Independent Supervisory Bodies


Does there exist an independent and effective ombuds office?

There exists an effective and independent ombuds office.
In 1955, Denmark became the third country in the world, after Sweden and Finland, to introduce the institution of the ombudsman. The ombudsman is appointed by parliament and the office is an independent institution. Distinguished law professors have held the position of ombudsman, especially in the early years. Criticisms from the ombudsman normally lead to a change in practice or policy.

Citizens can complain to this office about decisions made by public authorities. In 2017, 5,912 cases were concluded; 22% of the cases were concerned with social affairs and 19% involved issues with children.
Henrik Zahle, Dansk forfatningsret 2.

Web site of the Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman: (re-accessed 8 October 2018).

Folketingets Ombudsmands Beretning 2017, (Accessed 8 October 2018)
Parliament has an ombudsman office consisting of one ombudsman and two deputy ombudsmen. Established in 1920, it is the second-oldest ombuds office in the world and employs about 60. The officeholders are appointed by parliament, but the office is expected to be impartial and independent of parliament. The office reports to parliament once a year. Citizens may bring complaints to the office regarding decisions by public authorities, public officials, and others who perform public duties (examples of authorities include courts of law, state offices and municipal bodies). The number of complaints decided by the ombuds office in 2020 reached a record high of more than 7,000 cases. A considerable number of matters have been investigated and resolved on the initiative of the ombudsman himself, who may conduct onsite investigations when needed.
“The Parliamentary Ombudsman’s 2017 Annual Report presented to the Speaker of the Parliament,”
The Parliamentary Ombudsman (Umboðsmaður Alþingis), established in 1997, investigates cases both on its own initiative and at the request of citizens and firms. It is independent, efficient, and generally well regarded. The office has 17 staff members, including nine lawyers. In February 2021, Gallup reported that 49% of respondents expressed confidence in the Parliamentary Ombudsman compared with 34% confidence in parliament.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman (Umboðsmaður Alþingis), Accessed 28 December 2021.

Gallup, Accessed 29th December 2021.
Since 1962 Norway has had a parliamentary ombudsman tasked with investigating complaints from citizens concerning injustice, abuses or errors on the part of central or local government administrations. The ombudsman is also tasked with ensuring that human rights are respected and can undertake independent investigations. Every year, the ombudsman office submits a report to parliament documenting its activities. In general, the ombudsman is active and trusted. However, the ombudsman has recently expressed concerns that he and his office risk losing funding and the public ear, as too few of his recommendations are taken seriously and implemented.

The ombudsman-institution has since then been copied for other policy areas: In 1981 the Ombudsperson for Children was established, in 2006 for Non-discrimination and in 2021 for Older people.
The Commissioner for Citizens’ Rights, the Polish ombuds office, is an independent state organ and is accountable exclusively to the Sejm. The commissioner is elected for five years and can be re-elected once. The office has substantial investigative powers, including the right to view relevant files or contact the prosecutor general and send any law to the Constitutional Court. Because of its strong engagement for citizens’ rights ever since its creation in 1987, the ombuds office has traditionally been accorded a good reputation. However, the effectiveness of the ombuds office has suffered insofar, as the institution has been assigned new tasks in the field of anti-discrimination policy, but did not achieve more funds to perform the tasks properly.

Adam Bodnar, who served as ombudsman from September 2015 to July 2021, was a very active defender of civil and political rights. He was responsible for appealing the Anti-Terror Law and new laws on high-ranking civil servants, the Constitutional Court, and the media to the Constitutional Court. He was also fighting for the rights of his own office since the Sejm passed a law in 2016 that makes it easier to remove the serving commissioner. When Bodnar’s term of office ended in September 2020, it took six attempts to elect a successor and until July 2021, so he stayed in office until then. A new commissioner can only be elected with the consent of the Senate and the opposition holds a small majority of 51 out of 100 seats in the Senate. After all the unsuccessful attempts, the Sejm and the Senate elected the lawyer Marian Wiącek in his second round of candidacy. He had been nominated by the opposition parties.
It is fair to say that Sweden invented the ombudsman institution. Sweden currently has six ombuds offices that focus on the following issues: national agencies, legal matters, consumer matters, discrimination, children, and matters related to school pupils.

