An ombudsman or public advocate is usually appointed by the government or by parliament, but with a significant degree of independence, who is charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or violation of rights. In some countries an Inspector General, Citizen Advocate or other official may have duties similar to those of a national ombudsman, and may also be appointed by the legislature. Below the national level an ombudsman may be appointed by a state, local or municipal government, and unofficial ombudsmen may be appointed by, or even work for, a corporation such as a utility supplier or a newspaper, for an NGO, or for a professional regulatory body.
Whether appointed by the legislature, the executive, or an organization (or, less frequently, elected by the constituency that he or she serves), the typical duties of an ombudsman are to investigate complaints and attempt to resolve them, usually through recommendations (binding or not) or mediation. Ombudsmen sometimes also aim to identify systemic issues leading to poor service or breaches of people's rights. At the national level, most ombudsmen have a wide mandate to deal with the entire public sector, and sometimes also elements of the private sector (for example, contracted service providers). In some cases, there is a more restricted mandate, for example with particular sectors of society. More recent developments have included the creation of specialized Children's Ombudsman and Information Commissioner agencies.
In some jurisdictions an ombudsman charged with handling concerns about national government is more formally referred to as the "Parliamentary Commissioner" (e.g. the United Kingdom Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, and the Western Australian state Ombudsman). In many countries where the ombudsman's remit extends beyond dealing with alleged maladministration to promoting and protecting human rights, the ombudsman is recognized as the national human rights institution. The post of ombudsman had by the end of the 20th century been instituted by most governments and by some intergovernmental organizations such as the European Union.
Making a complaint to an ombudsman is usually free of charge.
A prototype of ombudsmen may have flourished in China during the Qin Dynasty (221 BC), and in Korea during the Joseon Dynasty. The position of Secret royal inspector, or Amhaeng-eosa (암행어사, 暗行御史) was unique to the Joseon Dynasty, where an undercover official directly appointed by the king was sent to local provinces to monitor government officials and look after the populace while travelling incognito. The Roman Tribune had some similar roles, with power to veto acts that infringed upon the Plebeians. Another precursor to the ombudsman was the Turkish Diwan-al-Mazalim which appears to go back to the second Caliph, Umar (634–644) and the concept of Qadi al-Qadat.
An indigenous Swedish, Danish and Norwegian term, Ombudsman is etymologically rooted in the Old Norse word umboðsmaðr, essentially meaning "representative" (with the word umbud/ombud meaning proxy, attorney, that is someone who is authorized to act for someone else, a meaning it still has in the Scandinavian languages). The first preserved use is in Sweden. In the Danish Law of Jutland from 1241, the term is umbozman and means a royal civil servant in a hundred. From 1552, it is also used in the other Scandinavian languages such as the both Icelandic and Faroeseumboðsmaður, the Norwegianombudsmann and the Danishombudsmand. The Swedish speaking minority in Finland uses the Swedish terminology.
The modern use of the term began in Sweden, with the Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman instituted by the Instrument of Government of 1809, to safeguard the rights of citizens by establishing a supervisory agency independent of the executive branch. The predecessor of the Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman was the Office of Supreme Ombudsman ("Högste Ombudsmannen"), which was established by the Swedish King, Charles XII, in 1713. Charles XII was in exile in Turkey and needed a representative in Sweden to ensure that judges and civil servants acted in accordance with the laws and with their duties. If they did not do so, the Supreme Ombudsman had the right to prosecute them for negligence. In 1719 the Swedish Office of Supreme Ombudsman became the Chancellor of Justice. The Parliamentary Ombudsman was established in 1809 by the Swedish Riksdag, as a parallel institution to the still-present Chancellor of Justice, reflecting the concept of separation of powers as developed by Montesquieu.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman is the institution that the Scandinavian countries subsequently developed into its contemporary form, and which subsequently has been adopted in many other parts of the world. The word ombudsman and its specific meaning have since been adopted in various languages, including Spanish, Dutch and Czech. The German language uses Ombudsmann, Ombudsfrau and Ombudsleute. Notable exceptions are French and Finnish, that use translations instead. Modern variations of this term include "ombud", "ombuds", "ombudsperson", or "ombudswoman", and the conventional English plural is ombudsmen.
In general, an ombudsman is a state official appointed to provide a check on government activity in the interests of the citizen, and to oversee the investigation of complaints of improper government activity against the citizen. If the ombudsman finds a complaint to be substantiated, the problem may get rectified, or an ombudsman report is published making recommendations for change. Further redress depends on the laws of the country concerned, but this typically involves financial compensation. Ombudsmen in most countries do not have the power to initiate legal proceedings or prosecution on the grounds of a complaint. This role is sometimes referred to as a "tribunitian" role, and has been traditionally fulfilled by elected representatives – the term refers to the ancient Roman "tribunes of the plebeians" (tribuni plebis), whose role was to intercede in the political process on behalf of common citizens.
The major advantage of an ombudsman is that he or she examines complaints from outside the offending state institution, thus avoiding the conflicts of interest inherent in self-policing. However, the ombudsman system relies heavily on the selection of an appropriate individual for the office, and on the cooperation of at least some effective official from within the apparatus of the state.
Many private companies, universities, non-profit organisations and government agencies also have an ombudsman (or an ombuds office) to serve internal employees, and managers and/or other constituencies. These ombudsman roles are structured to function independently, by reporting to the CEO or board of directors, and according to International Ombudsman Association (IOA) Standards of Practice they do not have any other role in the organisation. Organisational ombudsmen often receive more complaints than alternative procedures such as anonymous hot-lines.
