Legal Aid Worldwide (LAW) Blog


Dmitry Shabelnikov Director for Russia

With this blog, I will try to follow the most important and interesting developments and share them with you in the hope that it will help the existing global movement for increasing access to legal aid in order to further mobilize and gain an even stronger voice both internationally and within particular countries.

Dmitry Shabelnikov oversees PILnet's Moscow office and is responsible for PILnet's work in Russia. Since 2004, supporting legal aid reform there has been his major field of work, including analyzing legal aid system design internationally and presenting this analysis to the Russian audience. The level of awareness of Russian stakeholders in this area has grown significantly, and culminated in the development of a new civil legal aid law in Russia and establishment of a number of local legal aid programs. Since 2009, Shabelnikov has also been responsible for coordinating PILnet’s legal aid strategy globally.  Read full bio

  • Thursday, 02 February 2012

    Legal Empowerment and International Development

    By Dmitry Shabelnikov
    Stephen Golub coined the term "legal empowerment" back in 2001 and has been the key promoter of the concept since then. A renowned scholar and international expert in the field of justice and rule of law, he has been a long-time PILnet partner. Read more

  • Tuesday, 20 December 2011

    Russian Legal Aid Bill Signed into Law

    By Dmitry Shabelnikov
    On 23 November 2011, Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev, signed into law a bill entitled On Legal Aid in the Russian Federation, which had been in the works for about two years. The law concerns civil legal aid only, with criminal legal aid traditionally administered by the Russian bar. Read more

  • Friday, 14 October 2011

    Ohrid Free Legal Aid Initiative Meets in Albania

    By Dmitry Shabelnikov
    On October 11th and 12th, I attended the 3rd annual meeting of the Ohrid Free Legal Aid Initiative held in Durres, Albania. The Initiative, named after the Macedonian city where it was founded, is a regional forum of NGO legal aid organizations formed to promote free legal aid in the Western Balkans. Read more

  • Wednesday, 13 July 2011

    Legal Aid Reformers' Network Launches a New Website

    By Dmitry Shabelnikov
    Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), national Open Society Foundations and legal aid institutions from Bulgaria, Georgia, Lithuania, Moldova, Mongolia and Ukraine have recently launched a website to share news, information, concerns and resources. It seems like the site is currently focused more on criminal legal aid, at least as far as news are concerned, but the website is open to anyone willing to share information and resources, so further content will be supplied by users. In terms of resources, I was particularly impressed with a well organized selection of national legal aid legislation and useful "tools for managers, practitioners and researchers". Read more

  • Wednesday, 06 July 2011

    Russian Legal Aid Bill Introduced to the Duma

    By Dmitry Shabelnikov
    In late June, President Medvedev introduced a draft law On Free Legal Aid in the Russian Federation to the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament. The proposed law concerns civil legal aid only (criminal legal aid is traditionally regulated by the Criminal Procedure Code). As expected, the introduced version is almost identical to the draft prepared in 2010 by the Ministry of Justice, instructed to do so by the President. Read more

  • Friday, 18 March 2011

    Civil Legal Aid Reform in Russia

    By Dmitry Shabelnikov
    A couple of weeks ago I was invited to attend a meeting at the Russian Ministry of Justice, which brought together directors of so called "state legal bureaus" on the occasion of five years of their operations. Here is some background on these organizations: in 2005, the then Minister of Justice went to Finland for an official visit and was very much impressed with the Finnish legal aid system, which relies primarily on staff lawyers model, although legal aid centers also refer a lot of cases to private lawyers. After he came back, the government decided to experiment with a similar system in ten out of more than eighty Russian regions, initially allocating very modest funding for one year, which was then prolonged every year until 2010. Read more

  • Rule of Law Index 2010

    Tuesday, 22 February 2011

    Rule of Law Index 2010

    By Administrator
    World Justice Project, an organization with the mission to “lead a global, multidisciplinary effort to strengthen the rule of law for the development of communities of opportunity and equity”, recently published its third “Rule of Law Index”  – an empirical study aiming to measure rule of law in various countries, using a set of 10 factors (further divided into 49 sub-factors) comprising, from the project’s point of view, rule of law. The methodology is based on surveying a sample of urban population and interviews with experts in each country. The third index covers 35 countries (the 2011 Index will cover 70). Read more

  • Tuesday, 15 February 2011

    CCBE Recommendations on Legal Aid

    By Administrator
    In late November 2010, the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), “the representative organization of around 1 million European lawyers,” presented to EU bodies its Recommendations on Legal Aid. Read more

  • Tuesday, 08 February 2011

    Legal Aid: More Than Right, More Than Law

    By Administrator
    When I was hired by PILnet in 2004 to manage its Russia program – when all I had to manage was myself and a work station in my bedroom – the first project we had was promoting legal aid reforms in the country. When I tried talking about that issue with all kinds of people – NGO lawyers, private lawyers, journalists, bloggers, my friends and acquaintances – most of them would quickly ask, "Why legal aid? OK, you work for a non-profit, they do all sorts of weird projects, but don't we have much more serious problems – corruption, politically influenced courts, overcrowded prisons, police abuse...and so on?" Read more