The ombuds office for legal matters (JO), which has been around the longest, is appointed by the parliament, while the government appoints the other ombudspeople, which head their own agencies (Regeringen 2022).

Assessing the effectiveness of the ombuds offices is a difficult task. Their mission is not only to follow up on complaints, but also to influence public opinion in their area of jurisdiction. Their position in the political system and in society appears to be quite strong.
Regeringen. 2022: “Ombudsmän”
A Commonwealth Ombudsman was established in 1977. Its services are available to anyone who has a complaint about an Australian government agency that they have been unable to resolve. Its charter states that it will investigate complaints where appropriate, deal with complaints in an impartial and effective way, achieve fair outcomes, seek appropriate remedies and promote improved administration by Australian government agencies. Its services are free of charge. There are further ombudsmen in all six states and the Northern Territory, which operate on similar principles, as well as a variety of issue-specific ombudsmen.
The Austrian Ombudsman Board (Volksanwaltschaft) is a parliamentary instrument and reports regularly to the legislature. It consists of three chairpersons that are elected for six years. The three largest party groups in parliament nominate one chairperson each. Parliament is required by law to select the nominees. Ombudspersons are typically very experienced as politicians at the local or regional level and even more so at the national level, and previously active in party-related associations or organizations before joining the Austrian Ombudsman Board (AOB). Qualitative interviews with case-handling staff demonstrated that despite the institution’s public efforts, and many interviewees’ reassurances that the AOB is independent and acts accordingly, there are several areas in which party-related positions become visible in the AOB’s work. While the AOB has wide-ranging competences, it recently called for an extension of its responsibilities to include public sector organizations.
The independent federal ombuds office was established in 1995. The goal of the office is to have direct contact with citizens and inform them of the administrative process if need be and collect complaints against the administration. Parliament elects members of the ombuds office, but after their election, ombudsmen are totally independent and autonomous from government. The office makes a public report to parliament every year (7,544 complaints and information demands were addressed in 2020, in comparison with 6,852 in 2019). However, the ombudsman’s role is only informative and deals with facilitation or advocacy; it has no coercive power.

Some difficulties occur when a complaint touches upon an issue which concerns both federal and regional or community authorities. Regional and community authorities have their own ombuds offices, also established in the 1990s and early 2000s, and which have also become fairly active. Hence, some overlap occurs.
Citations: [federal] [Walloon Region + francophone Community] [Flanders]
Estonia has a separate and independent legal chancellor who performs an ombuds function. The chancellor’s task is to ensure that legislation conforms with the constitution, and that the citizen’s fundamental rights and liberties are protected. Besides the constitutional review and ombudsman functions, the chancellor also fulfills the role of a national preventive mechanism for ill-treatment and an ombudsman for children. To raise an issue or forward a concern, citizens can submit a petition offline or online.
The current legal chancellor has called for politicians to address important public issues. These issues include the comprehensiveness and readability of legal language, the equal treatment of citizens under digital government, the quality of social services, the ill-treatment of patients in institutional care, and lately the preservation of civil rights under COVID-19 restrictions. However, while the legal chancellor can highlight concerns, real intervention is only possible if the constitution has been violated.
The Ombuds Office is one of the most well-organized public services in the country. The Greek ombudsperson is appointed by a group of high-ranking parliamentarians and obliged to report to the parliament by submitting an annual report.

The ombudsperson receives and processes complaints from citizens who are frequently caught in the web of the sprawling Greek bureaucracy. Depending on the complaint at hand, the Ombuds Office can intervene with the central, regional and local bureaucracy. The staff of the Ombuds Office can pressure the government to change existing legislation and also inform the prosecutor’s office of any uncovered criminal offenses committed by administrative employees and officials. The Ombuds Office remains popular with Greek citizens, who turn to it in the frequent instances in which they are treated unfairly or improperly by public services.
Information in English on the Greek “ombuds office” is available at
Τhe Greek Ombuds Office is included in articles 101a and 103 para.9 of the Greek Constitution.
The Ombuds Office launched in May 2004, and residents have sought guidance from this government office since. The service is typically used more frequently by foreigners than by nationals. Even though the country’s labor market is the most transnational in the European Union, there are still numerous obstacles for migrants. Thus, the ombudsperson has for years dealt with a number of migration issues. Like ombuds offices elsewhere, the ombudsperson can issue recommendations to government and parliament, but cannot take issues to court. In addition, the ombudsman is responsible to the parliament.

