Summary of Contents
1. GENERAL INFORMATION
Republic of North Macedonia (hereinafter referred by its abbreviation RNM) is a landlocked country located in the southeastern region of Europe. RNM is one of the successor states of the former Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia and declare its independence in 1991. Fundamental law of the country is the Constitution adopted in 1991 and its 33 amendments.
RNM is a unitary state and a parliamentary republic. The legislative authority is vested in a unicameral legislature named Assembly (Собрание) composed of 120 representatives elected through a universal suffrage for a term of four years. The Government (Влада), composed of president and ministers, is holder of the executive power. A President (Претседател) elected by a popular vote is a chief of state thought its powers are limited and focused mostly in the areas of international relations and defense. The judicial power is exercised by the courts. A separate and independent Constitutional court is a body that protects the constitutionality and legality. Since the amendments of the Constitution from 2001 the form of government also have elements of a consociational democracy where for certain decisions, a majority is necessary by the representatives of the two largest ethnic groups in the country.
The RNM has a population of 2.022.547 inhabitants. Main ethnic groups are the Macedonians with 64.2% from the population and the Albanians with 25.2%. Other ethnic groups include Turks, Romani, Serbs, Bosniaks and Aromanians. Eastern Orthodox Christianity with 64.8% from the population and the Islam with 33.3% are the two predominant religions in the country. The Macedonian and the Albanian languages are official languages however in the units of local self-government other language may also have an official status, on the territory of the municipality.
Since its independence in 1991, Macedonia has made progress in liberalizing its economy and improving its business environment. Its low tax rates and free economic zones have helped to attract foreign investment, which is still low relative to the rest of Europe. Corruption and weak rule of law remain significant problems. Some businesses complain of opaque regulations and unequal enforcement of the law. More than 20% from the population lives below the poverty line.
Chart 01. Gross domestic product (GDP) for the last ten years
Chart 02: Republic of North Macedonia and key Human Development Indicators
|Gross national income at purchasing power parity per capita GNI (PPP).||12.505 $|
|Inequality index and poverty line (percentage of population deemed to be living in poverty).||21.5%|
|Life expectancy at birth.||75.9|
|Expected years of schooling and mean years of schooling.||13.3(e) 9.6 (m)|
|Human development index (HDI).||0.757|
2. LEGAL SYSTEM
2.1. Type of legal system
RNM uses a civil legal system. The law arises primarily from written statutes (закони). The case law is not a source of law and a judicial decision can only be based on the Constitution, the statutes (hereinafter referred as laws) and the international agreements ratified in accordance with the constitution. Judges are not to make law, but merely to interpret it an applied in concrete cases.
2.2. Organization of the justice system
The judicial power is exercised by a unified system of multiple levels of courts. Special courts (ex. Military, ad-hoc tribunals) are explicitly prohibited. The types, competence, establishment, abolishment, organization and composition of the courts, as well as the procedure before the courts, are regulated by a law adopted by a two-thirds majority vote of the total number of representatives. The judicial power within the judicial system is exercised by basic courts, the courts of appeal, the Administrative Court, the Higher Administrative Court, and the Supreme Court.
Basic courts are established for one or several municipalities. They rule in first instance and may be founded as courts with basic (limited) competence and courts with expanded competence. There are 27 basic courts by whom 14 are with basic jurisdiction and 13 with extended. The courts with basic competence are deciding in first instance upon crimes for which the law defined imprisonment sentence up to five year in prison, all misdemeanors ruled in court procedure, civil disputes where the value of the case does not exceed 50.000 EUR as well as family and employment disputes. The courts with expanded competence are deciding in first instance for all cases surpassing the threshold of the courts with basic competence as well as juvenile justice cases, commercial disputes and liquidation and bankruptcy procedures.
The Courts of appeal are established for the territory of several courts of first instance defined by this Law. Their seats are in Skopje, Bitola, Gostivar and Shtip. The courts of appeal are deciding upon appeals against the decisions of the basic courts on their territory as well as upon conflict of competences between the courts of first instance on their territory. They may also have another competences if prescribed by law.
The Supreme Court of the Republic of North Macedonia is the highest court in the Republic that provides uniformity in the application of the laws by the courts. It among other things is competent to decide in third and last instance upon appeals against the decisions of the courts of appeal and upon extraordinary legal remedies against the legally valid decisions of the courts and the decisions of its councils, when determined by law. The Supreme Court of the Republic of Macedonia, at a general session also defines general views and general legal opinions about issues of significance for provision of single application of the laws by the courts.
The Administrative Court exercise the judicial power on the whole territory of the country. It enables judicial review of the decisions of the administrative bodies issued in administrative procedure. The main competence of this court is to decide against individual acts of state administrative bodies, legality of individual acts adopted in the election procedure and disputes arising from a procedure for conclusion of concession agreements, contracts for public procurement of public interest.
The Higher Administrative Court is competent to decide upon appeals against the decisions of the Administrative Court.
Parallel and informal justice structures are not allowed in the country.
|BC Bitola||25568||BC Kriva Palanka||6131|
|BC Krushevo||1867||BC Kumanovo||40738|
|BC Ohrid||19131||BC Negotino||6163|
|BC Prilep||20762||BC Skopje I||111383|
|BC Resen||3665||BC Skopje II||60804|
|BC Struga||17013||BC Berovo||4193|
|BC Gostivar||41110||BC Vinica||4038|
|BC Debar||9413||BC Delchevo||5455|
|BC Kichevo||16406||BC Kochani||13706|
|BC Tetovo||25051||BC Radovish||7516|
|BC Veles||18291||BC St.Nikole||4980|
|BC Gevgelija||9639||BC Strumica||22754|
|BC Kavadarci||10187||BC Shtip||19675|
|BC Kratovo||2145||Administrative court||36580|
Chart 04. Organizational chart of the court system of RNM
2.3. The structure of the legal profession
The legal profession is practiced solely by a licensed attorneys (адвокати) joined in the Bar association of the RNM. The Constitution establishes the legal profession as an autonomous and independent public service that provides legal assistance and exercises public powers in accordance with the law. As a result of this, the legal profession and its Bar association are enjoying high level of autonomy. The main conditions (among others) for obtaining a license to practice law are university degree in law and passed Bar exam. The legal profession is incompatible with other profession, employment or public function. The profession may be practiced by individual attorneys and law firms. There are not differences in the rights and powers, each attorney have the identical rights and authorizations. Non-lawyer may not be owners of managers of law firms.
2.3.1. Number of licensed practicing attorneys
In 2016 there were 2.503 practicing attorneys in the country. In a mean time this have increased.
2.3.2. Affordability of legal fees
The fees for the attorneys are set in the Tariff adopted by the Bar which is mandatory for all attorneys. The Tariff sets the minimal fees that the attorneys should charge. Invoicing lower fees is prohibited and is considered a disciplinary violation. The current Tariff was adopted in mid-2016 and it increased the fees, for certain action significantly. The increase was justified since the Tariff has not been amended for around 20 years and there have been an increase of the prices in general. The current fees are not affordable for persons living in poverty (over 20 % from the population) while for the other population depending on the type of services.
2.3.3. Legal representation in Court
As a general rule, the representation by a lawyer is not mandatory in the justice system with certain exceptions.
(i) In criminal procedure in the following situations:
- If the accused is dumb, deaf or incapable to defend himself or herself successfully or if a criminal procedure is conducted against him or her for a crime, which, according to the law, entails a sentence of life imprisonment, then the person shall have a defense counsel as of his or her first questioning.
- The defendant shall have a counsel during the detention period, if detention has been imposed against him or her.
- After an indictment has been raised for a crime for which a prison sentence of ten years or a more severe sentence is proscribed in the law, the accused shall have a counsel at the time of the delivery of the indictment.
- The accused shall have a defense counsel during the procedure of negotiation and bargaining with the public prosecutor on the guilty plea.
- The defendant who is being tried in his or her absence shall have a defense counsel assigned immediately after the decision for a trial in absence has been brought.
(ii) In juvenile justice procedure in all situations where the defendant is juvenile.
(iii) In procedures before notaries for:
- solemnization of documents before notaries in the value of the legal issues is over 10.000 EUR unless one of the parties is bank or other financial institution,
- solemnization of contracts for real-estate purchase above 10.000 EUR,
- issuing payment order
- inheritance procedures
(iv) In procedures before enforcement agent for:
- request for forcible enforcement when the value exceeds 10.000 EUR.
- objection against enforcement when the value exceeds 10.000 EUR.
- appeal against the decision upon the objection
The profession paralegal is not legally recognized in RNM. The attorney may be assisted solely by associate attorney or by an apprentice, both with legal education.
2.3.4. Judicial Careers
The Constitution and the Law on Courts explicitly stipulate that the judiciary and the judges are independent and establish certain guarantees for the independence (ex. Election by an independent Judicial Council where the majority of its members are elected directly by the judges; Lifelong tenure; Incompatibility with other functions or professions; etc.). However in practice, the country have faced serious criticism on the lack of independent and impartial judiciary.
The judges and presidents of the courts are elected, assessed and dismissed by the Judicial Council of the Republic of Macedonia. For a judge in a Basic Court the candidate must complete the training in the Academy for Judges and Public Prosecutors. For a judge in Court of Appeals, the candidate must have a continuous length of service as a judge in a basic court, the Administrative or the Higher Administrative Court of at least six years at the moment of signing up for election and to be assessed with a positive mark by the Judicial Council of the Republic of Macedonia. While for the Supreme Court the candidate must have a length of service as a judge in a court of appeal of at least six years. For the Administrative Court a length of service as a judge in a basic court of at least four years is required while for the High Administrative Court six year service in the Administrative court or the Court of Appeals.
In 2018 there were 540 judges in the courts where 60% were female and 40% male. The country has 26 judges on 100.000 inhabitance which is above the European average of 22 judges per 100.000 inhabitance. The judges are elected with no limitation of the duration of the term of office or until their retirement. The retirement age is 64 years for males and 62 for females.
The judge cannot be transferred from one to another court against his/her will. As an exception, the judge of a court of appeal and a basic court may be temporarily, and at the most for a period of one year, transferred to try to another court in the same or lower instance or from one to another specialized division when due to prevention or recusal of a judge or due to significantly increased workload, reduced efficiency or due to the complexity of the cases the day-to-day operation of the court comes into question, but not more than once in a period of five years. In case of temporary transfer, the salary of the judge must not be decreased. Upon expiry of the time for which the judge is transferred to another court or another specialized division, the judge shall be mandatorily returned in the court, that is, specialized division where he/she has previously worked. The temporary transfer of a judge is made by the Judicial Council of the Republic of Macedonia
2.3.5. Prosecutorial Careers
The Public Prosecution Office is a single and autonomous state body prosecuting persons that have committed crimes and other punishable acts determined by a law and performs other activities determined by a law. Its organization is based upon the principles of hierarchy and subordination. The chief public prosecutor of the Republic of North Macedonia is appointed and dismissed by the Assembly for a term of six years with the right to re-election. The public prosecutors are elected by the Council of Public Prosecutors without limitation of the duration of the term of office.
The public prosecutors in the basic public prosecutor are required by the graduates of the Academy for Judges and Prosecutors. Their promotion in the prosecutorial system depends on their length of services in the lower prosecution office.
The public prosecutors (with exemption of the chief public prosecutor of RNM) are appointed for lifelong tenure until the age for retirement (64 for males and 62 for females).
In 2018 there were 191 public prosecutor in the country from whom 66% were female while 43% were males.
2.3.6. Is there a shortage of legal services in RNM?
The results of the existing assessment carried out in the last two years have indicated that with regards to the number of providers of legal services there are no significant problems especially for judges and attorneys which number per 100.000 is in line with the European average. There might me shortage for public prosecutors however the results of the assessment are still not published.
3. PROCESS AND PROCEEDINGS: OVERVIEW
3.1. Criminal Procedure
3.1.1. Preliminary Procedure
The criminal procedure starts with the preliminary procedure. The purpose of the preliminary procedure is to gather evidence of the likelihood of the crime and its perpetrator, so that it can then be decided whether to initiate court proceedings or the procedure to be stopped. The preliminary procedure is divided into two parts: pre-investigative procedure and investigative procedure, but despite this formal division of the preliminary procedure, it proceeds continuously as a single phase and thus the evidence gathered in the pre-investigative and investigative procedure has the same probative value, if obtained legally. The preliminary procedure is managed by the public prosecutor, while the judiciary (police) and the prosecution’s investigative centers are in his constant service.
The pre-investigative procedure is an informal evidence-gathering procedure, at a stage when the crime or its offender has not yet been fully disclosed, and is carried out by the police ex officio or at the request of the public prosecutor. The determination of the criminal charges and the pre-investigative procedure are intended to clarify whether the initial suspicion of the offense has been established. The pre-investigative procedure is not regulated in detail, because it is based on police and criminal rules, techniques and methods. No formal decision is taken to start the pre-investigative procedure. The precondition for initiating the pre-investigative procedure is the existence of grounds for suspicion (findings which, based on criminal knowledge and experience, can be assessed as evidence of a criminal offense).
The pre-investigative procedure begins with the filing of a criminal report to the police or other body, with informing the public prosecutor of a criminal offense that is prosecuted ex officio, where police inspections are conducted or the police is acting on instructions from the public prosecutor or when a formal criminal charge has been filed with the public prosecutor, and he cannot decide on it without further gathering of the necessary information. This procedure is conducted with the purpose of providing the public prosecutor with material in order to assess whether, according to the evidence obtained, there are grounds for suspecting that a particular person has committed a crime so that he or she can bring an order against it for conducting an investigative procedure. Otherwise, the public prosecutor will dismiss the criminal charges.
The police do not have to wait for special orders from the public prosecutor, but is obliged following the receipt of the criminal charges or after learning of a crime that is being prosecuted ex-officio, to take all necessary measures to find the perpetrator of the crime, to prevent the perpetrator or an accomplice to hide or flee, to discover and preserve any traces of the crime and objects that might be used as evidence, as well as to collect all possible accounts that might be useful for a successful criminal procedure. It is important to emphasize that the public prosecutor has the right and duty of constant control over the police in carrying out these action and that he can implement these measures himself.