Since the 1960s, the profession has grown in the United States, and Canada, particularly in corporations, universities and government agencies. The organizational ombudsman works as a designated neutral party, one who is high-ranking in an organization, but who is not part of executive management. Using an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) or appropriate dispute resolution approach, an organisational ombudsman can provide options to whistleblowers or employees and managers with ethical concerns; provide coaching, shuttle diplomacy, generic solutions (meaning a solution which protects the identity of one individual by applying to a class of people, rather than just for the one individual) and mediation for conflicts; track problem areas; and make recommendations for changes to policies or procedures in support of orderly systems change.
Ombudsman services by country
The People's Advocate (Ombudsman) of the Republic of Albania (Albanian: Avokati i Popullit) was envisaged in Chapter VI of the Albanian Constitution approved in November 1998 (articles 60–63 and 134). Article 60 states that "The People’s Advocate defends the rights, freedoms and lawful interests of individuals from unlawful or improper actions or failures to act of the organs of public administration." The Parliament passed the Law on the People’s Advocate, Law No. 8454, in February 1999. The People’s Advocate is elected by three-fifths of all members of the Assembly for a five-year period, with the right of re-election. The Law has since been amended by Law No. 8600, of 10 April 2000, and Law No. 9398, of 12 May 2005.
The current Ombudsman is Igli Totozani, elected on 23 December 2011, succeeding Dr Emir Dobjani who had served since February 2000.
The Defensor del Pueblo de la Nación Argentina (The People's Defender of The Nation of Argentina), established in Article 86 of the Constitution, is an independent body related to the Argentine National Congress with functional autonomy, as it does not receive instructions from any authority and enjoys same immunities and privileges as a legislator.
The principal functions are, first, the defense of human rights and other rights, guarantees and interests protected by the Constitution, to acts or omissions of public administration, and secondly, the control of public administrative functions. The Defender is elected by the vote of 2/3 of the members present in each branch of Congress for a period of five years and may be reappointed.
The office of Human Rights Defender, or Ombudsman, of the Republic of Armenia was created by law in October 2003. The official website describes the goal of the office as the protection and restoration of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It receives complaints against state and local officials. In February 2004 Larisa Alaverdyan was appointed to the office by presidential decree. The second ombudsman was Armen Harutyunyan, who was elected by the National Assembly under article 83.1 of the Constitution on 17 February 2006, obtaining more than 3/5 votes of deputies, for what was intended to be a six-year term commencing on 20 February. The 2003 law governing the office was amended later in 2006, 2008 and 2010.
The current Human Rights Defender, Karen Andreasyan, was elected by the National Assembly on 2 March 2011, with 83 votes in favour to 13 against. A lawyer, journalist and broadcaster, he has worked with several human rights non-governmental organisations.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman in Australia was established in 1976. The Ombudsman can investigate complaints about the actions and decisions of Australian Government departments and agencies, the services delivered by most private contractors for the Australian Government, and oversee complaint investigations conducted by the Australian Federal Police.
There are also ombudsman agencies in each state, a number of industry based ombudsmen, children's commissioners and many other complaint-handling and review agencies, as detailed in the main article.
The three-member Ombudsman Board (German: Volksanwaltschaft, literally People's Representative) was created in 1977 as an independent authority monitoring Austria’s entire public administration. It checks the legality of decisions by authorities and examines possible cases of maladministration. The members are appointed by parliament for six-year terms.
Under the Ombudsman Act 1980, the Ombudsman of Barbados is appointed by the Governor-General with the approval of both houses of the legislature. The current Ombudsman of Barbados is Valton Bend, a former Magistrate.
There is no ombudsman or national human rights institution in Belarus.
Belgium has one federal and four regional statutory ombudsman agencies, all covering the normal range of complaint-handling, investigation and mediation within the respective jurisdictions of their founding legislature.
The office dealing with complaints against the federal authorities is the Federal Ombudsman (Dutch: de federale Ombudsman, French: le Médiateur fédéral, German: der föderale Ombudsmann). The office was established in 1997.
The Walloon Ombudsman (Médiateur de la Région Wallonne), established by decree of the Walloon Parliament of 22 December 1994, seeks to help any person, natural or legal, who is experiencing difficulties with the Walloon regional authorities to arrive at a solution without litigation.
The French Community Ombudsman (Médiateur de la Communauté française), created by the Parliament of the French Community by decree of 20 June 2002, is responsible for handling complaints of citizens who encounter a problem with any administrative unit of the French Community. Its mission is to promote dialogue between the citizen and the administration concerned.
In the smallest linguistic region, the Ombudsman of the German-Speaking Community (Ombudsmann der Deutchsprachigen Gemeinschaft) was created by decree of 26 May 2009. This requires the Ombudsman to mediate between citizens and administrative authorities and seek alternative way to resolve conflicts, to settle disputes and, in some cases, to avoid litigation. In its plenary session of 17 May 2010, the Parliament of the German-speaking Community appointed Cedric Langer for a term of six years as the first Ombudsman.
Belgium also has separate children's commissioners for the French and Flemish communities. There is a Pensions Ombudsman service (Ombudsdienst Pensioenen, Service de médiation Pensions, Ombudsmann für Pensionen) at the federal level.
The Office of the Ombudsman for Bermuda was established by the Bermuda Constitution and is governed by the Ombudsman Act 2004. The first National Ombudsman for Bermuda, Arlene Brock, was appointed on 1 August 2005 by the Governor after consultation with the Premier who first consulted with the Opposition Leader. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about the administrative actions of Public Authorities, including Government Departments, Boards and Bodies established or funded by the Legislature.