In 2017, Claudia Monti was appointed to serve as Luxembourg’s ombudsperson.

In 2019, she solved over three-quarters of the 975 claims submitted by individuals, while in 2020 she dealt with 914 complaints with a correction rate of 82%. In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the biggest category of requests (30%) related to the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. The second-largest category had to do with the lack of flexibility shown by the Ministry of the Economy in implementing the government aid scheme. The housing crisis remains another big issue (26 complaints), with the point system run by the Housing Fund needing to be revised.

Among the existing institutions offering this form of service – including the Ombuds Office itself, the Office for Children’s Rights, the Office for Equality Rights (based on EU directives 2000/43 and 2000/78) and the Human Rights Commission – the Ombuds Office is best equipped in terms of budget and staff and is most frequently used. The office has a good track record of finding solutions to problems, has issued a number of recommendations and monitors the implementation of the office’s recommendations.
“Public bodies act arbitrarily too often, says ombudsman.” Luxembourg Times (20 April 2021). Accessed 14 January 2022.

Ombudsman Luxembourg. Accessed 14 January 2022.
New Zealand
New Zealand was the fourth country in the world to establish an Office of the Ombudsman (in 1962). Ombudsmen are officers of Parliament. Each ombudsman is appointed by the governor-general on the recommendation of parliament. Ombudsmen are responsible to parliament and independent of the government. Their overall purpose is to investigate, review and inspect the administrative conduct of public sector agencies and provide advice and guidance in order to ensure people are treated fairly in New Zealand. The office is highly effective in terms of formally or informally resolving complaints. According to the latest report available, the Office of the Ombudsman had a 98% net clearance rate for complaints in 2019/20 (Ombusdman 2020).
Ombudsman (2020) Annual Report 2019/20.
There exists an effective and independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
There is a national ombuds office (the Ombudsperson of the Republic of Bulgaria), which is not part of parliament, but is elected by parliament for a five-year period. The Ombudsperson is independent in his/her activities and is subject only to the constitution, laws and international treaties adopted by Bulgaria. Other than putting arguments to the relevant administrative body and making its opinion public, however, the office has no formal powers.

The ombuds office’s reports indicate an increase in the number of citizens contacting the office and the number of formal complaints filed with the office over recent years. Over the last four years, Ombudsperson Maya Manolova has been very publicly active, significantly raising the office’s profile and degree of public recognition. However, Manolova resigned in September 2019, a year before the end of her term, to run for mayor of Sofia. Thus, parliament will have to elect a new ombudsperson.

Manolova used the ombuds office to boost her career and, after the municipal elections, joined the protest wave of 2020 and established a party to fight corruption. Her party participated in all of the elections held in 2021, but it failed to pass the 4% threshold in November. Her former deputy, Diana Kovacheva, was elected to her post by the pre-2021 parliamentary majority, but has not been a member of GERB or its then-coalition partner, the United Patriots party.
The federal government, unlike some provinces, does not have a single ombuds person heading an office dedicated to hearing citizens’ concerns, but it does have several important organizations functioning as equivalents for specific matters such as the Commissioner of Official Languages; the Information Commissioner of Canada; the Privacy Commissioner of Canada; the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner; the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada; and the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada. All these Commissioners are officers of Parliament and are responsible directly to Parliament. There are also ombuds offices with special mandates, such as the Office of the Ombudsman for the Department of National Defense and the Canadian Forces, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, and the Office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise.

While the federal level does not have one ombudsman office, there is an array of agencies – that are accountable to Parliament – with clearly defined mandates and which are outspoken on issues of concern.
Czechia has had an ombuds office since 2000. Its head is elected for a six-year term by the Chamber of Deputies from among candidates nominated by the president and the Senate. The office delivers quarterly and annual reports on its activities to the Chamber of Deputies, including recommendations on where laws could be changed and report on not fulfilled recommendations. The Office also annually evaluates the extent to which these recommendations were followed. It produces detailed reports on cases it investigates, indicating when laws have been transgressed to the extent that the damaged parties have a solid basis for seeking redress. The first four ombudspersons have acted independently and have taken their advocacy role seriously. By contrast, Stanislav Křeček, who became ombudsman at the age of 81 in March 2020, has undermined the reputation of the office by espousing controversial, legally dubious opinions on many civil rights issues. These include banning the presence of fathers during births, blaming discrimination against the Roma on the Roma, and claiming that some human rights anchored in the constitution are exaggerated and superfluous.
The Office of the Ombudsman investigates complaints about the administrative actions of government departments, the Health Services Executive (HSE) and local authorities. Ireland largely follows the Scandinavian ombudsman model. The ombudsman acts in the public interest as part of an overall system of checks and balances, as representing and protecting the people from any excess or unfairness on the part of government. The ombudsman reports to parliament at least twice a year.