Based on the results of the pre-investigative procedure, the public prosecutor decides whether to waive prosecution, reject the criminal charges or to enact an order to conduct an investigation procedure. The deadline for making a decision on the criminal charges is three months from the day of receipt of the report. All activities and actions taken by the authorities during the preliminary procedure are secret, as the principle of presumption of innocence must be respected.
The investigative procedure is the second phase and is conducted by the public prosecutor. The investigation conducted by the public prosecutor is complex, his powers are great, but his obligations and responsibilities are also great because he is obliged to conduct the investigation fully and in all respects, with his role being to gather all the evidence, and those who favor him and those who favor the defendant.
The pre-trial judge is the other entity in the investigative procedure. His role is during the pre-trial procedure to decide on the freedoms and rights of the accused and other matters specified by law.
The investigative procedure must commence with the issuance of an order to conduct an investigative procedure. The order is issued by the public prosecutor, when he/she considers that there is a reasonable suspicion that the suspect has committed an ex officio crime, in which the public prosecutor enters the following elements: personal data about the suspect, description of the act for which the order is issued and legal qualification of the same. In the order for conducting investigation, the public prosecutor will determine what should be undertaken during the investigation, which investigative actions should be taken, which particular issues should be investigated, and which particular circumstances need to be investigated. Before issuing an order for investigation, the public prosecutor may examine the person against whom the investigation is requested.
Once the order is issued, the statutory 6-month deadline for completion of the investigation begins, with the option in complex cases, the higher public prosecutor to extend this deadline for another six months, and exceptionally, this deadline may be extended by the Public Prosecutor of the Republic of Macedonia for another three months, while in the case of case of organized crime by the public prosecutor of RM, this deadline can be extended for another six months.
The public prosecutor concludes the investigation when he finds that the state of affairs is sufficiently clear to be able to bring charges or to halt the investigation. The decision needs to be made within a period of 15 days (30 days for criminal offenses that fall within the category of organized crime) from the completion of the investigation procedure and the expiry of the statutory deadlines mentioned above. The public prosecutor shall be obliged to deliver a notification of completion of the investigation procedure to the suspect and his or her counsel.
During the preliminary procedure there are two situations of deprivation of liberty without a court order – deprivation of liberty by anyone and deprivation of liberty by the judicial police. A person caught while committing a criminal offense may be deprived of his liberty if there is a danger of fleeing and the police are immediately notified. The person deprived of liberty shall be kept until the arrival of the police, who must be informed immediately. Without a court warrant, the judicial police may also arrest a person if there are grounds for suspicion that he or she committed a crime that is prosecuted ex-officio, only if there is a danger of procrastination and if some of the conditions for detention are met, but it is obliged immediately, and not later than 6 hours from the deprivation of liberty, to take the person before a competent judge of the preliminary procedure, and inform the public prosecutor thereof.
As an exception, the judicial police may hold the person who has been arrested, if it is necessary to hold the person for the purpose of establishing his or her identity, checking up an alibi or it is necessary, due to other reasons, to collect additional information that would be essential for the criminal procedure against that person. The arrested person who has been held, shall be brought before the custody officer at the specially designated police stations, within a period of 6 hours, who shall decide, with a separate written and elaborated decision, whether the person will be held or released. Any delay in the procedure shall be separately explained. A person may be held for 24 hours at most, from the moment of the arrest, and within this time period, the person has to be brought before a competent judge. After the expiry of this time period, the person who has been held shall be released.
After the enactment of the order to conduct an investigation procedure, the public prosecutor may put forward, to the preliminary procedure judge, an elaborated motion for detention or other measures to ensure the presence of the defendant. The preliminary procedure judge shall be obliged, without any delays, to consider such a motion and rule on it immediately.
Detention can only be determined throughout of the investigative procedure ie after the order for investigation procedure has been issued by the public prosecutor. The detention can be imposed, if there is a reasonable suspicion that a certain person committed a crime, and if detention is required for an unobstructed criminal procedure to take place:
- if the person is hiding, if his or her identity cannot be established, or if there are other circumstances that would indicate that the person might flee;
- if there is a reasonable fear that the person will hide, manipulate or destroy any traces of the criminal offense, or if there are special circumstances that would indicate that he or she shall impede the criminal procedure by influencing witnesses, expert witnesses, accomplices or other persons who have been covering up the crime;
- if special circumstances justify the fear that he or she might repeat the crime, or complete the attempted crime or commit the crime that he or she has been threatening with; or
- if the defendant who has been properly summoned obviously tries to avoid appearing during the main hearing, or if the court has tried on two occasions to properly serve the defendant, whilst all the circumstances show that the defendant is obviously avoiding receiving the summon
Detention during the preliminary procedure may be imposed by the court, upon a written and elaborated proposal by an authorized plaintiff, and only on the grounds listed in the proposal by the authorized plaintiff.
The detention may last not more than 30 days from the moment when the person was arrested. Any deprivation of liberty shall be computed within the overall duration of the detention. Upon an elaborated motion by the public prosecutor, the Court Chamber, may additionally extend the detention during the investigation for another 60 days (90 days for a crime that entails a prison sentence of at least four years) at most.
Upon proposal from the public prosecutor, with a written and elaborated decision, the preliminary procedure judge may impose transient detention to the arrested person, up to 48 hours from the moment when the arrested person appeared before the preliminary procedure judge, if he or she believes that there is a grounded suspicion that the person committed the crime that he or she is accused of and that the conditions for detention have been met, if the public prosecutor has not yet issued an order for investigation against that person.
The total duration of detention during the investigation, also counting the time while the person was deprived of liberty before the enactment of the detention decision, shall not exceed 180 days, and immediately after the expiry of that period the defendant shall be released immediately.
Chart 05. Organizational chart of the investigation procedure
3.1.2. Criminal prosecution proceedings
After the completion of the investigation procedure, when the public prosecutor establishes that there is enough evidence to expect a conviction, he or she submits an indictment to the competent court. In addition to the indictment, the public prosecutor submits the material evidence, minutes and recordings of the examination of persons and encloses a list of evidence which proposes to be presented at the main hearing.
After the receipt of the indictment the court does compulsory judicial control of it. Competent authority for evaluation of the indictment is the judge for evaluation of the indictment (individual judge) for a criminal offense punishable by up to ten years in prison or indictment evaluation chamber (three-judge panel) for a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment of ten years or more.
The judge or the indictment review chamber shall deliver the indictment to the defendant who is free without delay and, if detained within 24 hours of receipt of the indictment. Upon receipt of the indictment, the defendant may file an objection against the indictment within 8 days of receipt, submit a statement of guilty plea or submit a list of evidence which he or she proposes to be presented at the main hearing.
After the indictment entered into force, on the day the decision to approve it was entered, that is, by inserting the clause for approval of the indictment, together with the decision to approve it, the material evidence submitted and the list of evidence which the parties propose to be performed, shall be submitted to the competent court.
After the indictment has been approved and prior to the completion of the main hearing, upon proposal by the parties, detention may be established, extended or revoked only with a decision by the Trial Chamber (Article 25, paragraph 5 of the Law on Criminal Procedure). After the indictment has entered into effect, the detention shall last for no more than: one year for crimes that entail a prison sentence of up to 15 years and two years for crimes that carry a life-time prison sentence. Upon proposal by the parties and ex-officio, following the expiry of thirty days after the last detention decision has entered into effect, the Chamber shall be obliged to inspect whether the reasons for detention still exist and enact a decision for extension or revocation of the detention.
When the verdict of the court includes a prison sentence for the defendant, the Trial Chamber may order for the person to be detained, if he or she is not in detention already. The Trial Chamber that leads the main hearing shall be competent to rule on any detention or revocation of detention, from the completion of the main hearing to the proclamation of the judgment, and the Chamber referred to in Article 25, paragraph 5 shall be competent from the moment of proclamation of the judgment, until it enters into full effect. The detention in this phase may last until the person starts serving the sentence, i.e. until the verdict enters into full effect, but not longer than the duration of the prison sentence.
Once the indictment is received and checked, the competent court schedules a main hearing. The main hearing is a central, main part of the criminal proceedings, in which the accusatorial of the procedure and the principle of equality of arms are most prominently displayed. The Main hearing starts with the opening statements of the parties. The parties in their opening statements present their theory of the case, as well as the evidence on which they base it. After the opening statements, the evidentiary procedure is open, where the parties present the evidence they have proposed. With The closing arguments, the main hearing is concluded. The closing arguments represent the last address of the parties where they give their views on what came out of the evidence presented and draw their own conclusions about the proving or unproven of the decisive facts. After the main hearing has been concluded, the Chamber will resume counseling and voting for a judgment.
There is no legal deadline/time limit for completing the criminal prosecution proceedings. However Basic Concepts section in the Criminal Procedure Law there is a provision about the right to trial within a reasonable time. According to the provision any person that is subject of the procedure shall have the right to be taken before a court within a reasonable time and tried without any unjustified delays. The court shall be obliged to conduct the proceedings without any delay and to preclude any abuse of the rights that belong to the persons that participate in the proceedings.
The legal system of N. Macedonia allows criminal judgment in absentia, but under prescribed conditions. The defendant may be tried in his or her absence only if he or she has fled or is otherwise inaccessible to the state institutions, in the event when there are especially important reasons for the person to be tried, although he or she is absent. Upon a motion by the plaintiff, the Trial Chamber shall enact a decision to try the defendant in his or hers absence. Any appeal shall not prevent the enforcement of the decision. The defendant on trial in absentia must have a defense counsel appointed immediately after the decision for trial in absentia is made.
There is an option for repetition of the procedure for a person convicted in absence. Any criminal procedure whereby a person was convicted in absence (Article 365 of this Law) and there is a possibility for the person to be tried in his or her presence shall be repeated, if the defendant or his or her counsel puts a motion for repetition of the criminal procedure within one year as of the day when the convicted person learned of the conviction in his or her absence.
Chart 06. Organizational chart of the main hearing phase of a criminal procedure
3.1.3. Consistency with the Rule of Law
The most common complaints regarding the criminal procedure, before the European Court of Human Rights against RNM are the violations of Article 3 of the Convention (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) and Article 6 (the right to a fair trial), in particular a trial within a reasonable time, a violation of the right to defense, the right to equality of arms, etc.
In the Analysis of the data collected from the court criminal proceedings monitored issued by OSCE and All For Fair Trial Coalition among the conclusions where the following:
- Often cases of absent defense attorneys in hearings when a detention measure was or was being applied against defendants which is greatly undermining the right to effective defense of the accused person
- Increasing trend in cases where the court examines the defendant, in the capacity of a self-proposed witness, in absence of a defense attorney.
- The upward trend in unequal treatment of the public prosecutor and the defense by the court is worrisome
- Decrease in the number of guilty pleas in the main hearings in all observed courts. A correlation is observed between the severity of criminal act, the low penal policy of judges upon the completion of main hearings, the severity and uncertainty of sanctions in conditions of guilty pleas, as well as the role of the court and the role of the defence attorney in the process of assessing the guilty pleas as negative factors for application of this procedure that is intended to accelerate the main hearing.
- an increase in the number of complaints raised by defence attorneys in relation to their access to evidence.
Statistics and analyses show that the police have factual monopoly over investigations, and are key factor in the criminal justice system, especially in establishing whether and who is responsible for criminal offences. Large majority of perpetrators have never been discovered, while almost all reported or known perpetrators are later charged and convicted.
Inferior status of the public prosecution and the courts within the criminal justice system, including their failure to properly protect lawfulness and legality, as well as rights and freedoms of defendants, brings under question their legitimacy, which is mainly due to their insufficient human and institutional capacity, but also serious problems in terms of autonomy and independence from the executive branch of government
Establishment of investigation departments at the pubic prosecution is an important requirement with a view to speed investigations, overcome the police’s monopoly over investigations and address hierarchical dualism of the criminal police. Judges deciding on legality and lawfulness of arrests and other actions or measures taken against suspects must hear in them in person, including all people involved in alleged police ill-treatment, and must gather all relevant evidence.
Having in mind the fact that the police and the public prosecution have resources and are competent to conduct investigations and gather evidence, it is of critical importance for the defence to be given insight in evidence they have collected, both in terms of timing and scope of insight granted. Trial in absence should be reduced to exception. In that regard, courts should insist on locating persons who are allegedly unavailable to be tried, requesting the competent authorities to make their best effort, whereas the law or court practice should provide clear definition of actually important reasons for allowing trial in absence.
3.2. Civil Procedure
3.2.1. Overview of civil procedures
The non-criminal cases, depending by their nature, may be processed in civil or in administrative procedure. Since the civil procedure is the main alley for resolving disputes it will be in the focus on further elaboration. It is mainly a court procedure though certain competencies are delegated to a public notaries (ex. payment orders, inheritance procedures) while the enforcement is devolved to a private enforcement agents. The administrative procedure is the procedure by which individuals and entities are realizing their rights before administrative bodies (ex. social welfare rights, pension and disability etc). It is regulated by the Law on General Administrative Procedure though for specific procedures, special procedural provisions may be envisioned. In this cases, the general law has subsidiary application for the issues not covered by the special provisions.
The civil procedure incorporate litigation and non-contentious procedure as well as rules regulating the enforcement. Its main component, the litigation procedure (парнична постапка) encompasses rules on the basis of which the court contends and decides in the disputes for basic human and citizen’s rights and obligations, for personal and family relations of the citizens, such as the labor, trade, property and other civil disputes. The litigation procedure may be general or special. Special litigation procedures includes: labor relations disputes, hindering of possession, payment order, small claims disputes, procedures in selected courts and trade disputes.
The Law on Litigation Procedure establishes several special procedures where the time limits for processing the cases are shortened due to the nature of the cases, the urgency required as well as the need for efficiency. Such procedures are: labor relations disputes, hindering of possession procedures, payment order, and small claims disputes. If the claim is related to one of these issues, the court automatically process the case in these fast lane procedures.
Specific urgent procedure is established for securing claims while the main issue and the merits of the case are contended in a litigation or it is in an enforcement procedure. The court is obliged to take on the case within three days as of the day of receiving the request at the latest. The procedure for securing claims is initiated upon a request of the plaintiff, i.e. the creditor. The instruments for securing claims shall be:
- right to pledge on immovables and movables in cases where enforcement document is issues and the enforcement is pending
- previous measures in cases where there is a monetary claim and a procedure has been initiated but it has not become legally valid or enforceable, if the creditor renders the danger probable or if there is an assumed danger that without such securing the effectuation of the claim would be thwarted or significantly hindered.
