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Independence and common standards for Ombudsman institutions

“There is an urgent need to establish common norms governing the functioning of Ombudsman institutions, and in particular ways in which their independence should be ensured,” PACE said, adopting a resolution today, on the basis of the report by Lord Richard Balfe (United Kingdom, EC).

Parliamentarians are concerned that the effectiveness and independence of the Ombudsman institutions are under threat in many member States. These threats, they pointed out, can take the form of laws aimed at weakening Ombudspersons, undue delays in appointing them, budgetary restrictions, unjustified audits, obstacles to accessing information, and even verbal attacks by politicians, including members of government.

In this respect, PACE endorsed the principles on the protection and promotion of the Ombudsman institution (the Venice Principles) adopted by the Venice Commission in March 2019. According to the adopted resolution, this “first international set of standards” contains 25 principles on the constitutional guarantee for the institution of the Ombudsman, criteria for office, election, status, immunities, term of office and budgetary independence. “These principles should help Ombudspersons in resisting interference in their work,” the parliamentarians said.

Finally, the Assembly recommended that the Committee of Ministers create a mechanism for member States to report on the activities of their Ombudsman institutions and the implementation of the Venice Principles.