UN rights expert urges greater access to justice in Portugal

UN rights expert urges greater access to justice in Portugal

[JURIST] The UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on Tuesday urged [press release] Portuguese authorities to increase efforts to ensure a wider access to the country’s judicial system. Special Rapporteur Gabriela Knaul said that greater accessibility to legal aid is necessary amid the continued growth of poverty within the country. Knaul noted that many citizens within Portugal do not qualify for legal services, and those who are turned away need it the most. Knaul said that “[t]here must be a continuous dialogue between the government, judges, prosecutors, lawyers and representatives of civil society to ensure that the reforms bring the desired changes and increase the effectiveness of the justice system.”

Portugal is one of many European states struggling to recover from financial crisis of 2008. In 2013 the Constitutional Court struck down [JURIST report] an austerity measure that would have made it easier for the government to lay off civil servants. The revised law applied to government employees deemed redundant and that had been unemployed for more than 12 months. Also in 2013 the Constitutional Court ruled [JURIST report] that four out of nine contested austerity measures of the 2013 state budget were unconstitutional. The court’s decision came in response to the request of Portugal’s President Anibal Cavaco Silva [official website] for the court to determine whether retirees and public workers were being treated unfairly under the terms of the country’s constitution. Inthe same year the European Court of Justice [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the eurozone’s permanent bailout fund, the ESM, is in line with European law.