- temporary measures in cases were the procedure has not been initiated and the creditor renders probable the existence of the claim and the danger arising from the absence of such measure that the debtor is to thwart or significantly hinder the collection of the claim, by alienating, covering or in any other way using his/her property, i.e. his/her funds.
- transfer of ownership of objects and transfer of rights if there is will among the creditor and the debtor to reach a settlement.
The attempt to use alternative dispute resolution before initiating litigation procedure is solely obligatory for the commercial disputes. If the commercial dispute is for a monetary claim where the value of which does not exceed 1.000.000 MKD (cir. 18.100 $) the parties are obliged, before filing the lawsuit, to try to resolve the dispute by mediation. When filing the lawsuit, the plaintiff is obliged to attach a written proof issued by a mediator that the attempt for resolving the dispute by mediation has not succeeded. The lawsuit which does not contain the proof shall be rejected by the court.
The litigation procedure, as established with the Law from 2005, is based upon the principles of adversarial system with certain limited elements from the inquisitorial system. The judge is responsible for formal management of the procedure (scheduling hearings, deciding upon motions etc) however its role in pursuing evidence is limited. There is only one exemption from the adversarial principles is the possibility of the judge ex officio to determine the facts. The court is authorized to confirm the facts not being stated by the parties, and to exhibit the evidence not being proposed by the parties, if the outcome of the contention and the substantiation results in the parties being headed towards disposing with claims they cannot dispose with. However it cannot base its decision on facts and evidence wherefore the parties have not been granted the possibility to declare themselves.
Chart 07: Organizational chart of the 1st instance litigation procedure
3.2.2. Encouraging settlement
The Law on Litigation Procedure envisions two main instruments that the Court may use to encourage the parties to reach a conciliation, to inform and refer the parties to resolve the dispute via mediation and to facilitate reaching a court settlement.
The court during the preparation of the pre-trial hearing is obliged, in the disputes where mediation is allowed, to serve to the parties written instructions, together with the summons for the pre-trial hearing, stating that the dispute can be resolved in a mediation procedure and to request from the parties to state whether they agree to resolve the dispute in a mediation procedure. If the parties agree the dispute to be resolved in a mediation procedure, the court shall adopt a decision to terminate the procedure.
The court, during the whole course of the procedure, shall point the parties to the possibility for court settlement and can help them conclude a settlement. The settlement agreement of the parties shall be inserted in the minutes and it shall be deemed concluded when the parties sign the minutes after the minutes on settlement is read to them.
Unfortunately, data on the effectiveness of these instruments is not available since no studies have been carried out targeting this issue.
3.2.3. Consistency with the Rule of Law
The comprehensive reform of the civil law system started in 2011 with the initiation of a codification of the civil law in order to improve the quality of civil law regulation, as well as to overcome the legal gaps currently faced by legal practitioners in the application of civil legal norms. Key challenge was the efficiency and the lengthiness of civil procedures. The Law on Litigation Procedure has contributed to significantly shorten the length of the proceedings and reduce the huge workload of the courts by exempting them from handling payment orders and inheritance proceedings which had burdened the judicial system for many years. However, the practical application of some of the new provisions, especially those related to cross-examination, compulsory expertise upon filing a lawsuit, etc. indicates the need to review these provisions by organising public discussions.
European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in several cases has found violations of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) on the right to a fair trial, respect for family life and protection of property. Also efforts are needed to promote the use of alternative dispute resolution. Arbitration is still not considered as a viable tool to ensure justice, either by parties or by the courts. The effects of the implementation of the new law on mediation, adopted in 2013 are still to be assessed.
Overall, the system has proved to be an improvement compared to the previous system of enforcement by the courts. The notary payment order works well, discharging the burden on the courts. However, the overall cost of enforcement and the length of the procedure still obstruct the system’s efficiency. This, together with the mandatory presence of an attorney for procedures before notaries (including for inheritance) risks impeding access to justice. The monitoring of the enforcement officers’ activities by the Chamber and the Ministry of Justice needs to be improved. Regarding property rights, the absence of strategic documents results in lengthy procedures and insufficient coordination between institutions. This leads to delays in updating registers by the municipal authorities and the Central Register.
3.3. Alternative Dispute Resolution
3.3.1. The compulsory diversion of disputes
Compulsory diversion of dispute to resolution mechanisms outside the formal judiciary is only present among the commercial disputes where the value of the claim is below 1.000.000 MKD. In these cases the parties are obliged, before filing the lawsuit, to try to resolve the dispute by mediation. When filing the lawsuit, the plaintiff is obliged to attach a written proof issued by a mediator that the attempt for resolving the dispute by mediation has not succeeded. The lawsuit which does not contain the proof shall be rejected by the court. The mediation is performed by a private licensed mediators in line with the Law on Mediation. The costs for the mediation should be covered by the parties.
3.3.2. The voluntary or consensual diversion of disputes
Consensual diversion of dispute is available for different types of cases. There are several mechanisms established by law which provide forums for ADR. Those mechanisms are:
- arbitrage, for trade and commercial disputes
- mediation, in property, family, labor, trade, consumer, insurance disputes, disputes in the field of education, environmental protection, disputes related to discrimination
- specific mechanisms for peaceful resolution of consumer disputes
- peaceful resolution of employment disputes
These mechanisms are not government sponsored. The decision/outcome of these mechanisms must be in appropriate form established with law in order to have a legal effect. However all these mechanisms are underused and there is low awareness among the population for the benefits of their uses.
3.3.3. ADR Policy Drivers
One of the main drivers in the reforms in the legal system in the country is the EU integration and the need to meet the EU standards in different aspects of the society. Such is the situations with the ADR processes. The EU encourage and support development of efficient ADR processes in the country however still there is insufficient trust among the representatives of the conventional legal professions on the efficiency of these mechanism combined with general unpreparedness of the population to delegate their dispute to resolution to a private individual/entity. The costs and duration of court procedures are still more acceptable solution than to attempt to solve the issue by ADR. There is need of greater awareness raising and simultaneous improvement of the legislative framework on ADR based upon through assessment and evidence.
3.4. Simplification of law and by-passing legal processes
The reforms that were implemented in the past 15 years in RNM aimed at reducing the costs and time when deciding in civil cases through amending the procedural law, not substantive. The premise was that by speeding up and simplifying procedures, not substantive laws, will be sufficient to increase the efficiency of the judiciary. For example, the amends to the Law on Litigation Procedure from 2011 prescribed strict rules on the content of the motions and any failure to meet this rules shall result with dismissal of the lawsuit. One specific area which also was reformed was the payment orders for debts, mostly for utilities. The deciding upon these payment orders was delegated to the notaries with the expectation that it will remove some burden from the courts. However all these reforms were related to the rules of procedure.
4. ACCESS TO JUSTICE, EQUAL ACCESS TO COURT AND FAIR TRIAL
4.1. Statutory commitment to access to justice, equal access to court and fair trial
The Constitution of RNM does not recognize explicitly the right for access to justice though it establishes certain principle related to the fair trial rights such as: the presumption of innocence, the prohibition of double jeopardy and nullum crimen sine lege. The main legal source on access to justice and the fair trial is Article 6 from the European Convention on Human Rights. The Convention was ratified in 1997 and since than is part of the national legal system, hierarchically above the laws enacted by the Assembly. This article determines the key criteria defining the rights to fair trial as well as the right to access to a court as one of its elements. The Convention is directly applicable in national context while the case law of the European Court on Human Rights provide guidance on its proper interpretation.
4.2. Political commitment to access to justice
In 2018 the Government adopted the Strategy for Reforms of the Judiciary for the period 2018 – 2019. One of the key strategic goals of the judicial reforms is the access to justice. Within the framework of the Strategy, a new Law on Free Legal Aid was adopted. In a video message on the starting date of its implementation, the Minister of Justice, Ms. Renata Deskoska PhD stated “this law contributes in building the rule of law however it also have one humane dimension which is that the financial status should be burden in realization of the rights of the citizens”. In general there is positive attitude among the political elites however since the country faces very serious problems related to the independence of judiciary and fighting corruption and organized crime, the access to justice is not considered as a priority issues and as a result of that is not very much present in the public debate.
4.3. Responsibility for access to justice policy
The responsibility for access to justice policy lies within the hands of the Ministry of Justice.
4.4. Government access to justice policy
The access to justice policy is stated in the above quoted Strategy for reforms of the judiciary. It includes a national legal aid system, increase legal awareness, involvement of NGO and legal clinics, increased state budget on legal aid as well as reforms in the legislation concerning attorneys, notaries, enforcement agents and mediators.
4.5. Equal access to justice for minorities, immigrants, indigenous peoples or other groups
The Roma minority is facing serious obstacles in realizing access to justice. Facing poverty, social exclusion and prejudices, this minority group is disproportionally affected by the lack of access to justice and legal remedies. There are few areas in which this problem is most concerning. The first is the problem of unregistered individuals (people who are not enlisted in the birth registries) which results with lack of any legal identity, access to education, healthcare and social services. This problem is overwhelmingly affecting the Roma population. The rigid framework on birth registration combined with lack of effective policies are preventing in resolution of this problem. The Roma population also faces problems from legal nature related to proper housing, discrimination, and healthcare.
With regards to migrants, through North Macedonia as a transit country a significant number of migrants are transiting to their destination in Western Europe. They are often victims of migrant smuggling and trafficking and may be detained for almost six month while in the same time do not have the right to a legal aid.
4.6. Access to justice subject of public or scholarly debates
The improvement of the access to justice is one of the key priorities of a significant number of NGOs active in the country. They, as both service providers and advocating for the rights of certain specific vulnerable groups (ex. Roma community, LGBT population, victims of domestic violence and human trafficking, homeless persons, people living in extreme poverty, sex workers, intravenous drug users etc.) have identified that these group among other problems, face serious obstacles in accessing justice. As a result of this, main initiatives on reforming access to justices as well as assessments and policy documents came from the NGO sector. Since 2011, a group of authorized providers of preliminary legal aid, supported by the Foundation Open Society Macedonia have prepared and issued annual reports on the implementation of the Law on Free Legal Aid. The Foundation pursued significant effort in legal empowerment activities. Beside the legal aid, numerous documents were prepared and events organized related to the access to justice issues faced by specific vulnerable categories.
5. LEGAL AID SYSTEM
5.1. History of legal aid
Republic of North Macedonia as one of the constituent republics of the Yugoslav federation was part of the federal legal system established following WWII. The right to legal aid in both, criminal and civil procedure, in the form of court appointed attorney paid by the budget for indigent parties, was recognized on federal level in the 1950s. The Criminal Procedure Code from 1953 prescribed that the court may, upon request by the defendant, to appoint defense counsel, if the procedure is tried in front of district court (more serious crimes), and if the defendant due to his/her financial situation is not able to afford an attorney. The request may be submitted only after the indictment. With regards to the civil procedure, the Law on Litigation Procedure from 1957 established the possibility for court appointment of an attorney, upon request by an indigent party which was exempted from payment of procedural costs. Though in the following decades these laws were amended several times, the provisions regulating legal aid remained relatively unchanged.
In the 1990s and 2000s several processes required reform of the legal aid system in the country. Following the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Macedonia proclaimed its independence in 1991 and started a process of transition from one party planned economy, to a multiparty parliamentary democracy with market economy. These processes combined with unfavorable international situations (war in the region etc.) resulted with swift decrease in the living standards and high rates of unemployment and poverty, increased rate of organized crime and corruption and week institutions. In the same time, the country determined its strategic aspiration for membership in the Council of Europe, NATO and EU. In order to fulfill this, the country was required to accept and implement international and European standards on human rights and rule of law which also included acceptance on the standards for access to justice. The country ratified several international agreements requiring reforms in this area, from whom the most important is the European Convention on Human Rights ratified in 1997. Simultaneously, the country’s civil society was strengthened with support of international donors and these organization strived to close the gap of the lack of provision of appropriate services to vulnerable groups including legal support.
The first main reform of the national legal aid system occurred in 2009 with the adoption of the first Law on Free Legal Aid. The law established a state funded legal aid system for civil and administrative issues, administered by the Ministry of Justice. The legal aid included legal aid in procedures provided by attorneys, and preliminary legal aid (information and advices) provided by authorized NGOs and regional offices of the Ministry of Justice. It established a supplementary system of legal aid to the already existing systems established with the laws regulating court procedures especially the litigation procedure. Nonetheless that the civil society required adoption of this law, the key reason that prompted the adoption of this law were the weaknesses identified by the European Commission that needed to be properly addressed in order for the country to move forward to the EU integration.
As a result of the limited involvement of all relevant stakeholders during the process of the drafting of the law, its implementation faces significant challenges that significantly restricted the access to justice, instead providing it. The eligibility criteria about applicant income and assets as well as the legal issues were quite restrictive, the procedure for obtaining was very long (with median value around 2 months), there was low public awareness, the court fees and fees for expert witnesses were not covered. As a result of this, the number of individual that benefited from legal aid was very small. In order to address the identified problems, a new reform process was initiated in 2015 and accelerated in 2017, now with active involvement of the civil society, which resulted with a new Law on Free Legal Aid, adopted in May 2019.
The reforms in the area of human rights and rule of law, including the access to justice, in the country are largely related to, and driven by the process of integration into the European Union. Since this process also strongly require further development of the democracy it may be concluded that the reforms in the area of access to justice correlated to the overall development of the democratic processes.
In the current circumstances, where other mechanisms for improvement of access to justice are not promoted and developed, the legal aid remains a key instrument in facilitating access to justice in the country.
5.2. Legislative framework for legal aid
The Constitution of Republic of North Macedonia does not stipulate explicitly the right to legal aid. It specifies that the individuals have the right to an attorney in the police and court procedure and that the attorneys provide legal assistance. However it does not containing any provisions on providing free of charge legal assistance to indigent parties.
