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Legal Aid in Europe: Minimum Requirements Under International Law

By: Open Society Justice Initiative

Every person accused of a crime has the right to be treated fairly by the criminal justice system, regardless of financial circumstances. Yet many countries across Europe fail to provide a fair and accessible system of legal aid—one of the most important tools for ensuring access for all to timely and good quality legal assistance.

This brief focuses on the European Convention on Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. As policy makers consider ways to sustain and improve legal aid systems, this paper provides the relevant current minimum standards at international law. The level of protection on legal aid should never fall below these minimum standards.

The brief also includes a legal aid fact sheet for nine European countries, which can be accessed here.