From 27-30 May a delegation of Russian legal aid experts visited the Netherlands to acquaint themselves with the Dutch legal aid system – one of the most developed legal aid systems in Europe – and to discuss the overall organization, the quality and effectiveness of state legal aid systems.
CILC together with its Russian partner organization PILnet organized a four day programme for directors and specialists of so-called “State Legal Bureaus” from various Russian regions, including Penza, Ulyanovsk, Volgograd and Magadan, representatives of the Russian federal Ministry of Justice and of Russian regional governmental State-Legal departments.
The programme included visits to the Netherlands Ministry of Security and Justice, the Dutch Legal Aid Board (Raad voor Rechtsbijstand) in Utrecht, the headquarters of the Dutch Legal Service Counters (Het Juridisch Loket), also in Utrecht, and a renowned Dutch law firm Schakenraad Advocaten that has a lot of experience in working with referred legal aid cases. The design of the programme allowed participants to look at the Dutch legal aid system from different angles.
The overall structure of the legal aid system, the work processes and workflow supporting systems, quality assurance and effectiveness, and the cooperation between the Judiciary, the legal aid board and lawyers were high on the agenda. This practice-oriented programme led to encouraging discussions on best practices and opened possibilities for future cooperation.
The Dutch legal aid system has been operative for over 50 years and CILC and PILnet believe that despite all differences between the Netherlands and Russia, the newly established Russian legal aid system can draw useful lessons from the Dutch experience. Additionally as this visit has proved, the Dutch system can benefit from the recent experiences that Russian legal aid providers have gained. CILC and its experts hope to remain a source of inspiration for the Russian colleagues.
This study visit was part of a broader bilateral Dutch-Russian project Implementing the civil legal aid system in Russia. This project that now has come to an end was funded by the Matra Programme of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.