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Access to justice is still all too often a luxury

"Equal treatment in access to justice has to become a reality and Council of Europe member States need to remove existing obstacles and ensure that their citizens have equal access to justice, irrespective of their wealth or status.," said the members of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination meeting in Paris today.

The Committee unanimously adopted a report by Viorel Riceard Badea (Romania, EPP/CD) and pointed out that access to justice was a precondition for the rule of law and a means of ensuring that societies were inclusive and equal.

"Access to justice is all too often a luxury in today’s Europe. Some groups, including women, people belonging to national minorities, LGBTs, people with disabilities and migrants encounter barriers in access to justice. The situation is particularly worrying because these same groups are also more likely to be targeted by direct or indirect discrimination, and sometimes by crime. Austerity measures are reinforcing the challenge of access to justice, further weakening the situation of persons belonging to the above-mentioned groups but also restricting access across the board, along income criteria. This is particularly evident in countries where reporting or court fees are increasing and in those where legal aid schemes are being cut,” the rapporteur warned.

The report will be debated by the PACE at a forthcoming session.