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At a ceremony in Kutaisi today, Mr. Irakli Kobakhidze, the Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, Mr. Janos Herman, Ambassador of the European Union to Georgia, and Mr. Meliton Benidze, Director of LAS marked ten years of the Legal Aid Service by congratulating Mr. David Janjgava, the 150,000 recipient of free legal consultation.
The LAS is financially and institutionally independent from the Government, reporting directly to the Parliament. It provides free-of-charge legal services to vulnerable people in Georgia.
The success of Legal Aid Service has been attained in part through the continued assistance of the European Union over the past 10 years.
Mr Janjgava recieved legal assistance at the Kutaisi LAS bureau in settling his status as an IDP from Abhazia. Speaking at the event, Mr. Janjgava expressed his satisfaction with the services provided by LAS and noted that his personal success story that could not have been attained without LAS support. "LAS restored my sense of feeling at home" he stressed.
At the event, Chairman of the Georgian Parliament, Irakli Kobakhidze, stated: “The most important endeavour of LAS is that it strives, foremost, to protect human rights in the country. This means that it largely contributes to the strengthening of rule of law.
Legal Aid Service provided 150,000 consultations during the 10 years of its existence and this fact is an impressive indicator. Special attention, therefore, needs to be paid to its further development. Parliament, which takes the institutional responsibility over Legal Aid Service, will do its maximum to strengthen and support further development of this institution.
· I would express my gratitude to all partners, including international organisation, but my special thanks goes to the European Union for its support andits contribution to the success of the Legal Aid Service in Georgia.”
Ambassador of the European Union, Janos Herman noted that “The EU has been supporting the Legal Aid Service from its very start, working closely with the Government and Parliament to assist both its improvement and expansion. Our goal has always been to ensure that all Georgians, regardless of their socio-economic status have access to high-quality legal consultation and representation. The example of David Janjgava personifies to all of us today that EU assistance has a positive impact on the lives of many Georgians. In essence, this is the ultimate goal of our cooperation. Therefore we look forward to continuing work in this area in the years to come."
Director of LAS, Meliton Benidze, spoke about the achievements of the Legal Aid Service during the last 10 years. “Legal Aid Service is an independent, qualified and client-centred organisation, that is ensuring equal access to justice and the protection of human rights in Georgia. Availability of services provided by Legal Aid Service is increasing and as of today, we provide services through 12 bureaus and 7 consultation centres throughout Georgia. We also offer online consultations via our website and Facebook pages, as well as through a hotline number.” Mr. Benidze also expressing his gratitude to the State of Georgia for financing the services of LAS and to the European Union for supporting the organisation in the last 10 years.
The event in Kutaisi also presented a national public awareness campaign that will – through five personal stories – present what LAS services are available to Georgians. Billboards and posters will be placed on Tbilisi Metro and buses and regional ‘LAS Consultation Day’ events will take place across Georgia in the week of 4 December. Two so-called ‘mobile consultations’ will take place with the minority Azeri and Armenian communities.
Photos from the event can be found here.
About Legal Aid Service (LAS)
Since 2007, the Legal Aid Service provides free legal counselling, drafting of legal documents and court representation by qualified defence attorneys. Legal counselling is available for anyone; drafting of legal documents can be requested only by the vulnerable groups. Free legal aid service is provided to those eligible to mandatory defence and also to vulnerable groups through LAS bureaus, consultation centres and a pool of invited pro bono lawyers.
Free Legal Aid provides services such as:
Legal Aid Service is an autonomous entity accountable to the Parliament of Georgia. In the past 10 years, LAS has achieved:
Since 2007, EU has been supporting LAS in capacity building and improvement of its services through budgetary funding (to the tune of more than 12 million GEL). In addition, EU has, though its projects and joint programmes with partner international organisations such as UNDP, been committed to providing technical assistance and development of professional capabilities of Legal Aid Service employees.
With the help of the EU, free legal aid to vulnerable groups has been made possible, which facilitates equal and fair access of any citizen to the justice system.
About EU support to justice reform in Georgia
Support to the Justice system is a key priority for the EU in Georgia. Since 2007, the EU has allocated up to 300 million GEL. The EU works through partners such as the United Nations, Council of Europe, GIZ, and NGOs, as well as providing budget support to the Georgian government in exchange for achieving commonly agreed benchmarks. EU support focuses on the following areas: 1) ensuring access to justice; (2) development of child-friendly justice, (3) criminal justice, investigation and prosecution, (4) penitentiary and probation, and (5) land registration.
About LAS public awareness campaign
In order to highlight the services available to the citizens of Georgia and make people aware of LAS, a special public awareness campaign has been designed, which will roll out in the course of December.
Highlighting personal testimonies of five LAS beneficiaries, billboards and posters will be placed on Tbilisi Metro and buses. All of them have received assistance from LAS in areas such as family law, land registry, reimbursement of damage caused by offence, social compensation, IDP status and others.
The beneficiaries that have been featured in the campaign include:
Davit, an IDP from Abkhazia who now lives in Kutaisi: He used LAS services to settle his housing and get the shelter for his family. About the services he received he said: “LAS restored my sense of feeling at home”.
Imeda, from Tbilisi, who is a socially vulnerable person, used LAS services to get social allowance based on his personal circumstances. About the services he got from LAS, he said: “LAS helped me preserve my source of existence.”
Sema, who lives in the village of Sethuri, Mtskheta, used LAS land registry service to register her property, which she did not manage for years. About the services she received from LAS, she said: “LAS saved me from loosing my property.”
Shakro, inhabitant of Rustavi, used local LAS bureau to get support for reimbursement for the damages caused by an offense. About the services he received, he said: “LAS served as a ‘magic wand for me, which solved my problems in a quite short period of time.”
Karaman, who has been taking care of his grandchildren for years, used LAS to support him in becoming the guardian for his two grandchildren, who are minors. About the services he got from LAS, he said: “LAS helped me to restore my rights of taking care of my grandkids.”
In the week of 4 December, five LAS bureaux across Georgia will organise press conferences to highlight their achievements and the successes of local beneficiaries. The press conferences will take place in the following regions:
In addition, two so-called “mobile consultations” will take place with the Azeri and Armenian minority communities. LAS lawyers will visit the communities of Kvemo Kartli and Akhaltsikhe on 8 December.
For further information, please contact:
Legal Aid Service
Nino Chutkerashvili, PR Manager
Mob: 577 400 675
Tamar Shavdia, Justice campaign co-ordinator
Mob: 577 991 991