In Brazil the nearest equivalent to the office of ombudsman is the Procuradoria Federal dos Direitos do Cidadão, part of Public Ministry of Brazil, which is independent. Government agencies have Hearing Officer (Portuguese: Ouvidor), usually heading a service called Ouvidoria, and each government agency defines its own service. These Hearing Officer usually lack full independence. Examples of public service ombudsmen are the Ouvidoria da Polícia do Estado de São Paulo — São Paulo State Police Ombudsman — and the Ouvidoria da Secretaria de Defesa Social do Estado do Rio Grande do Norte — Ombudsman of the Social Security Ministry of the State of Rio Grande do Norte.
The Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria (Bulgarian: Омбудсман на Република България) is the national human rights institution, in addition to the normal range of functions in relation to maladministration. The institution was created as the 'Citizen's Defender' (Граждански защитник) in 1998 but the first Ombudsman was elected in April 2005. Since October 2010 the office has been held by Konstantin Penchev, formerly Chair of Supreme Administrative Court. There are also regional ombudsmen (Citizen's Mediators, Граждански посредници) in most parts of the country.
In Canada, ombudsman offices are present in most departments of the federal government, in many provincial and municipal governments as well as in Crown Corporations such as CBC and Canada Post. There is an Ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces, an Office of the Procurement Ombudsman, an Office for the Ombudsman for the Victims of Crimes, an Office of the Taxpayers Ombudsman and an Office of the Veterans Ombudsman.
While Canada has no single national legislative ombudsman, nine Canadian provinces and one territory have parliamentary ombudsmen (sometimes called "citizens' protector" or "citizens' representative") in the classical/legislative tradition, who oversee the provincial government and receive and investigate public complaints. They are:
Alberta Ombudsman, established 1967;
Office of the Ombudsperson, British Columbia;
Ombudsman Manitoba, established 1970;
New Brunswick Ombudsman's Office, established 1967;
Citizens' Representative of Newfoundland and Labrador;
Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman, established 1970;
Quebec Ombudsman (French: Le Protecteur du citoyen), established 1968;
Ombudsman Saskatchewan, established 1972; and
Office of the Yukon Ombudsman and Information & Privacy Commissioner.
Chile remains in 2012 the only country in South America without a national ombudsman office, although one was envisaged in a constitutional reform proposed in the Senate by the President in 2000. Indeed, Chile is not listed as having an ombudsman on the website of the Ibero-American Federation of Ombudsmen. There exists, however, a 'Capítulo Chileno del Ombudsman', or 'Chilean Ombudsman Chapter', an organisation lobbying for the introduction of a national ombudsman.
Some other public bodies, such as the National Institute of Human Rights (Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos) or the Transparency Council (Consejo para la Transparencia), have quasi-ombudsman functions, in that their statutes allow them to appeal to the legislature and judiciary for protection and development of fundamental rights. However, unlike many other ombudsman agencies, they do not have constitutional status, but were created by ordinary statutes.
The ombudsman office in Costa Rica, which is also the national human rights institution, is unique in bearing the name Defender of the Inhabitants (Spanish: Defensoria de los Habitantes). In 1993 it absorbed a former children's ombudsman office.
The People's Rights Defender (Croatian: Pučki pravobranitelj) is the ombudsman of Croatia.
The Commissioner for Administration (Greek: Γραφείο Επιτρόπου Διοικήσεως), usually referred to as the Ombudsman, is an Independent Authority in Cyprus and was established οn 15 March 1991. The office is currently held by Eliza Savvidou.
The Public Defender of Rights (Czech: Veřejný ochránce práv) of the Czech Republic is more frequently referred to simply as ombudsman. The office was established in 1999. It has the traditional ombudsman role of mediating between complainants and officials in public bodies, but has no direct means or mechanisms of enforcement. Should the relevant body fail to provide a remedy, the ombudsman may refer the matter to the government. Following the death in office of the first ever Czech ombudsman, Otakar Motejl, in May 2010, former Constitutional Court judge Pavel Varvařovský was elected to the office by the lower house of parliament in September 2010.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman (Danish: Folketingets Ombudsmand) was established in Denmark in 1955 to investigate complaints brought by an individual or ex officio in all matters relating to public governance, including maladministration by central or local authorities, on a case-by-case basis and on a general scale. The ombudsman's main areas of expertise include administrative law; constitutional law; the rights of inmates in correction facilities; and access to information. The ombudsman is appointed by the Parliament of Denmark.
The Consumer Ombudsman (Forbrugerombudsmanden) was established in 1974 to ensure that the consumer protection and marketing rules are complied with by private undertakings. The ombudsman can ultimately institute legal proceedings before the Copenhagen Maritime and Commercial Court.
The highest representative of the Danish government in Greenland is called the Royal Ombudsman (Rigsombudsmanden) since 1979.
In February 2011 the Danish government turned down a request from a United Nations committee to create the position of Ombudsman for Children (Børneombudsmand).
In Ecuador, the officer known as People's Defender (Spanish: Defensor del Pueblo) performs the functions of an ombudsman.
The country of El Salvador has a Human Rights Procurator, also referred to as ombudsman (Spanish: Procurador para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos).
The Chancellor of Justice (Estonian: Õiguskantsler) of Estonia is an independent supervisor of the basic principles of the Constitution of Estonia and the protector of individual rights. The function of ombudsman was entrusted to the Chancellor of Justice in 1999. The Chancellor of Justice monitors whether state agencies comply with people’s fundamental rights and freedoms and with the principles of good governance. In 2004 the ombudsman functions expanded to cover local governments, legal persons in public law and private persons who exercise public functions.
The European Ombudsman was established by the Maastricht treaty, the treaty establishing the European Union. The current European Ombudsman, holding office since April 1, 2003, is Nikiforos Diamandouros, former national ombudsman of Greece. The European Union Ombudsman investigates claims by individuals or companies which reside or have their interests within the European Union against incidents of bad administration by bodies or institutions of the European Union.