The statutory framework for legal aid, depending on the legal issues for which legal aid is provided can be grouped in three main groups:
(i) Legal aid in criminal procedures
(ii) Legal aid in civil and administrative procedures
(iii) Legal aid in juvenile justice
5.2.1. Legal aid in criminal procedures
Main provisions regulating legal aid for defendants in criminal procedures are set in the Law on Criminal Procedure. Article 74 regulates the compulsory defense with a defense counsel and ex-officio defense counsel (Задолжителна одбрана со бранител и бранител по службена должност). It regulates the situations in which defense counsel is compulsory and if the defendant does not have counsel it will be appointed to him/her. On the other hand, Article 75 regulates the defense of indigent parties (Одбрана за сиромашни). It enables possibility for a defendant without the means to have a defense counsel upon fulfillment of certain criteria. The legal aid for victims of crimes is covered by article 49 from the Law on Free Legal Aid.
5.2.2. Legal aid in civil and administrative procedures
The legal aid in this area is mostly covered by the Law on Free Legal Aid described in detail bellow. However there is one provision in the Law on Litigation Procedure (Article 165 paragraph 1) in the section where exemption of procedural fees is regulated which enables the possibility for the court to appoint an attorney to a party exempted from payment of court fees when such is necessary for protection of the rights of the party. The Law on Court Fees regulate the procedure for exemption of court fees.
5.2.3. Legal aid in juvenile justice
Presence of attorney in all cases related to juvenile justice is mandatory pursuant to the Law on Justice for Children in procedure before police, social work centers, prosecution and courts. The relevant provisions are included in Articles 35, 90 and 116 from the Law.
5.3. Institutional framework for legal aid
In North Macedonia there is no single legal aid institution, instead, depending of the type of legal aid (ex. criminal or civil) the roles of organization, provision and supervision is divided among several stakeholders.
5.3.1. Appointment, remuneration and supervision
Ministry of Justice (Министерство за правда) decides upon application for legal aid in civil and administrative issues submitted pursuant to the Law on Free Legal Aid, it appoints lawyers in individual cases, provides primary legal aid through its network of over 25 regional offices, supervises the system for free legal aid established with the Law and remunerate the providers of legal aid services for their work.
The courts (Судовите) are responsible for appointing ex-officio lawyers, reimbursement for their work as well as dismissal of the assigned counsel who has not exercised his duties in a responsible and competent manner upon request of the accused or with his or her consent. The Court informs the Bar association about the dismissal.
Bar association (Адвокатската комора) has the authority to license and disbar attorneys as well as to initiate and conduct a disciplinary procedure against attorneys for malpractice.
5.3.2. Provision of legal aid
Attorneys are responsible for providing legal aid that include representation before courts and administrative bodies on the basis of decision of the court or the Ministry of Justice.
Authorized NGOs, Legal clinics and Regional offices of the Ministry of Justice are providing primary legal aid.
5.3.3. State legal aid institution
The closest to a legal aid institution in the Republic of North Macedonia is the Ministry of Justice, more precisely, the Department for Legal Aid. This department is a sub-section of the Sector for Legal Aid and Political System and is integral part of the Ministry of Justice, without any functional independence and autonomy. Its mandate and competencies are determined directly by the Law on Free Legal Aid which creates a safety net against influences from the organs and structures above the DLA. The head of the Department for Legal Aid is appointed by the Minister of Justice. The DLA is understaffed and currently there are four employees including the head. The Department of legal aid is responsible for: management of the legal aid system, maintaining registries of legal aid providers, processing legal aid applications, supervision of legal aid providers, promotion of legal aid and coordination of the regional offices. The regional offices are not formally part of the Department but are subordinated on issues related to the legal aid. The DLA does not have formal authority to provide ADR services.
5.3.4. Delivery method
The legal aid in court and administrative procedures is provided by attorneys appointed with a decision from the court (pursuant procedural laws) or by the Ministry of Justice (pursuant the Law on Free Legal Aid). In order to be appointed, the attorneys must be enlisted in registries managed by the courts/Bar association/Ministry of Justice. The enlistment requires solely willingness to participate in the legal aid system. Specialization is only required for juvenile justice cases. Legal assistance of paralegals is not allowed. Primary legal aid may also be provided by officials from the Regional offices of the Ministry of Justice, authorized NGOs, and authorized Legal clinics. The network of over 25 regional offices of the Ministry of Justices provides to certain extent coverage to remote areas.
5.3.5. Client participation in setting priorities
The current system does not enable the client’s voice to be articulated in the governance or setting priorities though some of the concerns may be presented by the legal aid providers.
5.4. Legal aid budget
The costs incurred for legal aid services are covered by the state budget though the Law on Free Legal Aid provides a possibility also by donation and other lawful incomes, however the main principle is that the State budget bears the costs for legal aid.
The State Budget, including the justice system budget as adopted by the legislator, does not include separate component concerning legal aid. The funds for legal aid are budgeted under the general budget heading titled Contractual Services (425)in the budgets of both, the courts and the Ministry of Justice respectively.
Chart 08. Illustrative example of location of legal aid costs in the State budget
Goods and services (42)
Contractual Services (425)
Court and Legal Services (4253)
Legal services (425310)
The determination of the legal aid budget follows the identical procedure for planning and preparing the annual state budget with certain degree of autonomy for the court’s budget. The courts prepare their budget projections and submit to the Judiciary Budgetary Council which prepares and submits a proposal to the Ministry of Finance. The Ministry of Justice submit their budget proposals that must be in line with its strategic documents to the Ministry of finance. The Ministry, depending on several factors, on the basis of the request prepares a draft budget and through the Government submits to the Assembly for approval. However since the legal aid budget is not a separate budget headlining there are no available information on the planning process and whether projections are made regarding this cost.
Data on the approved budget for legal aid by the by the judicial budget is not available since there are no separate heading on legal aid in the court budget. However, data on the implemented budget sub-headings and lines is available and published in the Annual reports of the Judicial Budgetary Council since 2014.
Chart 09. Annual expenditure for legal aid from the judicial budget
Chart 10. Annual expenditure for legal aid from the judicial budget in local currency and USD
|Implemented budget for legal aid (MKD)||11,991,000.00||10,927,358.00||12,065,296.00||17,856,823.00||27,424,413.00|
|Implemented budget for legal aid (USD)||$216,404.98||$197,209.13||$217,745.82||$322,267.15||$494,936.17|
With regards to the budget for legal aid provided pursuant to the Law on Free Legal Aid and budgeted by the Ministry of Justice data is available for both, the planned and implemented funds. The data is published in the annual reports on the implementation of the law on free legal aid published by the Ministry of Justice.
Chart 11. Overview on planned and implemented budget for legal aid by the Ministry of Justice
Note: The significant discrepancy by the implemented and the realized budget is due to two main reasons. The first one is the very restrictive criteria for obtaining legal aid (ex. only beneficiaries of social welfare who do not own any property) which limited the number of people obtaining this rights. The second reason is the poor promotion of the right to free legal aid. However it should be also noted that the residual of unspent fund does not accumulate in one legal aid budget, but those funds are returned after each year in the State budget.
There is no available data broken down by a case type in the court funded legal aid. About the legal aid funded by the Ministry of Justice the data is desegregated by the type of legal aid, preliminary provided by NGOs, or representation provided by lawyers.
Chart 12. Implemented budget on legal aid by the Ministry of Justice broken down by beneficiary
The legal aid service in North Macedonia has not experienced budgetary cuts for no though any initiative for its reformation toward greater outreach and coverage is blocked with the argument of insufficient funds.
5.5. Legal aid providers
5.5.1. Qualifications for legal aid providers
For the legal aid funded from judicial budget there are no specific requirements for the attorneys aside from having an active license in the Bar association and being enlisted on the list of ex-officio attorneys which does require any qualifications. However, there is one exemption to this rule. In the juvenile justice cases, where the attorney defends a minor, it must attend at least five days in year specialized training on juvenile justice. This requirement is not concerning only legal aid attorneys, but also all attorneys defending juvenile defendants.
With regards to the legal aid funded by the Ministry of Justice, there are also no specific requirements for the attorneys. They only need to be enlisted in the special register for legal aid lawyers.
NGOs in order to be authorized to provide primary legal aid must fulfill the following criteria:
- it has been registered in the Register of Associations at the Central Register of the Republic of North Macedonia for at least five (5) years prior to the application;
- it employs or has hired a graduated lawyer who has passed the bar exam;
- providing preliminary legal aid in its field is stated as a goal in the articles of the association;
- it has a liability insurance agreement for damages in providing preliminary legal aid with a policy of at least MKD 100,000;
- it has filed annual tax returns for three years prior to the registration application;
- it meets the minimum office and technical requirements that guarantee the free provision of preliminary legal aid; and
- it has completed at least three projects for providing legal aid or legal counselling.
The legal clinics needs to be an organisation unit at a faculty of law at a legally established university ranked in the top seven in the Republic of North Macedonia.
5.5.2. Procedure to become a legal aid provider
Since there is no specific institution that only administers the legal aid system this question is not applicable for the national context. The staffing of the Ministry of Justice is regulated in detail with the legislation on administrative servants.
5.5.3. Interest in legal aid among lawyers
There is relatively low interest among lawyers to provide legal aid within the national schemes for legal aid. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the remuneration for their fees is usually delayed. Secondly, there is inconsistent application of rules regarding the lawyer’s fees, and the payment is frequently bellow the Bar tariff. Thirdly, the process of appointment of lawyers, especially by the court is not transparent nor based on clear criteria (ex. random allocation, specialization or alphabetical order). There are lawyers who are enlisted, and who were never appointed, while also there are lawyers who were appointed in a disproportionate number of cases. Among the lawyers there are doubts about whether the level of actively defending the legal aid client may impact negatively on the chances to be appointed next time. All these reasons are contributing to the low interest although for some (not all) young attorneys these cases are used as an opportunity to improve their trial skills.
5.5.4. Payment of legal aid lawyers
The attorneys that provide legal aid appointed by the court are submitting report (трошковник) to the Court. The report include description of the actions taken as well as their fee calculated in accordance with the Bar tariff. The Court, in the verdict or the decision that terminates the criminal procedure shall decides on the amount of the criminal procedure expenses and the person who shall be responsible to cover them. With regards to the legal aid, the Court will determine the amount and will state that these costs shall be paid by the budget.
The concept for payment of the attorneys appointed by the Ministry of Justice is similar. The attorney submits a cost schedule – report to the Ministry no later than 15 days from the final decision. The attorney is compensated for provided secondary legal aid with a percentage amount of the lawyer’s reward and costs, in accordance with the Tariff for reward and compensation for lawyers’ costs of work adopted by the Bar Association.
The CSO and authorized Legal clinics may receive funds for each submitted application for secondary legal aid that has been approved or through grants.
5.5.5. Level of Remuneration for legal aid work
The remuneration of the attorneys when acting as legal aid providers depends whether the legal aid is provided in criminal or civil.
In criminal procedures, at least by law, the attorneys are entitled for full remuneration for his/her services in accordance with the Bar tariff, without any deduction which having in mind the Tariff (as described in the Tariff) is in general an acceptable and decent compensation, comparable with the costs for fees on the regular market. Nonetheless the law states, in practice is common that the ex officio attorneys are paid bellow the Bar tariff which has its negative effects on the quality of the council.
In civil procedures, the Law on Free Legal Aid from 2019 requires that the Bar association should adopt a special, discounted Bar tariff upon which the services provided by appointed attorneys will be remunerated. However, until the finalization of this report, this tariff has not yet been adopted and published. The repealed Law on Free Legal Aid from 2010 solution was that the attorneys shall be compensated with a 30% discounted fee from those established with the Bar tariff. The discount by law, not by a decision of the Bar association is problematic from constitutional point of view (it interferes with the autonomy of the Bar) however if applied correctly do not put the legal aid lawyers in significantly less favorable position than the other attorneys.
5.5.6. Level of independence of legal aid providers
The attorneys are legal aid providers are statutory protected from governmental interference and in general there are independent in providing legal aid and defining legal strategies. Whether the attorney in individual case will act independently or largely depend on individual competence and ability to resist pressures.
5.5.7. Special prerogatives and privileges of legal aid lawyers
The legal aid providers do not have any special privilege compared with the other attorneys.
5.6. Quality assurance
5.6.1. Responsibility for overseeing the quality of legal aid services
With regards to the legal aid provided by attorneys, there is no external institution, beside the Bar, with authority to oversee the quality of the work. Even the authority of the Bar is limited to processing complaints for malpractice. If complaint is not filed by the legal aid beneficiary, the court or the Ministry of Justice, the Bar does not perform regular or ad hoc quality check. Since the Bar is composed of attorneys, the legal aid recipients are not part of these processes.
On the other hand, primary legal aid providers, such as NGOs and Legal clinics are subject to oversight by the Ministry of Justice. The oversight is limited in determining whether the legal aid was provided in accordance with the provisions of the Law on Legal Aid.
5.6.2. Monitoring quality of legal aid services
Each dissatisfied legal aid recipient may lodge a formal complaint against the attorney to the Bar association. The court and the Ministry of Justice are also obliged to notify the Bar in certain specific prescribed situations when the legal aid attorney have failed to provide diligent legal advice. Upon the receipt of the complaint, a special disciplinary prosecutor within the Bar examines the complaint and conduct a preliminary procedure which include communication with the complainer and gathering information and documentation. Within 180 days, or in exceptional circumstances additional 60 days, the disciplinary prosecutor must close the preliminary procedure and either indict the attorney or to dismiss the complaint. The disciplinary indictment is filed to the disciplinary court and served to the defendant for giving defense. The disciplinary court on public hearings examines the evidence and determining whether there was a disciplinary violation or not. If it found that such violation happened, will order certain disciplinary measure.
5.6.3. Continuing education
Aside for legal aid in juvenile justice cases there is no formal requirement for continuous education.
5.6.4. Remedy for poor service
The legal aid beneficiary may request appointment of another attorney and if attorney committed disciplinary violation may lodge complaint to the Bar association.