Only twice in the 25-year history of the Office of the Ombudsman have its recommendations been rejected by government. In 2009, the ombudsman was invited to appear before the relevant parliamentary committee to explain her views on the matter. The fact that this sort of conflict has arisen so rarely, and when it did it attracted so much publicity, is evidence that the office generally operates effectively and has its findings accepted by parliament.

In addition to the main Office of the Ombudsman, there are separate ombudsmen for the national police force (the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC), financial services, children, insurance, the army, the press and pension issues. These offices are effective in listening to the concerns of citizens in their dealings with government agencies.
The state comptroller also serves as the state ombudsman. Under this role, the office is authorized to investigate complaints raised by the public regarding ministries, local authorities, state institutions and government corporations. Citizens may file a complaint free of charge if they believe that they were directly or indirectly harmed by an act or an activity of the government; if an act is against the law, without lawful authority, or violates principles of good governance; or if an act is unduly strict or clearly unjust.

The other body to be mentioned is the Commissioner for Soldiers’ Complaints. Though authorized to handle complaints regarding the IDF only (specifically, complaints about injustices done to soldiers or soon-to-be-soldiers by the IDF), the authorization to submit a complaint is very wide and covers a variety of issues.
Comptroller and the Ombudsman official website: (Hebrew).

Israel. The Commissioner for Soldiers’ Complaints. Annual Report 46, 2017. Tel Aviv: The Security Ministry Press, 2018 (Hebrew):

Israel. The Commissioner for Soldiers’ Complaints. Annual Report 47, 2018. Tel Aviv: The Security Ministry Press, 2019. Retrieved from: (Hebrew)

Israel. The State Ombudsman. Annual Report 45 for the Year of 2018. June 24th, 2019. Retrieved from (Hebrew)

Lev Ram, Tal. “The Commissioner for Soldiers’ Complaints to Liberman and Eizenkot: The IDF isn’t Ready for War.”
Ma’ariv Online. July 13th, 2018 (Hebrew):

Limor, Yoav. “‘The IDF is in Peak Preparedness, the Commissioner for Soldiers’ Complaints is Wrong.’” Israel Hayom. September 19th, 2018 Hebrew):

Office of the Ombudsman brochure:

“Security System Comptroller Eitan Dahan Appointed as Stand-In Commissioner for Soldiers’ Complaints.” In Maariv website. January 9th, 2019. (Hebrew)

“The Ombudsman yearly review number 43 for 2016,” The State comptroller Website (Hebrew),

The State comptroller and Ombudsman of Israel. Website: State

Ziton, Yoav, and Yaron Drukman. “The Complaints Commissioner Warns of Deficiencies in the Readiness for War: ‘You Will Fall Off Your Feet from the Reports.’” In Ynet. June 25th, 2018 (Hebrew):,7340,L-5296079,00.html.

Ziton, Yoav. “The Outrage of the Harsh Report Over the IDF’s Readiness for War: ‘There were Negligence, Carelessness and Unacceptable Behaviour [lit. “Unworthy Culture”].” Ynet. September 26th, 2018 (Hebrew):,7340,L-5358401,00.html.
The parliament has several ombuds offices, including the general ombudsmen’s office, with two appointed ombudspersons, and the special ombudsman’s offices on Equal Opportunities and Children’s Rights. These institutions supervise state institutions, with a particular focus citizens’ human rights and freedoms. They engage in public advocacy on behalf of citizens, and initiate certain actions, but as a group the ombuds offices lack sufficient legal authority to act as a single national institution for human rights. In 2017, these offices became accredited by the United Nations as a national institution of human rights matching the Paris principles. The effectiveness of these ombuds offices has depended on the interplay of several factors. First, citizens have shown at best mixed interest in pursuing complaints through these offices, although the number of complaints remained high in recent years (the highest number of complaints, 1,805, was registered in 2014, with about half of complaints typically recognized as valid). Second, the offices adopted a more proactive attitude toward investigations, focusing on the most significant violations of human rights (e.g., in prisons and other detention facilities). Third, although most of the offices’ recommendations are implemented (up to 95%), some state and municipal institutions are sometimes unwilling to take adequate action in response to the recommendations.