In Finland the office of Parliamentary Ombudsman (Finnish: Eduskunnan oikeusasiamies, Swedish: Riksdagens justitieombudsman), modelled after the Swedish Ombudsman, was established by the Constitution of 1919. The Ombudsman is appointed by Parliament, and has the task of ensuring that all government departments and officials follow the law. The Parliamentary Ombudsman shares many duties with the Chancellor of Justice. The Ombudsman has wide-ranging oversight and investigative powers, has access to all government facilities, documents and information systems and can order a police investigation if necessary. If the Ombudsman determines that a government official has not acted in accordance with the law she or he can advise on the proper application of the law, reprimand the official or in extreme cases order a criminal prosecution. Partly because of the prosecutorial powers, the office enjoys considerable respect and the Ombudsman's legal opinions are usually strictly followed, carrying a lot of weight in the absence of a court precedent.
There are also special ombudsmen for gender equality (Tasa-arvovaltuutettu/Jämställdhetsombudman), children's welfare (Lapsiasiavaltuutettu/Barnombudsman), rights of ethnic minorities (Vähemmistövaltuutettu/Minoritetsombudsman), data protection, and consumer protection, operating under the auspices of various ministries and other government agencies. Every health care provider in Finland is legally obliged to have a patients' rights ombudsman.
In 1973, the French Government created an office of Ombudsman (French: Médiateur de la République). A reform in May 2011 merged that office with the Children's Ombudsman (Défenseur des enfants), the equality authority (Haute autorité de lutte contre les discriminations et pour l’égalité, HALDE) and the body supervising the conduct of police and other security agencies, the Commission nationale de déontologie de la sécurité (CNDS), creating a new body named the Defender of Rights (Défenseur des droits). In July 2011 Dominique Baudis was appointed to the office by the Council of State on the nomination of the Prime Minister, for a single six-year term.
The Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia (Georgian: სახალხო დამცველის აპარატის) is a national human rights institution. The office was established by Parliament in 1997. The Public Defender is elected for a five-year term by a parliamentary majority, and must follow the Constitution and the law, as well as the universally recognized principles and rules of international law, and international treaties and agreements concluded by Georgia.
The Public Defender supervises the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, investigates violation of human rights and assists in securing redress. The office supervises the activities of national or local public authorities, public officials and legal persons, evaluates all acts passed by them and gives recommendations and proposals. The office also conducts human rights education. The current Public Defender, George Tugushi, was elected in 2009. His mandate expires in 2014.
The nearest equivalent to a federal ombudsman service in Germany is the Parliamentary Petitions Office (German: Petitionsausschuss Deutscher Bundestag), which receives and investigates complaints of maladministration. There are a number of sectoral ombudsmen, including the Ombudsman for the Military (Wehrbeauftragter des Deutschen Bundestages) and the Ombudsman Institution for Public Transport (Schlichtungsstelle für den öffentlichen Personenverkehr e.V., SÖP).
The Gibraltar Public Services Ombudsman is an independent authority whose functions are to investigate complaints received from the general public about acts of maladministration by the Government of Gibraltar and certain public bodies and contractors. The Office of the Ombudsman came into being in April 1999 with the appointment of Henry Pinna as Gibraltar's first Public Services Ombudsman.
The Citizen's Advocate (Ombudsman) of Greece (Greek: Συνήγορος του Πολίτη) was created in 1998 as an Independent Authority. Following the resignation of Professor Georgios Kaminis in September 2010, the duties of the Citizen's Advocate passed to Deputy Ombudsman Kalliopi Spanou. The Advocate is assisted by six Assistant Advocates, who coordinate the activities of the Advocate's office in the six thematic areas in which the office has authority: i) civil rights, ii) social protection, iii) quality of life, iv) state-citizen relationships, v) children's rights, and vi) gender equality.
The Office of the Ombudsman is also the country's human rights institution.
The National Human Rights Commissioner (Spanish: Comisionado Nacional de Derechos Humanos) of Honduras is the ombudsman and human rights institution.
The Office of The Ombudsman, known as the Commission for Administrative Complaints until 1994, is an independent statutory authority, established in 1989 under the Commissioner for Administrative Complaints Ordinance 1988, to redress grievances arising from maladministration in the public sector through independent and impartial investigations to improve the standard of public administration..
Commissioner for Civil Rights (Állampolgári jogok biztosa)
Privacy Commissioner (Adatvédelmi biztos)
Commissioner for Minority Rights (Kisebbségi jogok biztosa)
Ombudsman for Future Generations (A jövő nemzedékek ombudsmanja, from 2008)
As of 1 January 2012, the four ombudsmen merged into one office of Commissioner for Fundamental Rights (Alapvető jogok biztosa).
The post of Althing Ombudsman (Icelandic: Umboðsmaður Alþingis) was set up in 1987 under the terms of law number 13/1987, which deals with complaints against the government. The ombudsman's authority was expanded to local government levels in the 1997 law number 85/1997. The ombudsman is appointed for a four-year term by the parliament (Althing or Alþingi). The Ombudsman aims to safeguard the rights of the citizens vis-à-vis the State and local authorities, and to promote equality and good administrative practice.
The Government of India has designated several ombudsmen (sometimes called Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO)) for the redress of grievances and complaints from individuals in the banking, insurance and other sectors being serviced by both private and public bodies and corporations. The CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) was set up on the recommendation of the Santhanam Committee (1962–64).
In India, the Ombudsman is known as the Lokpal or Lokayukta. An Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) was set up on 5 January 1966 under the Chairmanship of ShriMorarji Desai. It recommended a two-tier machinery: Lokpal at the Centre (parliamentary commissioner, as in New Zealand) and one Lokayukta each at the State level for redress of people's grievances. However, the jurisdiction of the Lokpal did not extend to the judiciary (as in case of New Zealand). The central Government introduced the first Lokpal Bill, Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill in 1968, and further legislation was introduced in 2005. Final bill, after all the amendments, has been passed in Rajya Sabha on 17 December 2013 and passed in Loksabha on 18 December 2013.