5.7. Criminal legal aid
5.7.1. Scope of criminal legal aid
A. Legal aid during the criminal investigation phase
During the criminal investigation phase there are two situations where the representation by a defense council is compulsory. If the arrested or detained individual does not have the means or does not provide a counsel himself for another reasons, the President of the Court shall assign a defense counsel ex officio for the further duration of the criminal procedure until the final legally valid verdict. Those two situations are:
- If the accused is dumb, deaf or incapable to defend himself or herself successfully or if a criminal procedure is conducted against him or her for a crime, which, according to the law, entails a sentence of life imprisonment, then the person shall have a defense counsel as of his or her first questioning.
- If detention has been imposed against the defendant he/she shall have a counsel during the detention period.
In the situations where the defense is not compulsory, the arrested defendants may request assignment of a counsel if they cannot bear the expenses of the defense, when required for the purpose of the interest of justice and specifically due to the severity of the crime and complexity of the case. If counsel is assigned, it shall be provided for the whole procedure.
This legal instrument is rarely used in practice (see section 5.7.3 for more details) and as laid down in the Law is not very suitable for suspects during the investigation phase. The motion for assignment of a counsel should be decided by a judge of preliminary procedure (during investigation phase), while the whole investigation is conducted by the Public prosecutor. So it is quite common that the defendant may not have any communication with the judge and the opportunity to seek assignment of a counsel.
B. Legal aid at different stages of the criminal procedure
The legal aid is provided for the whole duration of the criminal procedure until the final legally valid verdict, including the appeal decision.
C. Legal aid after conviction
The convicted person serving prison sentence have the right to legal aid in accordance with the Law on Enforcement of Sanctions. The legal aid is provided by the Directorate for execution of sanctions and is limited for assistance in preparing motions, complaints, requests for pardoning etc. The convicted person may seek legal aid for non-criminal matters if they meet the criteria laid down in the Law on Free Legal Aid.
D. Legal aid for victims of crimes
The Law on Criminal Procedure does nor prescribe a specific right to a legal aid for victmis of crimes though it vaguely refer to such service in two situations:
- In accordance with the special regulations, any victim of a crime, which entails a prison sentence of at least four years, shall have the right to: get a councilor paid by the state budget before giving a statement, i.e. declaration or filing the legal-property claim, if the victim has serious psychophysical impairment or if there are serious consequences as a result of the crime and
- The victim of crimes against gender freedom and gender morality, humanity and international law, shall also have the right before the interrogation, to speak to a counselor or a proxy free of charge, if he or she participates in the procedure as an injured party.
However, legal aid for victims of crimes that includes legal representation may also be obtained through the Law on Free Legal Aid proving that they meet the criteria established with this law.
E. Legal aid for witnesses
Legal aid is available for witnesses only in the situations when the witness, having in mind his or her age, healthcare condition, the nature and the consequences of the criminal offense, i.e. due to other circumstances of that case, are extremely vulnerable, and that the examination at the facilities of the entity conducting the procedure would have harmful consequences for their mental or physical health. In such circumstances, if the entity conducting the procedure believes it necessary for the purpose of helping the witness shall assign a legal representative to him or her. Financial eligibility criteria does not apply in this cases.
5.7.2. Eligibility criteria for criminal legal aid
Note: This section describes only the Defense for Indigent Defendants institute since the Compulsory Defense as another type of legal aid does require any specific eligibility criteria beside the situations for which it is required.
When the conditions for mandatory defense are not met, upon his or her motion, the defendant may be assigned counsel, if the following eligibility criteria, laid down in Article 75 from the Law on Criminal Procedure are met:
- taking financial situation of the defendant into consideration, it is deemed that the he/she cannot bear the expenses of the defense
- when required for the purpose of the interest of justice and taking into consideration
- the severity of the crime and
- the complexity of the case
The criteria about determining the financial situation (means test) are not clearly set with specific thresholds about the income and the asset of the defendant. The court have the disposition to determine the circumstances in each specific case in order to decide whether the defendant may, or may not bear the expenses of the defense.
The second criteria require that legal aid is necessary for the interest of justice. It elaborates two conditions that the judge should evaluate in determining whether this criteria is met. The first one is the severity of the crime including the sentence prescribed while the second one is the complexity of the case including both, the factual and the legal issues.
The recipient of criminal legal aid does not have legal obligation to contribute to the costs of providing those services. However, the recipient of ex-officio legal counsel is obliged to repay the amount of expences for the legal aid provided unless the Court determines that the payment of the recompense and the essential expenses would mean endangering of the defendant’s subsistence or the subsistence of another person that he or she is obliged to support. In that case the recompense and the essential expenses of the counsel shall be paid from the State Budget of the Republic of Macedonia.
5.7.3. Process for obtaining criminal legal aid
A. Compulsory defense (including legal aid for juvenile defendants)
In the cases listed in Article 74 from the Law on Criminal Procedure, if the accused, does not provide a counsel himself, the President of the Court shall assign a defense counsel ex officio for the further duration of the criminal procedure until the final legally valid verdict. Identically, since the representation of a defense council is compulsory in all stages of criminal procedure against minors, and if the financial eligibility criteria are met, the entity conducting the procedure (police, Center for Social Work, Public Prosecution or Court) appoints counsel.
B. Defense for indigent defendants
The defendant submits motion for assignment of a counsel to the judge of preliminary procedure (during investigation phase) of the Presiding judge (during trial phase). With the motion, the defendant must provide evidence on his/her financial situation issues by a competent authority.
C. Lack of legal aid and procedural consequences
If the suspect has a right to legal aid, and wishes to be assisted, but no legal aid provider is available, must the criminal proceedings cease until a legal aid provider arrives?
Only in the situations where presence of defense counsel is compulsory. Lack of attorney in these situations constitutes essential violation of the criminal procedure which is subject to review if appeal is filed. With regards in other situations, if no legal aid provider is available, the court will assign counsel from the nearest Bar community which having in mind the number of lawyers is not problem in practice.
D. Responsibility for granting criminal legal aid
The judge of the preliminary procedure i.e. the Presiding Judge of the Trial Chamber rule on the motion for assignment of attorney and the defense counsel is appointed by the President of the Court.
E. Refusal of criminal legal aid and possibility of appeal
The defendant may appeal against the decision by the preliminary procedure judge and the Presiding judge denying legal aid. The appeal is filed with the court that enacted the decision within three days from the date of receipt of the decision. The second instance court in a session of the chamber shall rule on the appeals against the decisions of the Presiding judge, while a special trial chamber against the decision of preliminary procedure judge. The grounds for appeal are essential violation of the criminal procedure, wrongly established facts or violation of the Criminal Code. The decision of the 2nd instance court is final and cannot be subject to a further appeal.
F. Assignment of legal aid lawyers
In cases where the defense council is not compulsory, the defendant can indicate in the motion, the preferred attorney from the list of defense counsels of the appropriate legal community.
The assignment of ex-officio providers is not regulated in detail. The only requirement is that the attorney should be local and one of the lists. Special criteria about random, alphabetical allocation of cases are not present.
In the cases when compulsory defense is required the defendant may not reject the legal aid though it may request change of the assigned counsel. In all other cases it is on disposition of the defendant.
H. Number of criminal cases where legal aid is provided
Chart 13. Number of criminal cases where legal aid is provided
|# of cases with assigned ex officio legal counsel||1180||1045||1095|
|# of cases with assigned legal counsel for indigent defendants||3||6||2|
|Total number of criminal cases||15853||15040||15129|
|% of cases with assigned lawyer||7.46%||6.99%||7.25%|
5.8. Civil legal aid
5.8.1. Scope of civil legal aid
A. Right to civil legal aid
The right to legal aid in civil and administrative matters is explicitly recognized in the Law on Free Legal Aid which is a general law establishing legal aid system in these areas. Certain specific types of legal aid can also be founded in the Law on Litigation Procedure (Assignment of attorney to indigent litigant – Art. 165 par. 1), Law on Prevention and Protection from Domestic Violence (Art. 27) and the Law on International and Temporary Protection (Art. 22).
B. Primary legal aid
The legal aid may be primary or secondary (Art. 4 par. 2 from Law on Free Legal Aid). The primary legal aid encompass the following services (Art. 6 from Law on Free Legal Aid):
- initial legal advice on the right to use free legal aid;
- general legal information;
- general legal advice;
- assistance in completing the secondary legal aid application;
- assistance in filling out forms issued by administrative authorities in an administrative procedure for social welfare and protection of children’s rights; pension, disability and healthcare insurance; protection of victims of gender based violence and domestic violence; procedure for entry into the birth Register; obtaining personal identification and citizenship documents;
- writing complaints to the Anti-Discrimination Commission and to the Ombudsman, as well as petitions to the Constitutional Court of the Republic of North Macedonia for the protection of rights and freedoms.
Primary legal aid is provided to any interest person without any means test (Art. 7 par. 1). There are no restrictions on the types of legal aid for which legal aid may be granted.
C. Secondary legal aid
Secondary legal aid shall be approved for legal representation in all instances in all civil court procedures, administrative procedures and administrative disputes besides certain cases which are explicitly exempted from legal aid. Secondary legal aid also may include representation in inheritance administrative disputes before a notary public in certain specific situations as well as for drafting debtor motions before a competent enforcement agent when the enforcement involves the sale of real estate.
D. Most common types of cases
Family related issues (divorce, matrimonial disputes, alimony, domestic violence), and property disputes.
E. Legal aid for ADR
The current legislative framework does not provide legal aid for ADR.
5.8.2. Eligibility criteria for civil legal aid
A. Personal eligibility criteria for civil legal aid services
The personal eligibility criteria determined in the Law on Free Legal Aid relate to the categories of people eligible of legal aid, the income requirements and the assets requirements.
(i) Eligibility requirements
Civil legal aid can be granted to the following categories:
- citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia with domicile in the Republic of North Macedonia;
- foreign nationals with a permit for temporary or permanent stay in the Republic of North Macedonia, or a stateless person legally staying in the Republic of North Macedonia;
- persons entitled to legal aid provided by the Republic of North Macedonia pursuant to the international treaties ratified in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of North Macedonia; and
- asylum seekers
Citizens of RNM living abroad and foreigner staying in the country illegally are not entitled to legal aid.
If the applicant is eligible a means and merits test is carried out. The means test include determination whether the applicants meets the criteria laid down in the Law on Free Legal Aid with regarding his/her income and assets.
(ii) Income requirements
The applicant’s monthly income (if living alone) should not exceed the minimum net wage in the Republic of North Macedonia. The monthly income of the applicant living in a household with their family members does not exceed the minimum net wage and the monthly income of each subsequent family member does not exceed 20% of the minimum net wage. The Law on Free Legal Aid prescribes in detail the different types of revenues which are considered income in determining the financial standing of the applicant. When determining the income as grounds for approving secondary legal aid, what shall be considered is the average monthly net income received by the legal aid applicant and the family members in their household over the six months prior to filing the secondary legal aid application.
Chart 14. Calculation of the maximal income requirement per type of household
|Number of individuals in household||Income threshold in MKD||Income threshold in USD|
|One person||14.500 MKD||272.86 $|
|Two persons||17.400 MKD||327.44 $|
|Three persons||20.300 MKD||382.00 $|
|Four persons||23.200 MKD||436.34 $|
|Five persons||26.100 MKD||491.16 $|
Though it is hard to calculate the exact percentage of population that would be eligible for legal aid a close estimate could be assessed. The income threshold as set down in the Law on Free Legal Aid for 25% above the at-risk of poverty threshold as defined by the State Statistical Office. In RNM in 2018 21.9% of the population lived below the poverty line. If we added the 25% on this percentage so a rough calculation is that circa a quarter of the population of the country meets the income requirements as laid down in the Law on Free Legal Aid.
(iii) Assets requirements
An applicant should meet the following criteria regarding the property:
- the applicant and their family members own only one single housing unit or a flat in a building;
- in addition the applicant and their family members also own one or more physically connected lots not exceeding 300 m2 in Skopje or 500 m2 in other municipalities in the Republic of North Macedonia, i.e. one or more lots with a total area of no more than 5000 m2 in rural areas;
- the legal aid applicant and their family members own only one registered motor vehicle with an engine displacement under 1200 cc.
(iv) Approving legal aid without determining the financial standing
In certain specific situations laid down in the Law on Free Legal Aid, a means test is not performed due to the specifics and the vulnerability of the applicant. Those situations are when:
- the applicant is in a foster family, assisted living or social welfare institution, as decided by a social work centre (hereinafter: special circumstances);
- the applicant needs to initiate and be represented in a procedure before a court in order to impose interim barring orders against domestic violence; or
- the applicant finds themselves in a financial situation preventing them from ensuring the protection of their rights independently due to a natural disaster, force majeure or circumstances beyond their control.
B. Civil legal aid for specific populations groups
There are not specialized legal aid services provided by the State for specific population groups.
C. Case-related (merits) eligibility criteria for civil legal aid services
In assessing whether to approve secondary legal aid it is also necessary to determine the merit of the application. An application shall be considered to be without merit in the following instances:
- when it is obvious that the application is unfounded due to the lack of legal facts as grounds for legal action;
- when there is obvious abuse of the right to free legal aid;
- the legal matter subject to the legal aid application is obviously unreasonable;
- if the expectations and claims of the applicant are clearly contrary to the outcome for issues with the same or similar facts for the same legal issues; and
- when the applicant’s claims are immoral.
D. Client contributions and repayments
There is no requirement for contribution of the recipient of legal aid to the cost of the services.
The recipient is obliged to repay amount only in the following two cases:
- If the secondary legal aid beneficiary is successful in their dispute and the court mandates the other party to compensate the costs of the procedure, in full or partially, in accordance with the legal provisions on the judicial procedure, then in the judgment the court shall mandate the other party to remit the amount of the procedure costs to the account of the Budget of the Republic of North Macedonia and
- If the applicant provided false information in order to obtain secondary legal aid, his/her financial standing improves in the meantime, and does not cooperate with the assigned attorney the Ministry of Justice will oblige him/her to repay the amount paid to the provided.
5.8.3. Process for obtaining civil legal aid
A. Initiating a secondary legal aid application
The procedure for secondary legal aid begins by filing a secondary legal aid application by the interested person to the Ministry of Justice regional office in the area of the person’s domicile or residence. The application shall be filed in person, by mail or through an authorised association. The person is obliged to provide accurate information regarding the legal matter for which they seek secondary legal aid, their financial standing and the financial standing of the family members they live with, as well as submit copies of the documents corroborating the information stated in the secondary legal aid application, as well as copies of the documents that the Ministry cannot obtain ex officio and that relate to the legal matter in accordance with the law. The application may be filed at any stage of the procedure that requires secondary legal aid. The procedure upon the application is urgent.