In 2020, the ombuds offices submitted 1,672 recommendations. The majority of them (1,013) were submitted to institutions, and advised making improvements in public administrative practices so as to avoid violating human rights and freedoms. The pandemic presented certain challenges to the ombuds offices. First, their capacity to protect human rights and freedoms was to some extent curtailed; second, the nature of complaints shifted, as some complaints were related to potential violations of pandemic-management rules. During the illegal migration crisis in 2021, the ombuds offices increased their focus on the rights of immigrants and their living conditions.
LR Seimo kontrolierių įstaiga, Lietuvos Respublikos Seimo kontrolierių – Nacionalinės žmogaus teisių institucijos – 2017 metų veiklos ataskaita, 2018.
In addition to the parliament’s Commission for Petitions, Human Rights and Equal Opportunities, there is an independent ombudsman, who is accountable exclusively to parliament. The ombudsman is elected by parliament for a term of six years and reports regularly to the legislature. Like his predecessor, Vlasta Nussdorfer, who served from 2013 to 2019, current ombudsman Peter Svetina enjoys a good reputation and is quite effective in settling issues. As with previous ombudspersons, however, Svetina’s role has been occasionally constrained by the lack of interest among members of parliament and ministerial inactivity.
The system of ombudsmen has been expanded over the last years. There are now four different ombudsmen that handle complaints about the civil service in each country within the United Kingdom, namely the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, Northern Ireland Ombudsmen, and the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in England. Further, there is a Parliamentary Health and Service Ombudsman (PHSO) who mainly deals with complaints concerning the National Health Service in England, reporting to a parliamentary committee, and the Housing Ombudsman who looks at complaints about social housing. However, all ombudsmen’s offices are somewhat limited in staff, resources and access to information. For example, ombudsmen have no formal power to see cabinet papers.