The state-level Lokayukta institution has developed gradually. Orissa was the first state to present a bill on establishment of Lokayukta in 1970, but Maharashtra was the first to establish the institution, in 1972. Other states followed: Bihar (1974), Uttar Pradesh (1977), Madhya Pradesh (1981), Andhra Pradesh (1983), Himachal Pradesh (1983), Karnataka (1984), Assam (1986), Gujarat (1988), Delhi (1995), Punjab (1996), Kerala (1998), Chhattishgarh (2002), Uttaranchal (2002), West Bengal (2003) and Haryana (2004). The structure of the Lokayukta is not uniform across all the states. Some states have UpaLokayukta under the Lokayukta and in some states, the Lokayukta does not have suo moto powers of instigating an enquiry.
Kerala State has an Ombudsman for Local Self Government institutions like Panchayats, Municipalities and Corporations. He can enquire/investigate into allegations of action, inaction, corruption and maladministration. A retired Judge of the High Court is appointed by the Governor for a term of three years, under the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act.
In the State of Rajasthan, the Lokayukta institution was established in 1973 after the Rajasthan Lokayukta and Up-Lokayuktas Act, 1973 was passed by the State Legislature.
There are other ombudsmen established in Ireland. The first Pensions Ombudsman, Paul Kenny, was appointed in 2003. Emily Logan became Ireland’s first Ombudsman for Children in March 2004. The Financial Services Ombudsman incorporated the older offices of the Insurance Ombudsman and Ombudsman for Credit Institutions in 2005. Also established in 2005 was the Office of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces, the first holder being Paulyn Marrinan Quinn, formerly the founding Insurance Ombudsman. An Act of 2005 created a three-person tribunal, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, to investigate complaints about the country's police force. All these offices are statutory and their holders are public servants.
A (non-statutory) Press Ombudsman began work in January 2008 and legislation has been published to establish a Legal Services Ombudsman. The Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill of 2008 provided for the statutory protection of the title of Ombudsman. This was passed as the Ombudsman (Amendment) Act 2012, which increased the number of State agencies under the Ombudsman's remit, and also designated the Ombudsman as Director (Chief Executive) of the Office of the Commission for Public Service Appointments.
The State Comptroller also serves, by law, as Ombudsman. She or he discharges this function by way of a special unit in the Office of the State Comptroller, known as the Office of the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman investigates complaints against bodies that are statutorily subject to audit by the State Comptroller, including government ministries, local authorities, state enterprises and institutions and government companies, as well as their employees.
There is no generic national ombudsman office, but by Law no. 112 of 12 July 2011, an Ombudsman for childhood and adolescence was set up as an independent institute. Many units of sub-national government (regions, provinces and communes) have their own ombudsman (Italian: difensore civico), who are elected by regional, provincial or communal councils.
The Office of the Public Defender was created in 2000 by the Public Defender Act 1999, replacing the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman which had existed since 1978. The Public Defender (currently Earl Witter) has the typical ombudsman function of investigating and remedying maladministration, with additional jurisdiction to investigate alleged violations of constitutional rights.
Japan does not have a national ombudsman, but some prefectures have established similar institutions, and Kawasaki became the first city to do so.
The Commissioner for Human Rights (Kazakh: Адам құқықтары жөніндегі Уәкіл), or National Ombudsman of the Republic of Kazakhstan, is Askar Shakirov, appointed in 2007. The office was created by presidential decree in 2002 as a national human rights institution, with support from the OSCE.
The Commission on Administrative Justice was established by the Commission on Administrative Justice Act 2011(hereafter referred to as the Act) pursuant to Article 59 (4) of the Constitution of Kenya. CAJ is a Commission within the meaning of chapter 15 of the constitution and has the status and powers of a commission under that chapter.
The Ombudsperson Institution in Kosovo (OIK) accepts and investigates complaints of human rights violations or abuses of authority by any public authority in Kosovo. The institution is currently led by Ombudsperson Sami Kurteshi, a former opposition activist, political prisoner and human rights activist, who was elected to the post by the Assembly of Kosovo on 4 June 2009. In October 2011 the Assembly elected five deputy Ombudspersons: Isa Hasani, Bogoljub Staletovic [from the Serb community], Shqipe Malaj-Ibra, Ibrahim Arslan (from the Turkish community) and Basri Berisha.
The first Ombudsperson, Marek Antoni Nowicki, was appointed in July 2000 by the then Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG), Bernard Kouchner; Nowicki's appointment was renewed in 2002, 2004 and 2005 by subsequent SRSGs Michael Steiner, Harri Holkeri and Søren Jessen-Petersen. With effect from 1 January 2006 Jessen-Petersen appointed a Kosovar lawyer, Hilmi Jashari, as Acting Ombudsperson and he remained in post until Kurteshi took office.
The OIK has several offices throughout Kosovo, and participates (although not yet accredited) in the global network of national human rights institutions, as well as in the European ombudsman network.
The current Ombudsman, Tursunbek Akun, was elected to the post in February 2008.
Since 2007, the Latvian ombudsman is a personalized institution literally called Rights Defender (Latvian: Tiesībsargs). Previously, similar functions were carried by National Human Rights Office (1995—2006).
In Lithuania, the nearest equivalent to the position of ombudsman is that of Parliamentary Controller (Lithuanian: Seimo kontrolierius), an office appointed by the Seimas (Parliament of Lithuania).
