Legal Aid Offices that work within the CHRIS Network members, since December 19, 1999 were opened in cooperation with Committee of Lawyers for Human Rights – YUCOM from Belgrade. Continuation of the Offices work is made possible with support of FREEDOM HOUSE, within the CHRIS Network.
In the previous period, state institutions that should take care of human rights and freedoms (formal Offices of legal aid in Municipalities) back warded and sent cases to our Legal Aid Offices. In the period ahead, for Legal Aid Offices, very important is the social state (around 5.000 workers in Bor are expected to lose their jobs; there are 43.000 unemployed out of 107.000 of working-able people in Nis), so, unfortunately we expect lots of cases of human rights violations. It is also showed that horizontal cooperation of CHRIS Legal Aid Offices is very useful and that Network is capable of building the proposals of civic and legislative initiatives. In that context, CHRIS Network continues the cooperation with its strategic partner Committee of Lawyers for Human Rights – YUCOM from Belgrade.
When it comes to free legal aid, strategic activity of CHRIS Network, our estimation that it is essential to make it available to citizens, proved to be accurate. Although the state of human rights and freedoms respect improved and there is a smaller number of violations by authorities (in relation to the regime of Slobodan Milosevic), number of citizens who come to Legal Aid offices of CHRIS Network is not decreasing, although there are not so many cases of drastic and brutal human rights violations. CHRIS’ Legal Aid Offices were actively involved in court processing of cases that were examples of most brutal torture in Serbia after October changes in 2000.
As the authentication of stated things, here are some data on number of cases reported to Legal Aid Offices. In period January 2001 to August 2002, by our records, 831 persons asked for help, and 97 of them were violations of basic human rights. 53 cases were processed in Court of Law, and over 20 cases were classic police brutality. All other cases were considered by our lawyers, some criminal denunciations were written, given legal advices, and pressured system institutions, either by letters, or by personal visits of Office representatives. It is characteristic for all Offices that those cases were more often from neighboring towns than from town where the Office is located. We cover towns where organizations such are ours, do not exist. When individuals are endangered, we go to the spot. In addition, we represent refugees, collectively, or individually. There is also the need of basic and concrete connection with organizations that deal with refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, with aim of more quality help to refugees in their rights implementation. They come to our Offices in great number. That is why CHRIS Network plans connecting to similar organizations as soon as possible, and think of ways of cooperation. Finances of organization, Network members spent on those activities that helped us to strengthen the infrastructure of organizations, and quality support our constant activities, as well as strategic project activities of the Network.