Scotland took the innovative step in 2021 of establishing the Independent National Whistleblowing Officer, which is specifically tasked with processing complaints about the Scottish health service. As specified by the Trading Standards, Scotland also features a wide range of private sector entities that provide ombuds and similar consumer protection services.
Parliament has no ombuds office, but plays a key role in the functioning of the (former) Office of the Ombudsman office. Until 2011, the médiateur (Ombudsman) could intervene in cases of procedural faults and administrative problems at the request of individuals but only through the mediation of a parliamentarian. The purpose was to try to solve as many problems as possible through the intervention of elected representatives, and to ask the ombudsman to step in only if the issue could not be addressed or solved in a satisfactory way. In 2011, the office was merged with other independent authorities to form a new body, the Defender of Civic Rights (Défenseur des Droits). This new agency is active and respected, having demonstrated its independence vis-à-vis the administration and government. However, it has not affected the role of parliamentarians in the process and they continue to channel citizens’ requests. The number of requests is rising steadily. Between 2014 and 2019, the authority received 780,000 requests from its more than 500 delegates distributed over the national territory; in 2020 alone, nearly 97,000 requests were registered, 10% more than the year before.
Le Défenseur des droits: Rapport annuel d’activité 2020, Paris 2021
The standing parliamentary petitions committee is provided for by the Basic Law. As the “seismograph of sentiment” (annotation 2 Blickpunkt Bundestag 2010: 19; own translation), the committee deals with requests and complaints addressed to the Bundestag based on every person’s “right to address written requests or complaints to competent authorities and to the legislature” (Basic Law Art. 17). It is able to make recommendations as to whether the Bundestag should take action on particular matters. Nonetheless, its importance is limited and largely symbolic. However, the committee at least offers a parliamentary point of contact with citizens. According to its 2020 report, some 14,314 petitions were submitted, which is an increase of about 6% relative to the previous year and marks a growing trend relative to past years (Deutscher Bundestag 2021). Two additional parliamentary ombudsmen are concerned with the special requests and complaints made by patients and soldiers. Similar to requests to the Bundestag, citizens can also address petitions committees at the state level or the European Parliament.
Deutscher Bundestag (2021): Im Dienst der Bürger, Der Jahresbericht des Petitionsausschusses. Ausgabe 2021.
The ombudsman is elected by a two-thirds majority of the House of Representatives, and is held in high esteem by the public. A recent Venice Commission report stated that the institution was independent, autonomous and credible. The appointment of three commissioners (on the environment and planning, health and education) to investigate complaints as well as the office’s wide-ranging powers to initiate inquiries considerably increased its standing as a watchdog for good governance. A secondary function of the ombudsman is to act as a catalyst for improving public administration. The ombudsman has stated that in pursuing these initiatives he has generally found collaboration from ministries, government departments and public authorities and that there have even been cases where public authorities have sought his advice. The Ombudsman Office, however, is not empowered to deal with human-rights complaints and its recommendations are not binding. A recent clarification confirmed that the office has jurisdiction over complaints emanating from the armed forces of Malta. In his 2017 report, the ombudsman drew attention to the lack of jurisdiction his office has over privatized entities, particularly in the health and energy sectors, and the need for a remedy. He also drew attention to the problem of obtaining information from government on sensitive issues. In a recent report presented to parliament, the ombudsman reiterated the same issues, while complaining of the lack of respect accorded to office by the public administration. In his 2018 case notes presented to parliament, he also complained that parliament was failing to act on investigative reports handed over for remedial action. The ombudsman has further recommended that the office be granted a constitutional mandate and be accorded the same protection as that of the auditor general; that parliament be obliged to debate its reports; that a deputy ombudsman be appointed to strengthen the office; and that the remit of the office be extended, allowing it to investigate the public administration’s administrative actions, inactions, decisions and process. A start toward reform were the constitutional amendments introduced by Act XLII of 2020, which strengthened the independence and autonomy of the ombudsman by entrenching the method of appointment, removal and suspension of the ombudsman, his right to conduct investigations on his own initiative, and his right to access information and other essential functions. It has been alleged that some comments made by the ombudsman were seen as being politically charged. However, in the 2020 Ombudsman Annual Report, the president of Malta is quoted as stating that “no institution was more independent … and gave objective and fair and final opinions.”
Aquilina, K. Strengthening the Ombudsman’s office. Times of Malta 14/08/12
On the Strengthening of the Ombudsman Institution: A Proposal by the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman January 2014
The Parliamentary Ombudsman The Independent 27/11/2016
Ombudsman against making hos own recommendations enforceable by law The Independent 04/01/2016
Parliamentary Ombudsman Annual Report 2016
Parliamentary Ombudsman Annual Report 2018
Ombudsman Case notes 2018 Edition 38
Ombudsman Plan 2020
Parliamentary Ombudsman Malta Annual Report 2020
There is a judicial ombudsman (Provedor de Justiça), which is situated in the judicial system. It serves as the advocate for citizens’ interests. It was created in 1975 and has displayed an increasing level of activity.

The ombuds office is politically independent. The appointment of the ombuds officeholder (Provedor de Justiça) is done through a secret parliamentary ballot, and requires the support of at least two-thirds of the 230 members of Portugal’s parliament.

The ombuds office reported (relatório) to parliament that it received 17,470 requests for assistance and initiated 11,557 processes in 2020, an increase of 18% over the previous year and 47% relative to 2017. According to the report, this was the highest level of activity since the entity’s creation in 1975.