The Ombudsman Bureau is under the Commission against Corruption (CCAC), which reports directly to the Chief Executive of the Special Administrative Region. The main function of the Ombudsman Bureau is to strengthen the supervision on law enforcement and effectiveness of public administration.
Since 1997 Macedonia has an Ombudsman for protection of citizens rights (Macedonian: Naroden pravobranitel). The ombudsman is appointed by the Parliament and performs her or his work under the Constitution and the Law of the Ombudsman.
Since 1995, Malta has established an Ombudsman for the protection of the citizens rights. The Ombudsman is a constitutional office, and is appointed by a resolution of the House of Representatives by not less of a 2/3 majority. The Ombudsman is an official of Parliament, directly answerable to the Speaker of the House.
Article 78 of the Constitution of the Netherlands, as revised in 1983, established an office of National Ombudsman. The Ombudsman may investigate, suo motu or on foot of a complaint, the actions of State bodies or other public entities. The ombudsman and deputy are appointed by the House of Representatives for a fixed period or until reaching retirement age. The office includes a children's ombudsman.
The post of Ombudsman was established in New Zealand in 1962, to investigate complaints against government departments. In 1975 the post was expanded, with a Chief Ombudsman and several other ombudsmen. In 1983 his responsibilities were extended to include investigation of agencies that fail to provide information requested in accordance with the Official Information Act. The Ombudsman also has responsibility to protect 'whistleblowers' and investigate the administration of prisons and other places of detention.
There is also a Children's Commissioner. New Zealand also has three industry ombudsmen – the New Zealand Banking Ombudsman, the Insurance and Savings Ombudsman, and the Electricity and Gas Complaints Commissioner who is an ombudsman in all but name.
The country has a Human Rights Procurator, also referred to as ombudsman (Spanish: Procurador para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos).
The Gender Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud (Norwegian: Likestillings- og diskrimineringsombudet) was established in 1978 as the Gender Equality Ombud (Likestillingsombudet), the first of its kind in the world. In 2006, the Ombud was reorganised to include discrimination in general. The Ombud's task is to enforce the Norwegian Gender Equality Act and the act relating to prohibition of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, ancestry, skin colour, language, religious and ethical orientation, and sexual orientation (Discrimination Act). The Ombud shall also enforce the anti-discrimination regulations in the Working Environment Act. The mandate of the Ombud also includes to actively promote equality for discriminated groups, and to develop new knowledge through documentation and monitoring.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman for Public Administration (no) (Sivilombudsmannen) investigates complaints from citizens or may take up issues on its own initiative: complaints from citizens concerning injustice or maladministration from central government or local authorities.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman for the Norwegian Armed Forces(Ombudsmannen for Forsvaret) shall safeguard the rights of all members and former members of the Armed Forces as well as contribute to an effective military defence. Anyone who feels that they have been wrongly, unjustly or unreasonably treated can bring their case before the Ombudsman and request an investigation of the matter to determine whether an injustice has been done, and to secure any appropriate corrective action. Issues and circumstances arising before, during or after military service can be brought to the attention of the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman for Children(Barneombudet) has statutory rights to protect children and their rights. Since 1981, the Ombudsman for Children in Norway has worked continuously to improve national and international legislation affecting children's welfare. Norway was the first country in the world to establish an ombudsman for children.
Local and regional authorities often have ombudsmen. Examples of this are ombudsmen for health and social affairs, ombudsmen for the elderly and ombudsmen for school students and apprentices at the upper secondary level.
In Pakistan, the establishment of an ombudsman institution had been advocated for some time before Article 276 of the Interim Constitution of 1972 provided for the appointment of a Federal Ombudsman (Urdu: Wafaqi Mohtasib) and Provincial Ombudsmen. The Constitution of 1973 also provided for a Federal Ombudsman, and the institution was eventually created through the Establishment of the Office of Wafaqi Mohtasib (Ombudsman) Order, 1983 (President’s Order No. 1 of 1983), which is now a part of the Constitution of Pakistan by virtue of Article 270-A. It started functioning on 8 August 1983. The office of Ombudsman is currently held by Salman Farooqi. The Ombudsman has headquarters in Islamabad and Regional Offices in Lahore, Sukkur, Quetta, Faisalabad, Multan, Dera Ismail Khan, Peshawar and Karachi.
Other ombudsman agencies in Pakistan include Provincial Ombudsman (Mohtasib-e-Aala) offices in Punjab,Balochistan and Sindh; a banking ombudsman, the Banking Mohtasib Pakistan; a Federal Insurance Ombudsman and a Federal Tax Ombudsman. The disputed region of Azad Jammu and Kashmir also has an Ombudsman office. Under the Protection of Women against Harassment at Workplace Act 2010, Musarrat Hilali was appointed in the same year to be the first Federal Ombudsperson for Protection of Women against Harassment at Workplace. The Act provides for similar offices at the provincial level.
The various ombudsman agencies participate in a Forum of Pakistan Ombudsman (FPO), and the federal bodies are affiliated to the Asian Ombudsman Association (AOA) and the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI).
The Peruvian ombudsman agency is called the Public Defender (Spanish: Defensoría del Pueblo). The functions of the institution, which was envisaged by the 1993 Constitution and was created in 1996, include combating maladministration, human rights violations and discrimination. It has 36 offices throughout the country. The current Defensora (ombudsman), Beatriz Merino, was elected by Congress on 29 September 2005 for a five-year term. The Defensoría is accredited with 'A' status as the national human rights institution. There is also a specialised Police Ombudsman (Defensoría de la Policia).
1. Citizens may submit complaints against actions or omissions by the public authorities to the Ombudsman, who shall assess them without the power to take decisions and shall send the competent bodies such recommendations as may be necessary in order to prevent or make good any injustices.
