1st October 2019. The debate on various proposals of this law lasted for over a decade, and one of the biggest obstacles to its adoption was the disagreement between bar associations in Serbia and citizens’ associations regarding the issue of who can provide free legal aid. For this reason, the HLC considers one of the most controversial provisions of the ZBPP to be Article 9, which provides that free legal aid can only be provided by lawyers, local self-government units and organizations providing free legal assistance in the fields of protection against discrimination and asylum. The organizations dealing with issues that do not include protection against discrimination and asylum cannot provide free legal aid, but free legal support exclusively, as reflected in administrative matters such as, for example, filling in forms.