The ombuds office is therefore largely effective, though with some limitations. This is reflected by the number of outstanding cases. For example, the ombuds office’s report for the year 2020 noted the existence of some 6,041 cases from preceding years that had not yet been resolved, the oldest of which dated as far back as 2013. The report also cited several issues that had been raised to the government and the public administration, but which had not yet received a response.
Provedor de Justiça (2021), Relatório à Assembleia da República 2020 – Provedor de Justiça, available online at:
In addition to the Petitions and Complaints Office of the National Council, there is an independent ombudsman, the Public Defender of Rights, who is accountable exclusively to the Council. The Public Defender is elected by the Council for a term of five years and reports regularly to it. The current ombudsperson – Mária Patakyová, a law professor at Comenius University in Bratislava nominated by Most-Híd – was appointed in 2017. Like her predecessor, Patakyová has taken her advocacy role seriously. In 2018, she announced that she would focus on education rights and the right to compensation for Roma women subject to unlawful sterilization. As in previous years, Patakyová participated in the Pride Parada in Bratislava in 2019 and has actively defended LGTBQ+ rights. She also participated actively in the United Nation’s Orange the World campaign: Generation Equality Stands against Rape! on 25 November 2019. Moreover, she supports measures that will allow Slovak citizens living abroad to vote in all elections, not only in parliamentary elections. As with previous ombudspersons, Patakyová has not received the full support of the parliament. In 2020, the National Council did not approve her annual report because of passages on women’s reproductive rights and LGBTQ+ rights. The governing coalition was split on these issues: The members of parliament of SaS and Za Ľudí as well as half of the members of parliament of OĽaNO voted in favor, while the other half of the OĽaNO members of parliament and all Sme-Rodina (We are Family) members of parliament voted against them, along with the neo-fascist opposition party L’SNS.
Article 54 of the constitution regulates the Office of the Ombudsperson (Defensor del Pueblo). He or she is authorized to supervise the activities of the government and administration, expressly forbidding any arbitrariness. The ombudsperson is elected by both the Congress and the Senate for a five-year period (thus avoiding coinciding with the legislative term of four years) by a qualified majority of three-fifths. The office is not subjected to any imperative mandate, does not receive instructions from any authority, and performs its functions autonomously. The officeholder is granted immunity and inviolability during his or her time in the post. In addition, there are also nine regional ombuds offices, focused on supervising the functioning of their own regional and local administrations.

Almost 75% of the recommendations made by Spain’s Ombudsperson are accepted by the public administration. However, its advocacy role is slightly limited by two factors: 1) a lack of resources, and 2) inadequate departmental collaboration. During 2020 and 2021, the Spanish Ombudsman forwarded numerous complaints from citizens to the Ministry of the Interior about the restrictions imposed on movement after the first state of alarm was declared. The Spanish ombudsman was replaced in December 2021, after four years of delay.
Defensor del Pueblo (2020), “Más de un millar de quejas por el COVID-19,” noticia de 3 de abril de 2020, 13

Defensor del Pueblo (2020), “El Defensor plantea la posibilidad de que niños y niñas puedan salir a la calle de manera limitada y tomando las debidas precauciones,” noticia de 17 de abril de 2020,
The National Ombudsman is a “high council of state” on a par the Council of State and the Netherlands General Audit Chamber. Like the judiciary, the high councils of state are formally independent of the government. The National Ombudsman’s independence from the executive is increased by appointment by the States General (specifically by the Second Chamber or Tweede Kamer). The appointment is for a term of six years, and reappointment is permitted. The National Ombudsman office was established to give individual citizens an opportunity to file complaints about the practices of government before an independent and expert body. The national ombudsman is assisted by deputies tasked with addressing problems facing children and veterans.

Where the government is concerned, it is important to note that the National Ombudsman’s decisions are not legally enforceable. The ombudsman publishes his or her conclusions in annual reports. The ombudsman’s tasks are shifting toward providing concrete and active assistance to citizens who – due to debt and poverty, digitalization and other problems with access to government regulation – have lost their way in the bureaucratic process. On such issues, the ombudsman’s reports have in recent years become harsher in their judgments, as was the case for his forerunner. The childcare benefits affair illustrated the ombudsman’s repeated judgment that policy implementation practices offer too few opportunities for citizens to call for the redress of injustices and mistakes; but also showed the institution’s inability to a make a difference. The affair also showed that too few citizens use the ombudsman function for complaints.
De Nationale Ombudsman, Mijn onbegrijpelijke overheid. Verslag van de Nationale ombudsman over 2012.