B. Responsibility for granting legal aid
Upon the received application an authorized officer of the Ministry of Justice is obliged within 15 days from the receipt to:
- to obtain all the information required to establish whether the applicant meets the secondary legal aid criteria
- to examine and establish whether the applicant meets the secondary legal aid criteria
- to draft a certificate approving or a notification declining the secondary legal aid application; and
- to organise the first meeting between the lawyer and he secondary legal aid beneficiary, stating the date of the meeting in the certificate.
C. Refusal of civil legal aid and possibility of complaint
The applicant may lodge a complaint against the notification declining the secondary legal aid application to the Ministry of Justice within 15 days from receiving the notification. The Ministry examines the complaint and without delay, and at latest within ten days from receiving the complaint adopts a decision to approve or decline the secondary legal aid application, which is then delivered to the applicant. The grounds may include procedural errors, wrongly established facts and violation of substantive law. Legal aid is not available for the complaint procedure. If the Ministry dismiss the complaint the applicant my initiate and administrative dispute before the Administrative court.
D. Assignment of legal aid lawyers
When a secondary legal aid application has been approved, a lawyer is appointed from a list of lawyers in the lawyer community in the area of the applicant’s domicile or residence who are registered in the Register of Lawyers. If there are no lawyers from the appropriate lawyer community who are registered in the Register of Lawyers, a lawyer from another nearest lawyer community shall be appointed.
The appointment of the attorneys is done alphabetically from the list of attorneys. If the applicant gives written statement that is against the appointment of the attorney, than the next lawyer on the list shall be appointed. If the legal aid is granted in a pending procedure before court or administrative body, and the applicant have issued a power of attorney to an attorney enlisted in the Registry, in that case that attorney shall be appointed if the applicant agrees with that.
Taking into account the number of attorneys is highly unlikely that no legal aid provider will be available.
E. Number of civil cases where legal aid is provided
Chart 15. Statistical data on the number of civil legal aid applications and grants
|Number of legal aid applications||118||154||180||162||270||199||130||134||156|
|Approved legal aid applications||29||64||68||75||114||113||65||74||80|
|Rejected legal aid applications||42||91||126||81||140||79||85||39||76|
Desegregated data on the gender of applicants, income and type of cases is not available.
5.9. Holistic legal services
Currently, the foundation of holistic legal services is still in its early inception. There are some projects initiated and conducted by NGOs for providing holistic services to certain vulnerable categories (ex. health care and legal aid to intravenous drug users, legal and psychological services to victims of crime and human trafficking etc.).
5.10. Legal aid before regional human rights mechanisms
RNM as a member state of the Council of Europe is part of the regional system of human rights governed by the European Convention on Human Rights and administered by the European Court on Human Rights. RNM ratified the Convention in 1997 and since then an extensive case law has been developed on the basis of applications filed by Macedonian nationals especially with regards to the right to a fair trial. Several legislative amendments were initiated as a result of judgement of the ECtHR and in general it has a positive impact on the human rights respect in the country. State funded legal aid for lodging application to the ECtHR is not available though there are NGO who support drafting and submitting application for specific categories.
5.11. Alternative sources of legal assistance
The alternative sources of legal assistance in the country include NGOs (not formally authorized to provide legal aid), pro bono services by attorneys and to lesser extent university legal clinics. The NGOs provide legal aid through in-house lawyer or through attorneys. The legal aid provided by the NGOs is usually focused on its target group (ex. victims of domestic or gender based violence, LGBT, Roma and other) and on specific legal problems affecting these groups. The funds for these services are provided by foreign donors. They play a significant role in legal empowerment of marginalized communities. The pro bono services are described and analyzed in Section 8 (below). The university legal clinics are still in their inception however they have the potential to become a significant player in this field.
5.12. Peculiarities of legal aid in RNM
The following specific of the legal aid system in RNM can be identified:
- There is not one unified and harmonized legal aid system administered by one single body. Rather, the legal aid in criminal and civil matters are regulated and administered by different laws and bodies.
- There is no special legal aid administration no special budget heading for legal aid. The costs for legal aid are left in the general contractual costs of the authorities.
The legal aid in juvenile justice case is subject to permanent reforms that are not able to establish a sustainable system that can ensure providing high quality legal aid. Main issue are the funds for remuneration, their method of calculation, and who will be responsible for their payment.
6. COSTS OF RESOLVING DISPUTES WITHIN THE FORMAL JUDICIAL MACHINERY
6.1. Overview of judicial costs for litigants
The litigants and other participants in court procedures when initiating certain actions are required to pay court fees (судски такси). The court fee system is established with a special Law on Court Fees, however certain elements and exemption may also be regulated with the procedural laws. Court fees are payable in civil procedures, criminal procedure when initiated by a private plaintiff, administrative disputes, bankruptcy procedure etc.
The payment of a court fee is a precondition to start the abovementioned types of procedures. The unpaid court fee withholds the processing of the act initiating a procedure. The court shall not act upon a lawsuit or undertake any other action for which the court fee is not paid. If the plaintiff does not pay the court fee within a period of 15 days as of the day of filing the lawsuit, it shall be considered that the lawsuit is withdrawn.
Beside for lawsuit or other action initiating a procedure court fees must be also paid for certain additional procedural actions as: countersuit, request for exemption of a judge, proposal for securing claims, court settlement, 1st instance decision, appeal, 2nd instance decision and extraordinary legal remedies.
The calculation of the court fees is done by a methodology which is an integral part of Law on Court Fees (Tariff on Court Fees).
The basis for calculation is the value of the case when determinable, while for certain cases where the value cannot be determined, the Law on Court Fees presumes their value.
The Tariff on Court Fees lists the amount of fees for each procedure separately. For litigation procedure the court fees are calculated on the basis of this table:
Chart 16. Court fees for litigation procedure
|Case value:||Court fee:|
|–||10.000 MKD||480 MKD|
|10.000 MKD||20.000 MKD||800 MKD|
|20.000 MKD||40.000 MKD||1.200 MKD|
|40.000 MKD||60.000 MKD||1.600 MKD|
|60.000 MKD||100.000 MKD||2.000 MKD|
|100.000 MKD||–||2.000 MKD + 0.02*(Case value – 100.000)|
For lawsuit and a decision in first instance the court fee is as stated in the table. For appeal and a second instance decision the court fee is doubled.
For criminal procedure (private lawsuit) and administrative disputes the Tariff only prescribes the amount of the court fee regardless of the value of the claim in these procedures.
6.2. Exemption from judicial costs
The poor parties in court procedure may request an exemption of payment of fees (ослободување од плаќање на такса). The rules regulating the procedure for exemption are regulated with the Law on Court Fees though an individual can be exempted also pursuant to the Law on Litigation Procedure as well as when a secondary legal aid is granted (Please refer to Section 5).
6.2.1. Eligibility criteria for exemption from judicial costs
The Court shall exempt from payment of court fees the party, “if the payment of fees would significantly decrease the funds whereby the party and the members of its family are being supported”. The law does not specify additional criteria with regards to the income and the assets of the party. The Court evaluates the circumstances in each specific case and render a decision.
6.2.2. Process for applying for exemption from judicial costs
The decision on exemption from paying the procedure costs shall be adopted by the court of first instance on a proposal of the party within five days from the day when the proposal was filed. The party shall be obliged to attach to the proposal a certificate from a competent body of the state administration in regard to its material condition which is determined on the basis of the income of the party and member of his/her household as well as a written statement about the material condition for the previous 6 month period. If the proposal for exemption is denied, the party may appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals. The decision for exemption is adopted for each court fee separately.
6.2.3. Repaying exempted judicial costs
The decision for exemption of payment of fees may be abolished by the Court if it finds that the party is capable to pay the court fees. The Court may decide whether the party will have to pay in total or partially, the fee from which it was previously exempted. Also, if the opposing party of a party that has been exempted from paying the procedure costs, is obliged to compensate the litigation costs, and it is established that he is not able to cover those costs, the court can additionally determine the costs may be paid completely or partially by the party being exempted from paying the procedure costs from what has been ruled thereto. Thus, it shall not interfere in the right of this party to request compensation from the opposing party for what it has paid.
The general rule in the litigation procedure in the country is that the party, notwithstanding whether he/she was legally aided or exempted from court fees, who completely loses the case shall be obliged to compensate the costs of the opposing party. The court may limit the amount but only in specific cases if it founds that some of the costs were not necessary for the procedure.
6.2.4. Overall: do costs and fees limit access to justice?
Main problem that discourages initiating a court procedure is the obligation to pay the other site legal expenses if the case is lost. This puts significant burden when deciding whether to initiate procedure even when the party have a relatively well grounded case.
6.3. Mechanisms to reduce costs by variations to courts and procedures
Access to each court is restricted with payment of court fees. There are no court of special jurisdiction in RNM. The party, if not financial capable to pay these fees is obliged to request exemption from court fees.
7. THE PROTECTION OF DIFFUSE AND COLLECTIVE RIGHTS
The general principle in the procedural laws, both civil and administrative, is that these procedures can be initiated only by people with legal interest (which is subject to deliberation). Merger of procedure is possible but in practice rarely used due to the procedural requirements that need to be met. Several persons can prosecute with a single lawsuit, i.e. can be prosecuted (co-litigants), if:
- in regard to the subject of the dispute they are in lawful community or if their rights, i.e. obligations result from the same factual and legal base,
- subject of the dispute are claims i.e. obligations of the same type based on essentially same factual and legal base although there is actual and local competence of the same court over each claim and each defendant and
- it has been determined by another law.
In practice these provisions are interpreted highly restrictive by the judges (ex. same factual and legal base) and having more litigants may complicate the procedure.
The only exemption from this principle is the opportunity provided in the Law on Prevention and Protection from Discrimination for so called action popularis (Action for Protection against Discrimination of Public Interest). Associations, foundations or other civil society organizations that have justified interest in protecting the interests of a particular group or that deal with protection against discrimination as part of their activities may file a complaint if it is likely that the defendant’s actions have discriminated against a larger number of people.
8. PROFESSIONAL LEGAL ETHICS
The autonomy and independence as key constitutional principles setting up the legal profession, are operationalized inter alia with the authority vested in the Bar association to adopt a code for professional ethics and rules for disciplinary liability for attorneys that to not adhere to the principles of the code. The code for professional ethics is composed of guiding principles to whom the attorneys must act in their legal practice. General principles of the legal profession are: independence, trust, confidentiality, ban on practicing inappropriate professions and personal advertising, and the interest of the client. The code also contains detailed rules on the relations toward the client and the case, toward the court and other institutions as well as the other attorneys and the Bar association, on professional secrets, professional development and reputation and to the trainees at law.
Certain specific actions violating the code are considered as a disciplinary violations and for them a disciplinary procedure is regulated. It can be initiated by a disciplinary prosecutor and ruled by a disciplinary court. Both of these institutions are part of the Bar Association. The 1st instance decision may be appealed to the appeal council. Against the 2nd instance decision a administrative dispute may be initiated before the Administrative court. Thus from legislative point of view, the legal profession in the country has in place a mechanism for self-regulation however there is no publicly available data on the number of initiated procedure and their outcome.
The external regulation of the profession is limited in line with the constitutional principles of autonomy and independence. It is effectuated in law and in practice through the obligation of courts to notify the Bar association when they are aware about certain malpractice activities some attorney such as:
- Offending the court, the party, or other participant in procedure (Art. 102 Law on Litigation Procedure);
- Disturbing the work and does not obey the orders from the president of the council for maintaining the order (Art. 304 Law on Litigation Procedure);
- Canceling the power of attorney without any grounds with the aim to delay the procedure (Art. 76 Law on Criminal Procedure);
- Ex officio lawyer has not exercised his duties in a responsible and competent manner (Art. 77 Law on Criminal Procedure).
8.2. Legal ethics courses at law schools
The professional legal ethics is not part of the regular law schools programs and curriculums. Though some of the principles may be covered in subjects like Philosophy of Law, they are analyzed from theoretical point of view, not from the everyday obligations and values to whom the future lawyers must adhere. There is no pledge to legal or social values neither at entrance nor for graduation from law school.
8.3. Professional ethics and the Bar examination
The professional ethics of attorneys (Code of Professional Conduct) is not taught nor examined in the Bar examination. The Code itself is not part of the mandatory literature for preparing for the exam. In 2006 an additional vocational exam (called Attorneys exam) was introduced with an intention to incorporate the topics of the professional ethics in an exam which would be mandatory preconditions for getting a license. However in 2008, the Constitutional court annulled these provisions with reasoning that as regulated this exam was unconstitutional. Since then there is no specific attorney’s exam in the country.
8.4. Lawyers’ admission ceremony and oath
Admission of new attorneys, after determination that they fulfill the prescribed criteria, is performed on an official ceremony held quarterly each year (March, June, September and December). On this ceremony, the future attorneys are obliged to take the professional oath, which is one of the key preconditions for practicing law. The pledge is taken before the president of the Management board of the national Bar and the Committee for selection.
The text of the pledge is “I solemnly swear, that I will conduct the duty of an attorney conscientiously, I shall adhere to the Constitution, laws, international agreements ratified in accordance with the Constitution, the Statute of the Bar association, the Code on attorney’s ethics and that with all my actions I shall protect the reputation of the attorneyship as a public service”.
The pledge requires commitment by the attorneys to two main principles. The first one is the legality, encompassed in the requirement for strict adherence to the three main sources of law in the country. The second principle or value is the respect for the rules of the profession, adopted autonomously by the Bar association. The pledge lacks commitments to certain general legal principles (such as: rule of law, human rights, helping those in need) though some of these principles are elaborated in the acts, specified in the pledge.
