Free legal aid

In cases of violations of child rights in the areas of education, healthcare and social welfare, UNICEF has ensured the provision of free legal aid.

UNICEF Serbia
esna Stepanovic working at the Legal Aid service in the Kursumlija Municipality
UNICEF Serbia/2017

03 July 2017

In cases of violations of child rights in the areas of education, healthcare and social welfare, UNICEF has ensured the provision of free legal aid.

This has been done through the Strengthening the Justice and Social Welfare Systems to Advance Child Protection in Serbia project, initiated by UNICEF in 2014, with the financial support of the European Union, and in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs.  

The Centre for the Rights of the Child has been engaged as a partner in the part of the project dealing with strengthening the capacities of existing providers of free legal aid in the field of child rights.

Professional capacity building has been organised for interested representatives of civil society and municipal legal services.

“Every training included both theoretical and practical parts. At the end of the training, we have all been able to apply everything we learned in a practical setting. For instance, I found out in the concrete case of filing a complaint by a child, that a minor, who is younger than 15, can sign the complaint. Hence, this does not necessarily need to be done only by the legal representative,” says Boris Stupar of the Free Legal Aid and Patient Rights service of the Kikinda Municipality.

“When I received an invitation for this specialist training from the Centre for the Rights of the Child, I can say openly that I had little knowledge about family relations and violence against children. The trainings helped to ensure that when a client comes to me, no matter what the legal problem is, that I will be more confident in myself and in the advice I provide,” says Vesna Stepanovic who works at the Legal Aid service in the Kursumlija Municipality

She underlines that she has visited institutions and schools in Kursumlija upon the completion of the training, distributed materials and brochures to them and informed them that they can address her in the future, in case a child needs legal protection.

“I was very well received by representatives of the institutions, but they did not know that a Free Legal Aid service existed in our local self-government,” says Vesna Stepanovic.

Trained students provide free legal aid at the Legal Clinic, under the supervision of lawyers and professors. When it comes to child rights, the most frequent cases were related to child custody issues, alimony and taking children abroad.

Jelena Hadzic (student)

Students of the Faculty of Law at Union University, who provide free legal aid to interested citizens at the Faculty’s Legal Clinic, also joined the training for the provision of free legal aid in cases of child rights violation in the areas of education, healthcare and social protection.

“I have learned a lot at this training and it is very useful for my future work. Trained students provide free legal aid at the Legal Clinic, under the supervision of lawyers and professors. When it comes to child rights, the most frequent cases at the Clinic were related to child custody issues, alimony and taking children abroad,” says Jelena Hadzic, a student at the Faculty of Law at Union University in Belgrade.

An informal network of 36 providers of free legal aid in the field of child rights has been established in Serbia. This network facilitates the exchange of knowledge, information and experience.

“They can contact each other, discuss different issues, and in particularly complex issues experts provide mentoring support,” stresses Sladjana Radulovic, a lawyer with Centre for the Rights of the Child.

Free legal assistance involves writing submissions and providing expert advice in meetings, via email and telephone, as well as referral of interested persons to competent institutions that can provide them with more comprehensive support.