2. The Ombudsman’s work shall be independent of any acts of grace or legal remedies provided for in this Constitution or the law.
3. The Ombudsman’s office shall be an independent body and the Assembly of the Republic shall appoint the Ombudsman for such time as the law may determine.
4. The bodies and agents of the Public Administration shall cooperate with the Ombudsman in the fulfilment of his mission.
Besides the traditional routes, complaints can be filed online and there are toll-free lines for children and one for senior citizens.
The ombudsman office is the People's Advocate (Romanian: Avocatul Poporului). The current ombudsman is Anastasiu Crişu.
The Russian Federation's Commissioner for Human Rights (ombudsman) position is currently held by Vladimir Lukin. The Commissioner is appointed for a fixed term by the Parliament. The ombudsman cannot be dismissed before the end of his term, and is not subordinate to any body of power, including the President or the Government.
Russia’s 83 administrative regions have the right to elect a local ombudsman whose authority is limited to that region. Fewer than half have done so.
In June 2012 Vladimir Putin signed Executive Order on the Presidential Commissioner for Entrepreneurs’ Rights – Boris Titov.
In Serbia, the Protector of Citizens of the Republic of Serbia (Ombudsman) is an independent state authority, mandated to protect human rights and freedoms. It was introduced into the legal system in 2005 by the Law on Ombudsman and confirmed by the Constitution of Serbia in 2006. Ombudsman is elected by the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia for a five-year-term and is accountable to the Assembly for his work. The Ombudsman enjoys the same immunity as a member of the parliament.
The first Serbian Ombudsman, Saša Janković, was elected by the National Assembly in July 2007. He has four deputies, who are specialized in several fields, especially the protection of rights of persons deprived of liberty, gender equality, children rights, minority rights and rights of people with disabilities.
The Ombudsman has competence to oversee the work of government agencies, the bodies authorized for legal protection of property rights and interests of the Republic of Serbia and other bodies and organizations, enterprises and institutions which have been delegated public authority. He has no jurisdiction over the National Assembly, the President, the Government, the Constitutional Court, courts and Public Prosecutor’s Office. The Ombudsman initiates proceedings following the complaint of a citizen or on his own initiative. State administration bodies are legally obliged to cooperate with the Ombudsman and to provide him access to their premises and all data in their possession, regardless of the degree of secrecy, when of interest to the investigation in process or the Ombudsman’s preventive actions. As a result of an investigation, the Ombudsman may recommend dismissal of an official considered responsible for violation of the rights of citizens, may initiate disciplinary procedures against public administration employees, and may require initiation of penal, offence or other adequate procedure.
The Ombudsman can also act preemptively, by offering advice and opinion on issues within his competence, to enhance the operation of the administration authorities and strengthen the protection of human liberties and rights. The Ombudsman is entitled to propose laws within its scope of competence, give opinions to the Government and the National Assembly on regulations under preparation and address the Constitutional Court to challenge the constitutionality of laws.
The Ombudsman provides the National Assembly with an annual report on his work and findings as well as with other special reports.
The state ombudsman of Spain is the Defensor del Pueblo (Defender of the People), dealing with complaints of maladministration and having the capacity to bring cases at the Constitutional Court. The office is prominent in the international networks of ombudsmen and national human rights institutions, particularly through the Ibero-American Ombudsman Federation (FIO).
See also Syndic for more uses of the word síndic in the Catalan linguistic area.
The Government of Sri Lanka has designated several ombudsmen for the redress of grievances and complaints from individuals in the banking, insurance and other sectors being serviced by both private and public bodies and corporations.
Sweden has, since 1882, a Parliamentary ombudsman office (Riksdagens ombudsmän), the oldest surviving element of which is the Justice Ombudsman or Justitieombudsmannen (JO), created 1809, after the model of Justitiekansler, and according to the principle of division of government power. Justitiekansler was installed initially as a proxy of the king and Justitieombudsmannen to represent the parliament, both to oversee that all public authorities comply with the laws and decrees. The latter had the specific duty to protect the citizens and as a puclic attorney prosecute unlawful government or actions by authorities and criticise problematic laws, to ensure equality in the court of law, with inspections and handling of complains. With time the tasks of both have developed, including more duties.
Further, the Director-General of the Swedish Consumer Agency is also designated Consumer Ombudsman (KO), and the Chancellor of Justice or Justitiekanslern (JK) is an ombudsman of sorts, mainly to oversee that that Swedish authorities comply with laws on behalf of the government, but also to handle indemnity claims from persons suffered from imprisonment but later acquitted, or other damages caused by authorities. The office of Justitiekansler was installed in 1714.
Non-politically governed entities are the Press Ombudsman (PO) to supervise the compliance with the code of ethics of the Swedish printed media industry, and until l997, Sameombudsmannen (SO), an advocate for the rights of the native Sami minority in Sweden.
The Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman was established in 2009, and receives support from the OSCE. The current Ombudsman is Zarif Alizoda, appointed by President Emomalii Rahmon and approved by Parliament in May 2009. The functions of his office include human rights education, on which it co-operates with other public bodies and NGOs. It also works with a coalition of NGOs on monitoring places of detention.
The Ombudsmen of Thailand or Ombudsmen for the National Assembly (Thai: ผู้ตรวจการแผ่นดินของรัฐสภา; RTGS: Phu Truat Kan Phaen Din Khong Ratthasapha) was first created in the 1997 Constitution of Thailand or the 'People's' Constitution. The name was shortened to the Ombudsmen (Thai: ผู้ตรวจการแผ่นดิน; RTGS: Phu Truat Kan Phaen Din) only by the 2007 Constitution of Thailand. The idea for such an office first appeared in the 1974 Constitution; however it was not until 1997 that the concept was entrenched. Currently there are three ombudsmen, all appointed by the King of Thailand upon the advice of the Senate of Thailand. The Ombudsmen investigate complaints by the general public against public officials and agencies. They have the power to prosecute but not to enforce judgments.
