The Catalan Ombudsman takes stock of the institution’s cooperation programs in Serbia


Picture of the press conference held in Novi Sad

Ombudsman Rafael Ribó presented in Serbia the results of the free legal aid project in the region of Vojvodina and the Serbian Ombudsman support project.

In the past three years (2008-10), the legal aid program that is being carried out in various municipalities of the autonomous province of Vojvodina has assisted 4,914 people: 4,136 have requested free legal aid, and 778 in-court representation.

After the three-year implementation period, Ribó, in a press conference held in Novi Sad, described the project in positive terms, underscoring that it is the only free legal aid program that includes both legal advice and in-court representation services. The project is also commended in a report from the Council of Europe on judiciary reform in Serbia, which recommends application of the same system throughout the entire country.

The Serbian government is taking a close look at the system as it drafts its Free Legal Aid Act.

The project has its roots in a pilot plan carried out in the city of Nis in 2003. In recent years, free legal aid has been extended to other municipalities of Vojvodina and other places in Serbia, such as Novi Beograd, the largest district of the nation’s capital, Belgrade. Financing for the project comes through the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), the Catalan Agency for Development Cooperation and the Vojvodina government, participating local councils and the Catalan Ombudsman institution itself.

In a second press conference, held in Belgrade, Ribó outlined the results of the Serbian Ombudsman support project that the Catalan Ombudsman has carried out along with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).

The Catalan Ombudsman’s support for the Serbian Ombudsman has taken place through two successive projects which have made it possible to first face the general needs of the institution, to later focus on two concrete subjects: the rights of children and of persons deprived of liberty, in addition to a third cross-disciplinary area, communication.

Among other achievements, the program has allowed creation of a website aimed at children and youth, in addition to a youth advisors council. As for prison affairs, a working methodology has been drawn up for the supervision of detention centres for persons deprived of liberty. Communication has been addressed with a strategic document that sets the guidelines for the institution’s communication policy.

The Catalan Ombudsman is now working on a third cooperation project in Serbia. It is a program to advise and support the Belgrade Ombudsman.