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Strengthening the institution of ombudsman in Europe

Doc. 13236: compendium of written amendments | Doc. 13236 | Final version

Caption: AdoptedRejectedWithdrawnNo electronic votes

ADraft Resolution

1The Parliamentary Assembly, referring to its Recommendations 757 (1975) and 1615 (2003), reaffirms that ombudsman institutions, which are tasked with protecting citizens’ against maladministration, play a crucial role in consolidating democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
2The Assembly notes that there is no standardised model of ombudsman in Europe and across the world. Some countries have set up a single-member generalist ombudsman, while others have chosen a multi-institutional system, including regional and/or local ombudsmen and/or ombudsmen specialised in areas such as combating discrimination, minorities’ protection or children’s rights. Taking into account the variety of legal systems and traditions, it would not be appropriate to advocate a one-size-fits-all ombudsman model.
3The Assembly nevertheless recalls the Council of Europe’s previous work on promoting ombudsman institutions, including its own recommendations and the Committee of Ministers Recommendations Nos. R (80) 2, R (85) 2 and R (97) 14, and calls on its member States to implement them. It also invites them to pay particular attention to the document of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) “Compilation on the Ombudsman institution” of 1 December 2011.
4The Assembly calls on the member States of the Council of Europe which have set up ombudsman institutions to:
4.1ensure that such institutions fulfil the criteria stemming from its Recommendation 1615 (2003), the Committee of Ministers’ relevant recommendations and the Venice Commission’s work on the ombudsman, in particular as regards:
4.1.1the independence and impartiality of these institutions, whose existence shall be enshrined in law and, if possible, in the constitution;
4.1.2the appointment procedure: the ombudsman shall be appointed by parliament and report to it;
4.1.3their remit, which should cover reviewing cases of maladministration by all bodies of the executive branch as well as the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms;
4.1.4their access to documents and investigative powers as well as unrestricted access to all detention facilities;
4.1.5their access to the Constitutional Court in order to challenge the constitutionality of flawed legislation;
4.1.6direct access to the ombudsman for all persons, including legal persons, concerned by maladministration cases, irrespective of their nationality;
4.2review, if need be, their legislation, in light of international and European standards on ombudsman institutions;

In the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 4.2, insert the following words: "and include, where needed, the Ombudsman's mandate, appointment, duties and revocation in national laws and Constitution, where possible".

4.3refrain from multiplying ombudsman-type institutions, if it is not strictly necessary for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms; a proliferation of such bodies could confuse individuals’ understanding of means of redress available to them;
4.4strengthen the ombudsman institutions’ visibility, especially in the media, and promote an “ombudsman-friendly” climate, in particular by guaranteeing easy and unhindered access to the ombudsman institution(s) and providing appropriate information/documentation in this respect, especially where the ombudsman institution does not yet have a long-standing tradition; provide ombudsman institutions with sufficient financial and human resources, enabling them to effectively carry out their tasks, and, if need be, taking into account the new functions assigned to them on the basis of international and/or European law;
4.5consider seeking ombudspersons’ accreditation at the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC) in light of the “Paris Principles”.
5The Assembly calls on member States which have established several ombudsman institutions, such as local, regional and/or specialised ones, to ensure appropriate co-ordination of these bodies and individuals’ easy and unimpeded access to them.

In the draft resolution, after paragraph 5, insert the following paragraph:

"The Assembly recommends, especially in this moment of crisis, not to make any budget cuts resulting in a loss of independence of ombudsman institutions or even their extinction. In those places with particular legislative systems, i.e. with parliaments legislating on rights and freedoms, whether at the national or at the regional level, there is a function to be carried by bodies supervising the administration, as Ombudsmen do by definition, in order to supervise the executive power in regard to applying the law."

Explanatory note

In this moment of economic crisis, it is especially important to safeguard those institutions who watch over the right implementation of fundamental rights.

03 October 2013

Tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Votes: 38 in favor 0 against 0 abstention

In amendment 2, replace the words "recommends, especially in this moment of crisis, not to make an budget cuts" with the following words: "calls on member states to use all endeavours to avoid budget cuts".

6The Assembly encourages member States which have not yet set up a national generalist ombudsman to promptly establish such a body with a broad mandate, allowing individuals to complain about maladministration cases and violations of their human rights and fundamental freedoms, whilst ensuring a clear division of competences between ombudsman institutions and judicial review of administrative acts, which must be available at least in case of violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
7The Assembly recognises the crucial role played by the European Ombudsman of the European Union and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights in co-ordinating the activities of member States’ ombudsmen.