Ombudsmen are appointed to a six-year non-renewable term. Thailand's three Ombudsmen are:
The Office of the Ombudsman in Thailand appears online. Links are on the site between Thai and English. Procedures are also indicated.
The Ombudsman's Office was created after the constitutional referendum of 2010 was approved. The Ombudsman's Office is responsible for examining and investigating all manner of administrative acts, actions, attitudes and behavior in terms of respect for human rights and freedoms, conformity with the law and fairness and appropriateness within the framework of the character of the Republic of Turkey as enshrined in its Constitution. It performs its functions as part of the Parliament Speaker's Office. The Ombudsman's Office is called the Public Monitoring Institution (KDK) and has an independent and autonomous budget.
Mehmet Nihat Ömeroğlu (tr) was elected the first ombudsman of the country on 27 November 2012 by the Parliament, and was sworn in on 5 December. His selection was somewhat controversial since he had been involved, as a judge in the Court of Cassation, in upholding the 2006 conviction of the Turkish-Armenian writer Hrant Dink for the offence of "insulting Turkishness" – a finding subsequently condemned by the European Court of Human Rights, although Dink had in the interim been assassinated.
The office of ombudsman, or Commissioner for Human Rights, in Ukraine was instituted in 1998. Valeriya Lutkovska was elected to the office for a five-year term by secret ballot in the Ukrainian Parliament on 24 April 2012. Under Article 55 of the 1996 Constitution, "Everyone has the right to appeal for the protection of his her rights to the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights". Article 101 provides "The Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights exercises parliamentary control over the observance of constitutional human and citizens’ rights and freedoms." The legal basis of the office, which is also Ukraine's national human rights institution, is set out in Law 767/97, which refers to the office as the "Authorised Human Rights Representative" of the Parliament.
In the United Kingdom a post of Ombudsman is attached to the Westminster Parliament, jurisdiction extending to all departments of the central government and other government institutions. The office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration was created in 1967, covering the activities of central government departments. A separate (National) Health Service ombudsman was subsequently created, but this office has to date always been held by the same person and the two offices are usually referred to as the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. This Ombudsman will usually investigate complaints referred to him or her by a Member of Parliament where there has been evidence of "maladministration" having occurred which has resulted in an "unremedied injustice". Complaints to the Ombudsman are subject to a "time bar" – this means that the Ombudsman may determine a complaint to be out of jurisdiction if too much time has passed between the event or course of events being complained about and the complaint being received by the Ombudsman.
The Local Government Ombudsman (formally the Commission for Local Government Administration – there are two Commissioners) for England and Wales was created in 1973, and a similar office for Scotland in 1974; since then, a variety of other public and private sector-specific ombudsmen have been created, along with the Northern Ireland Ombudsman.
Financial Ombudsman Service: provides consumers and small businesses with a free, independent service for resolving disputes with Banks, Insurance and other financial organisations (includes private medical insurance)
There are ombudsman or public advocate institutions present in the United States.
In 2012 the Uruguayan Ombudsman was appointed. The Ombudsman was created in 2010 as a Parliamentary Officer. The formal name of the institution is Institute for Human Rights and Ombudsman (Instituto para los Derechos Humanos y Defensoria del Pueblo). It is composed of 5 members appointed by the Uruguayan Parliament.
In the science fiction television series Babylon 5, the arbiters aboard space station Babylon 5 who preside over cases stemming from public complaints are referred to as ombuds (this is both the singular and plural designation), the gender-neutral title for an ombudsman. Just as with their modern European counterparts, the ombuds only preside over public cases, including robbery, assault, and murder, and do not interpret law as a regular judiciary does.
John Perry, the protagonist of The Last Colony, written by John Scalzi starts off the novel as an ombudsman for a newly settled human colony.
The webcomic PvP ran a story arc starting at the beginning of March 2009 parodying the comic series and movie Watchmen called The Ombudsmen.
The Fox News parody show, Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld, meets three times per episode with "TV's Andy Levy, Ombudsman".
Procuradora General del Principado de Asturias/Procuradora Xeneral del Principáu d'Asturies
ararteko.net Herriaren Defendatzailea: Ararteko / Defensoría del Pueblo del País Vasco: Ararteko, Basque Country Ombudsman website. (In Basque and Spanish.)
Diputado del Común
Procurador del Común
Síndic de Greuges, official website of the Ombudsman of Catalonia. In the Catalan language, Síndic de Greuges (masculine form) or Síndica de Greuges (femenine form) can be literally translated as "advocate of grievances".
Valedor do Pobo
Síndic de Greuges de les Illes Balears / Ombudsman of the Balearic Islands, on the Balearic Islands Parliament website. (In Catalan and Spanish.) Consulted 15 April. On the Balearic Islands, the ombudsman is a High Commissioner of the Parliament.
Defensor del Pueblo de la Región de Murcia
Defensor del Pueblo de Navarra / Nafarroako Arartekoa. (In Catalan and Spanish.)
Síndic de Greuges de la Comunitat Valenciana, official website of the Ombudsman of the Valencian Region. (In Catalan and Spanish.).
Swedish Justice Ombudsman website
Swedish Consumer Ombudsman website
The Swedish Chancellor of Justice website
Swedish Press Ombudsman website
website of the OSCE Office in Tajikistan
Statement of Tajik ombudsman to 2010 OSCE Review Conference
Report on detention monitoring training in Tajikistan
Human Rights Watch report on appointment of Turkish Ombudsman