8.5. Lawyers participation in legislative activities
The attorneys in RNM are generally involved in the public debate on protection of human rights although their lobbying activities for changing legislation and regulation are relatively limited and focused mostly on certain procedural issues who are affecting their work as and attorneys and not directly to issues which will protect the poor. However it should be noted that there are some attorneys how are working significantly on supporting civil society organizations who are working on providing services and advocating for improvement of the conditions of the indigent individuals. One of the key method that is used by attorneys and which is having a significant impact on policy level is submitting initiatives for determination of the constitutionality of the laws to the Constitutional court which could lead to abolishment of annulment of certain law.
8.6. Professional legal ethics and pro bono activities
The Code of Professional Ethics in two provisions requires specifically an obligation to provide pro bono services by the attorneys under certain specific circumstances. If there is an indigent client that is not able to pay the attorney’s fee in full amount, it should not affect by deprivation of providing legal aid because this obligation is traditional and honorable task of the legal profession. This principle is further developed with specifying that if the client meet the criteria for providing free legal aid in accordance with the normative acts of the Bar association, the attorney should not seek any remuneration taking into account the old ethical principle of the lawyers: nobody, due to the inability to pay the attorney’s fee, should remain without quality legal aid provided by an attorney. However, there is no normative act adopted by the Bar association determining the criteria for providing free legal aid so there is legal loophole in what situations the attorneys are obliged to provide this type of services. Additionally, though the Code is obligatory, in practice is considered more as a desirable guidelines which violations are hardly processed. As a result of this, whether certain attorney will provide pro bono services depend by the personal decision rather than their professional obligation.
In 2017 a survey conducted by the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association have shown that 78% of the lawyers provided some form of pro bono services in 2016. The lawyers mostly spend time on providing verbal legal advice. The areas in which pro bono legal aid has been mostly provided are as follows: family matters, social protection and labor relations. Pro bono services most commonly are not based on established policy but on informal rules. Most of the lawyers, 92%, believe that citizens are not informed that certain lawyers would provide free legal aid, and 86% believe that people in need of free legal aid are not informed that their offices provide pro bono services.
Factors that positively affect the provision of pro bono services are as follows: the will to help indigent and vulnerable people, professional responsibility, protection of public interest, professional improvement as well as personal satisfaction. On the other hand, the work overload, insufficient expertise in the legal matter for which legal aid is needed, the problems with the state funded legal aid, the absence of a structure to connect the indigent parties with lawyers and the unclear fiscal obligations of the lawyers have a negative impact on lawyers.
8.7. Promising initiatives and innovations
In 2018 the new management of the Macedonian Bar Association initiated a process of reforms and strengthening the professional reputation of the legal profession however these processes are pending and is not possible to provide a description of them.
8.8. Support for external (global) code of conduct or oath?
Since the country is a country aspirant for membership in the European Union there is preparedness among all stakeholders, including the Bar, to adhere to best practices and standards no European level. There is in general positive attitude in the country toward regional or global standards.
9. TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE
9.1. Access to technology
In general, the people usually lacking effecting access to justice have access to technology and may be reached by phone, e-mail or SMS. According to data published by the State Statistical Office in the 1st quarter of 2019, 81.8% of the households had access to the Internet at home. The participation of households with broadband connection in the total number of households is 85.7% in 2019. In the first quarter of 2019, 81.4% of the total population aged 15-74 used the Internet. There is no significant difference between internet users in urban and rural areas. By age group, the population between 55 and 74 years lags significantly behind the other age groups with less than half of them using the Internet. In 2019 there were 1.969.109 cellular subscribers which corresponds roughly with the total population of the country. 93.8 from every 100 people possess a mobile phone. From them, over 72% have smartphones. 67% from all mobile phone owners have access to data internet. With regards to people living in poverty, 95.4% from them have access to phone (including mobile) while 52.1% have computer or lap top.
9.2. Technology in the delivery of non-legal public services
Although providing public services assisted by technology is still in its inception, there is broad consensus and commitment among the Government and other public bodies to increase use of technology for providing non-legal public services. One of the priority areas of the Strategy for Reform of the Public Administration 2018 – 2020 are the public services and ICT support. There are several web pages that enable access to public services via technology. Central web resource is the web page https://uslugi.gov.mk/ were individuals may request public services from different institutions and on different issues (ex. birth, marriage and death registration, scholarships, employment etc). There are also web pages for: tax registration and submission of tax statements, participation in debate on legislative proposals, trainings for administrative servants, scheduling medical appointments, participation in public procurements and several other public services.
9.3. Technology in the practice of law
Legal practitioners (Attorneys) actively use office related software such as word processors and spreadsheet editors, most commonly included in the Microsoft Office packages. They also are required to have an active e-mail address for registration as well as for servicing of court and administrative documents and actively use all available IT means for communication with clients. The use of legal case management softer is more common among law firms while the majority of individual lawyers do not use such IT solutions.
NGOs providing services to low income individual and families use IT technology in their work. All of them are users of office related software as well as e-mail as a mean of communication. The donor community provides funds necessary for these means. They communicate with clients, beside by direct communication, also through SMS, e-mail, websites, FB profiles and pages and other social networks.
9.4. Legal services online
There are several web pages, created and administrated mostly by NGOs which enable certain services related to access to justice such as: information on eligibility criteria, procedures and providers of services (resource web pages), reporting certain specific types of violations (ex. Domestic or gender based violence, bullying, sexual harassment, violation of employment rights etc.). Social networks are frequently used for campaigning and advocacy activities. However, after the information and initial communication, the further provision of services is usually direct and with limited use of technology (phone, e-mail). Specific applications for self-help are still not developed.
9.5. Communication between private practitioners and the funders of publicly funded legal services
Main mean of communication between private practitioners (attorneys) and the funders of publicly funded legal services (Courts and Ministry of Justice) is written communication by letters. With the Ministry of Justice there might be communication by e-mail but that is the exception. Usually, all official information about the case and the invoice (cost remuneration form) is filed by hard copy.
9.6. Online dispute resolution
Currently there is one functional online dispute resolution system established by government authority. That is the system for electronic processing of final beneficiaries of customers of telecommunication services managed by the Agency for Electronic Communications, a regulatory body in the area of the telecommunications. The system is available at https://e-agencija.aek.mk/. Each customer of one of the many companies providing telecommunication services may file a complaint by this system. The Agency will examine the complaint, submit to response to the responded, and upon the available information and evidence shale make a decision. The existence of this system does not prevent customers to file a complaint in hard copy if they do not possess the necessary technical skills. This type of systems for dispute resolution have potential to be used in small claims cases emanating from customer rights.
9.7. Successful use of technology to provide legal services in innovative ways
Aside providing information and initial communication, the provision of legal services is largely done the classic way, by direct counseling, meetings and representation. Providing legal services by apps, conference calls (in court), algorithms and AI are envisioned however it is still early to discuss about their more common utilization.
9.8. Collaboration with internationally-focused organizations
The Foundation Open Society Macedonia, local branch of the Open Society Foundations is one of the key stakeholders working on improvement of the access to justice in the country. One of its activities included a resource web page https://www.pravnozajakni.mk/ (translated as “legally empower”). The web page include information on providers of legal services, guidance on most common legal problems with self-help assistance, definition of key legal terms, educational videos etc. Beside the web page, the FOSM also created an electronic data base used by some NGOs providing legal services where information of the provided services is stored. This data base provide significant insight into the legal needs of the population, as well as it improves the case management of the NGOs.
10. UNMET LEGAL NEEDS
10.1. Nation-wide unmet needs studies
The most recent needs assessment on the legal needs in the country was conducted in 2013 by the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia. This study revealed that it is common in Macedonia for people to live with non-trivial problems that have a legal remedy. Half of the population (49%) declares to have experienced at least one justiciable problem, over a period of three years. While those who experience problems usually experience more than one problem, the problems are not interconnected and for most of the citizens it is likely that the problems they face will not be triggered by other events.
The most common problems are housing and property related, faced by one in four respondents (26.4%). Other commonly reported problems include those related to employment, consumer problems, and money or debt related problems. Less frequently reported problems included those related to children, education, health, police mistreatment and problems with partners. When faced with a justiciable problem, two thirds of the citizens in Macedonia try to resolve it. Most of them do so by themselves and with direct contact with the other side in the problem. Of the respondents that took some kind of action to resolve their problem, one in three sought some kind of legal advice as a step toward resolving the dispute.
A substantial number of problems (one third) are not dealt with. Most often this is because of skepticism or a belief that nothing could be done or the loss of confidence that someone can help. This is a serious cause for concern and needs to be seriously considered, since it undermines the possibility to utilize the advice system. Additionally, one in five respondents fails to take any action because they did not have enough money to pursue the matter further. Next legal needs assessment is envisioned in the OGP National Plan for 2018 – 2020.
10.2. Is help available to all who need it?
Beside the efforts and the commitments of the Government, and especially the NGOs, there are still some groups of people with limited access to justice as well as some specific legal problems affecting people without effective remedy for it. Especially affected are the people without legal identity (no ID and citizenship), the stateless persons, children without paternal care, illegal migrants transiting through the country who are victims of violent criminal acts. Beside these groups who have access to justice (though not all of them are eligible for legal aid) there are also certain legal problems affecting large group of people for whom the legal remedies in place are not effective or even nonexistent. Such legal problems are medical malpractice, environment pollution and the improper urban planning.
10.3. Legal services available country-wide
Legal aid services (attorneys, NGOs, regional offices of the Ministry of Justice and Legal clinics) are stationed mostly in larger urban centers. The access of people living in rural and remote areas is to certain extent limited by the need to travel to the nearest urban center however due to the relatively small territory of the country the maximal travel time to the nearest urban center is around one hour. There are NGO led initiatives for more common field visits and educative sessions for legal services in rural areas that are successfully contributing in closing this gap.
10.4. Places where laws are not enforced
11. PUBLIC LEGAL EDUCATION
11.1. Public legal education for ordinary citizens
There are certain public legal education activities provided in the country. They are mostly NGO led initiatives, sometimes implemented with support from the State (non-financial) which are targeting some specific target groups (ex. Persons and families of people with disabilities, Roma community, low income individuals, textile workers, users of drugs, sex workers, farmers etc.). The main activities include informational/educational sessions and workshops were the participants are acquainted with their right and how to realize and protect them as well as preparation and dissemination of informational brochures and leaflets. These activities are usually implemented in partnership by several NGOs as well as some Unions.
11.2. Legal education and school education curriculum
The legal education is not part of the school education curriculum.
11.3. Likelihood that a non-legally trained member of the public could adequately read and comprehend the laws
Non-legaly trained individual may, in certain more simple legal issues, to successfully read and understand the relevant legislation, and mostly on issues that are processed in administrative procedure (ex. pension and disability, social welfare, land registration etc.). However if the legal issues concerns court procedures, it is highly unlikely that a non-lawyer may successfully defend his/her case before court.
11.4. Public awareness campaigns on the right to legal aid and how to access legal aid services
The only activities aimed at increased information on the right to legal aid, beside publication of the Law on Legal Aid on the web pages of the Ministry of Justice, included annual organization of one to two so called “Days of Legal Advice (Денови на правен совет)”. The events were organized sometimes with cooperation with the chambers of attorneys, notaries and enforcement agents. The promotion of the events was in general very poor and as a result of that the attendance was also insignificant.
11.5. Public awareness of legal aid
In absence of a survey that may provide a more founded answer to this question the number of legal aid application may be an illustrative indicator. From the data present above, the number of people seeking legal aid in criminal and civil procedures is law, compared with the number of people living in poverty.
12. GLOBAL EFFORTS ON ACCESS TO JUSTICE
12.1.Global, national and regional efforts to promote access to justice
As country candidate for membership in the European Union, all reforms related to justice system including the access to justice, are focused on meeting the European standards. The access to justice is one of the key elements of so called Chapter 23: Judiciary and Fundamental Rights encompassing the necessary criteria that the country must achieve in order to become member of the EU. The country must harmonize its legislation with relevant EU directives on this issue as well as to meet the standards for access to justice established with the case law of the European Court on Human Rights. The level of realization of these principles is subject to continuous scrutiny by the EU. For example, the country is currently working on transpose the so called Victims Directive (Directive 2012/29/EU) where one of the key component is and effective system for legal aid to victims of crimes.
12.2. Collaboration with other regional or global access to justice initiatives
RNM is member of the Open Government Partnership, a global initiative with a vision to more governments become sustainably more transparent, more accountable, and more responsive to their own citizens, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of governance, as well as the quality of services that citizens receive. Of the policy area of interest of this initiative is justice including access to justice. In the OGP national action plan 2018 – 2020, the government identified the access to justice as one of the priority areas. The government expressed two commitments, to further develop access to justice and to improve access to justice for marginalized groups of citizens. The activities envisioned in the action plan are in line with national strategies and efforts and as well with national efforts concerning SDG 16.3.
12.3. NGO (and other) collaborations on access to justice
Foundation Open Society – Macedonia is working together with, and supporting a network of NGOs working on different aspects of legal empowerment. It works on institutionalization of the legal empowerment, sustainability of the access to justice and access to justice models improvement. These NGOs activity cooperate and coordinate their efforts. The NGOs were actively involved in advocating for adoption for new Law on Free Legal Aid and the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association and the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia were event part of the working group.
12.4. National efforts on SDG 16.3
In December 2018 the National Council for Sustainable Development identified 5 priority goals from the 17 global goals. One of the priority goals was SDG 16. The commitment with regards to this the SDG 16.3 is to great extent harmonized with the above mentioned OGP Action plan 2018 2020. The country also signed a Partnership for Sustainable Development – United Nations Strategy for 2016-2020 with the United Nations Country Team in Skopje. One of the outcomes envisioned in the plan is in line with SDG 16.3. It states that by 2020, national and local institutions are better able to design and deliver high-quality services for all users, in a transparent, cost-effective, non-discriminatory and gender-sensitive manner.
The RNM still needs a more serious commitment by the policy makers in ensuring that access to justice is available and affordable for everyone. The legislative framework is more or less in line with the EU standard, though certain reforms are still necessary, but the implementation of the laws lags significantly. The country should invest in capacity of legal aid administrators (courts and Ministry of Justice) and to actively promote the instruments for facilitation of access to justice.
The instrument “Defense for Indigent Defendants” is almost not used in practice. This is paradoxically having in mind that the poverty rate in the country is more than 21% and successful defense requires assistance by an attorney. The lack of use of this instruments puts significant numbers of defendants who are not able to hire an attorney without defense which in a lot of cases is violation of the right to a fair trial. It is apparent that the courts are reluctant to inform the defendant on this rights in clear and understandable manner. Other justification for these small number is not plausible.
With regard to non-civil procedures, the new Law on Free Legal Aid from 2019 improves significantly the legislative framework however a harmonization with Law on Litigation Procedure is necessary for smooth implementation of the law. There is lack of an effective legal aid and exemption from payment of fees in procedures before notaries and enforcement agents which is also a significant problem. Key issues remain: debts, forcible enforcement, family matters, and employment and property disputes.
The alternative dispute resolution remain underused. The reasons may be found among the parties and their lack of trust to delegate their dispute to someone other than the court, but also among the legal professions.
With regards to administrative procedures in the areas of social protection, pension and disability insurance, housing, migrants, asylum seekers and stateless persons there is problem in proper informing them on their rights. The published laws are insufficient and appropriate for the common public. There is need for a more close collaboration between the different public bodies.
The entities that are administrating the legal aid schemes in the country, the courts and the Ministry of Justice, lack sound systems for collecting and analyzing data on the legal services they fund. There is lack of an efficient system for controlling the quality of the provided legal aid.
 Constitution of Republic of North Macedonia (Устав на Република Северна Македонија).
 State Statistical Office. Statistical Yearbook of the Republic of North Macedonia for 2019 – Section 03.Population. Skopje 2019. p.65. Available on: http://www.stat.gov.mk/Publikacii/SG2019/03-Naselenie-Population.pdf
 Ibid. p. 69.
 Constitution of RNM, Article 7.
 GDP (current US$). Source: World Development Indicators
 Article 98 paragraph 2 from the Constitution of RNM.
 Article 98 paragraph 3 from the Constitution of RNM.
 Law on Courts (Закон за судовите). Official Gazette No. 58/2006. Article 22.
 Article 23 paragraph 3 from the Law on Courts.
 Article 30 from the Law on Courts.
 Article 31 from the Law on Courts.
 Article 33 from the Law on Courts.
 Article 35 and 37 from the Law on Courts.
 Article 34 from the Law on Courts.
 Articlr 34-a from the Law on Courts.
 All cases that were in procedure before the courts including those initiated in 2018 as well as those remained from the previous years.
 Source: Judicial Council of Republic of North Macedonia.
 Since the word lawyer when translated on Macedonian language means a person with legal education (правник) and not licensed to practice law hereinafter the word attorney will be used.
 Article 53 from the Constitution of RNM.
 Law on Attorneyship (Закон за адвокатура), Official Gazette No. 59/2002. Article 12.
 Source: CEPEJ.
 Tariff for remuneration and reimbursement of costs for the work of the attorneys (Tарифа за награда и надоместок на трошоците за работа на адвокатите)
 Constitution of RNM. Article 98 paragraph 2.
 Law on Courts (Закон за судовите). Official Gazette of RNM, No. 58/2006. Article 1, paragraph 2.
 A more detailed assessment of the problems that the country faced with regards to the independence of the judiciary can be obtained in a reports, requested by the European Commission and prepared by a group of senior expert in 2015 and 2017.
 Судски совет на Република Северна Македонија.
 Law on Courts. Article 48.
 Law on Court. Article 38.
 Law on Courts. Article 39.
 Јавно обвинителство на Република Северна Македонија.
 Constitution of RNM. Article 106.
 Law on Public Prosecution (Закон за јавното обвинителство), Official Gazette No. 150/2007.
 Law on Criminal Procedure (Закон за кривичната постапка). Official Gazette No. 150/2010.
 Article 1 from the Law on General Administrative Procedure (Закон за општата управна постапка). Official Gazette No. 124/2015.
 Ibid. Article 2 paragraph 2.
 Law on Litigation Procedure (Закон за парничната постапка). Official Gazette No. 79/2005. Article 1.
 Ibid. Articles 404 – 438.
 Law on Securing Claims (Закон за обезбедување на побарувањата). Official Gazette No. 87/2007.
 Ibid. Articles 9 – 64.
 Commercial disputes are disputes for commercial relations in which both parties are legal entities and disputes that refer to sale of ships in internal waters, as well as in disputes in which the sailing right is applied (sailing disputes), except in disputes for passenger transport (Article 462 from the Law on Litigation Procedure).
 Law on Litigation Procedure. Article 461.
 Janevski A. Zoroska-Kamilovska T.: Civil Procedural Law – Book 1: Litigation Law. Faculty of Law Iustinian I, Skopje. 2009.
 Law on Litigation Procedure. Article 7 paragraph 2.
 Law on Litigation Procedure, Art. 272.
 Ibid. Art. 307 – 310.
 EU Progress Report on RNM for 2019.
 Law on Mediation (Закон за медијација), Official Gazette No. 188/2013.
 More details about this problem can be obtained at: http://rm.coe.int/CoERMPublicCommonSearchServices/DisplayDCTMContent?documentId=09000016801e9422&format=native
 Macedonian Young Lawyers Association, National Roma Center, MKC Bitola, Roma SOS Prilep, Echo Shtip, Izvor Strumica and from 2015, the Helsinki Comitee for Human Rights.
 Ibid. Article 70.
 Ibid. Article 163.
 Law on Free Legal Aid (Закон за бесплатна правна помош), Official Gazette No. 161/2009.
 The EU Progress report for 2008 noted that that “No state funds are available for legal aid in civil cases”. The EU Progress report for 2009 was even more rigorous with comments such: “Access to justice remained limited. No progress was made in the area of legal aid in civil cases.”
 Detailed assessment on the Law on Free Legal aid for 2010 is included in: Kocevski G. & Danilovska-Bajdevska D. Analysis of the Implementation of the Law on Free Legal aid 2010 – 2012. Macedonian Young Lawyers Association. Skopje, 2013.
 In late 2017, the Ministry of Justice adopted a new Strategy for Reforms of the Judiciary 2018 – 2022 which aimed to address the systemic shortcomings of the rule of law in the country. One of the measures included in the strategy was adoption of new Law on Free Legal Aid.
 Constitution of Republic of North Macedonia (Устав на Република Северна Македонија), Article 12 paragraph 3.
 Ibid. Article 53.
 Law on Justice for Children (Закон за правда за децата), No. 148/2013.
 As stated in Art. 75 par. 3 from the Law on Criminal Procedure and Art. 4 par. 5 from the Law on Free Legal Aid.
 The state budget adopted by the legislator distribute the budget costs only to a level of general heading (Ex. Contractual services 425). The further allocation of the budget is left to the budget beneficiary to distribute the funds accordingly.
 Law on Budgets (Закон за буџетите), Official gazette No. 64/05.
 Law on Court Budget (Закон за судски буџет), Official gazette No. 60/2003.
 Law on Justice for Children (Закон за правда на децата), No. 148/2013.
 Law on Free Legal Aid (Закон за бесплатна правна помош), No. 101/1019. Article 29.
 Ibid. Article 10 par.1.
 Ibid. Article 10 par. 4.
 Law on Administrative Servants (Закон за административни службеници), Official Gazette No. 27/2014.
 Kalajdzhiev G., Stojanovski V, Bozhinovski A. Analysis on strengthening the potential for compulsory defense in the criminal procedure. Available at: https://www.akademik.mk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Kalajdziev-i-dr..pdf
 Rulebook on the costs in criminal procedure, Official Gazette No. 131/2012. Art. 28.
 Law on Criminal Procedure, Article 103.
 Law on Free Legal Aid, Article 34.
 Supreme Court of RNM. Rulebook on the amount and the mean for determining the costs in criminal procedure. Official Gazette No. 131/2012. Article 28.
 Kalajdzhiev G., Stojanovski V, Bozhinovski A. Analysis on strengthening the potential for compulsory defense in the criminal procedure. P. 6.
 Law on Free Legal Aid. Official Gazette No. 161/09. Art. 36 par. 1.
 Law on Free Legal Aid, Art. 41.
 Macedonian Bar Association. Rulebook on Disciplinary Liability (Правилник за дисциплинска одговорност).
 Laid down in Article 74 from the Law on Criminal Procedure.
 Article 75 from the Law on Criminal Procedure.
 Comment on the Law on Criminal Procedure. OSCE. Skopje, 2018. p.207
 Law on Enforcement of Sanctions (Закон за извршување на санкциите). Official Gazette, No. 99/2019. Articles 206 – 215.
 Law on Criminal Procedure, Articles 53 and 55.
 Law on Criminal Procedure, Article 232 paragraphs 1 and 2.
 Article 107 par. 1 Law on Criminal Procedure.
 Article 415 from the Law on Criminal Procedure.
 Article 75 paragraph 2 from the Law on Criminal Procedure.
 Articles 440 to 445 from the Law on Criminal Procedure.
 Article 75 par.1 from the Law on Criminal Procedure.
 Source: Information provided by the courts and the Judicial council of RNM. Note: Data for the previous years was not possible to be obtained since not all courts process this type of data.
 Free Legal Aid (Закон за бесплатна правна помош). Official Gazette No. 101/2019. Art. 14 par. 1.
 Law on Prevention and Protection from Domestic Violence (Закон за превенција, спречување и заштита од семејно насилство). Official Gazette No. 138/2014.
 Law on International and Temporary Protection (Закон за меѓународна и привремена заштита). Official Gazette No. 64/2018.
 Legal aid is not allowed for the following cases: Customs and tax affairs; libel and insult; compensation for intangible damage, except for victims of crime, as well as death or severe disability, in accordance with the provisions of the Law on Obligations; misdemeanours; public and utility services stipulated in the Law on Consumer Protection and the Law on Utilities and property issues in an administrative procedure.
 Law on Free Legal Aid, Art. 15.
 Ibid. Art. 18.
 Starting from December 2019 and the amends to the Law on Minimal Wage (Закон за минимална плата), Official Gazette No. 239/2019, the minimal monthly net salary in the country is 14.500 MKD (272,86$).
 Calculate using the median currency rate established by the National Bank of RNM.
 A four-person household (2 adults and 2 children aged less than 14) is considered at-risk-of-poverty if their annual income is 203.700 MKD. Source: State Statistical Office. Laeken poverty indicators in 2018. Skopje, 2019.
 Law on Free Legal Aid, Article 19.
 Law on Free Legal Aid, Art. 20.
 Ibid. Art. 21.
 Law on Free Legal Aid, Art. 13. Par. 8.
 Law on Free Legal Aid, Art. 27 and 28.
 Law on Free Legal Aid, Art. 23.
 Law on Free Legal Aid, Art. 24.
 Law on Free Legal Aid, Art. 30.
 Rulebook on the procedure for appointing an attorney, Official Gazette No. 199/2019.
 Law on Court Fees (Закон за судски такси), Official Gazette 114/2009.
 Ibid. Article 2.
 Ibid. Article 6 paragraph 1.
 Supra note. Law on Litigation Procedure. Article 146 paragraphs 2 and 3.
 Supra note 19. Article 18. (Ex. For certain type of non-monetary claims where the value of the case is not possible to be calculated such as: matrimonial disputes, parental rights disputes, hindering of possession, real or personal servitude/easement etc. the Law on Court Fees presumes their value accordingly so a court fee may be calculated)
 The maximal amount of court fee per specific procedural action may be 48.000 MKD.
 Supra note 19. Articles 10 – 17.
 Supra note 19. Article 13 paragraph 1.
 Supra note 19. Article 13 paragraph 3.
 Pursuant to Law on Litigation Procedure, articles 368 – 371.
 Supra note 19. Article 14 paragraph 2.
 Law on Litigation Procedure, Article 168 paragraph 4.
 Ibid. Article 148 paragraph 1.
 Law on Litigation Procedure. Art. 186 par. 1.
 Law on Prevention and Protection from Discrimination (Закон за спречување и заштита од дискриминација). Official Gazette No. 101/2019. Article 35.
 Law on Attorneyship, Art.5 and Art.30 par. 3.
 Code on Professional Ethics of Attorneys, Associate Legal Professionals and Trainees-at-law of the Bar Association of Republic of Macedonia (Kодекс за професионалната етика на адвокатите, aдвокатските стручни соработници, и адвокатските приправници на Aдвокатската комора на Република Македонија).
 Ibid. Articles 12 and 13.
 Ibid. Articles 19 – 33.
 Ibid. Articles 34 – 39.
 Ibid. Article 40.
 Martinova, Kocevski, Smilevska. Legal Education in Macedonia in the period between 2003 – 2013 – Assessment of the reforms that (did not) improved legal education. Macedonian Young Lawyers Association. Skopje, 2014.
 Law Amending the Law on Attorneyship No. 60/2006.
 Constitutional Court of RM, Decision No. 31/2007.
 Statute of the Bar Association of Republic of North Macedonia (Статут на Адвокатската комора на Република Северна Македонија), Article 57.
 Law on Attorneyship, Article 6 paragraph 1.
 Supra. Note 43. Article 56 paragraph 2.
 Law on Attorneyship, Article 11 paragraph 1.
 Code on Professional Ethics of Attorneys. Section 2, paragraph 1.
 Ibid. Section 2, paragraph 8.
 Goce Kocevski, Pavlina Zefikj & Svetlana Crvenkovska: Report on Opportunities and Perspectives of Pro Bono Legal Aid in the Republic of Macedonia. Macedonian Young Lawyers Association. September 2018.
 State Statistical Office. News release – Usage of information and communication technologies in households and by individuals, 2019. No: 220.127.116.11. October 2019.
 State Statistical Office. Statistical Yearbook of the Republic of North Macedonia, 2019 Section: Transport, tourism and other services. October 2019. P. 96.
 Agency for Electronic Communications. Research on public opinion with regards to the market for electronic communications in Republic of Macedonia. June 2017. p. 8.
 Agency for Electronic Communications. Report on the development of the electronic communications market in the 1st quartal of 2019. P. 34.
 Ministry on Administration and Information Society. Strategy for reform of the public administration 2018 – 2022. Skopje 2018.
 Korunovska S.J, Korunovska N. Maleska T. Legal Needs and Path to Justice in the Republic of Macedonia. Foundation Open Society – Macedonia. 2013.
 For more information please refer to Section 12.