NRC, Ahaouray and Valk, 1 October 2021. Naar de drie toezichthouders wordt vaak niet geluisterd: ‘Het is teveel waan van de dag’

NRC, Valk, 11 May 2021. Nationale Ombudsman: ‘Laat Rutte maar een club oprichten die onze rapporten leest’
During its process of political liberalization, Mexico established an Ombudsman’s Office in 1992. The office is generally respected, and the ombudsman can, and sometimes does, criticize government policy. In 2007, the ombudsman publicly advised President Calderón not to use the army in counter-narcotics activities. Calderón nevertheless sent troops in, which provoked an ongoing discussion on the army’s domestic tasks. More recently, the limited de facto power of the institution has become visible particularly in the field of domestic security (e.g., drug crime, human rights abuses). In short, while Mexico has an independent and respected Ombudsman’s Office, it is not necessarily powerful, particularly against the backdrop of an unprecedented spread of violence in recent years.
Under the new government of López Obrador, the ombudsman is a loyal MORENA supporter, which has led to criticism of the office’s lack of independence. In general, President López Obrador intends to reform the constitution so as to limit the number and competences of independent and autonomous bodies, with the goal of concentrating competences in the executive. However, there have as yet been no signs that the Ombudsman’s Office is to be included in this revision.
Congress does not have an ombuds office, as such. Its members, who cultivate close ties with their state or district constituencies, effectively function as a collective ombuds office. Members of Congress each have several staff members who deal full-time with constituents’ requests for service. The total number of staffers engaged in constituency service is at least in the range of 2,000 to 3,000 individuals. A weakness of this arrangement is that it is somewhat informal and the coordination and management of staffers is left up to the individual congressional office. Government agencies do not suggest that clients encountering difficulties contact their senator or representative for assistance, and the constituency-service staff does not develop specialized expertise, except for the most common categories of request. In addition, because the acquisition of experience is massively disaggregated, without any systematic collation of information from the 535 congressional offices, congressional staff are less able to identify general policy or administration problems than an actual ombuds office would be. Congress retains this inefficient organization for dealing with citizens’ problems because it enables the legislators to gain individual political credit for providing services.
There exists an independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
The institution of the People’s Ombudsman was introduced with a special constitutional law in 1992, and the first ombudsman started his mandate in 1994. According to Article 2 of the Ombudsman’s Act, the Ombudsman is “a commissioner of the Croatian parliament for the promotion and protection of human rights and freedoms laid down in the constitution, laws and international legal acts on human rights and freedoms accepted by the Republic of Croatia.” He or she is appointed by the Croatian parliament (Sabor) for a term of eight years and can be reappointed. In 2003, separate ombudspersons for children and gender equality were established. In 2008, an Ombudsperson for Persons with Disabilities followed. Croatia thus has a differentiated system of ombudspersons. In order to foster cooperation among them, a special agreement was signed by all ombudspersons in 2013.

At the end of February 2021, Ombudswoman Lora Vidović submitted her annual report for the year 2020 to the Croatian parliament. In it, she described issues faced by citizens in the exercise of their human rights, and enumerated incidences of discrimination. She pointed out that the largest number of citizen complaints in 2020 related to the area of health (not being able to get in touch with their physicians or acquire the medication they needed, as well as postponed appointments and medical procedures, which made already long waiting periods even longer), followed by complaints related to employment, labor and the civil service (submitted mostly by the citizens who had lost their jobs or were required to work from home, but were unable to do so). The third most common group of complaints were related to discrimination, most commonly in the areas of labor and employment, and on the grounds of nationality, ethnicity, health, property status or age. The Ombudswoman concluded that the trends from previous years had continued, with the circumstances related to COVID-19 further exacerbating existing problems in the health system.

Notwithstanding the parliamentary endorsement, however, many government institutions do not react promptly to the Ombudsman’s requests, with requests often left pending for considerable time. Even more worryingly, the Ombudsman reported several times that the Ministry of the Interior had repeatedly denied her access to information relating to police treatment of migrants.
Hungary has an ombudsman for basic human rights, elected by parliament. Under his lead, two vice-ombudspersons deal with the rights of national minorities and with future generations. In 2020, a special board dealing with complaints about the police has been established within the Ombudsman’s Office. The Ombudsman’s Office (Alapvető Jogok Biztosának Hivatala, AJBH) has been rather busy in small individual legal affairs, but it has not confronted the government about serious violations of civil and political rights. Unlike their much-respected predecessors, the two ombudsmen elected by Fidesz-controlled parliaments since 2010, László Székely and Ákos Kozma, have not served as effective checks on the government and have not become important public figures. While the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an avalanche of complaints, including those regarding the restricted choice among vaccines and about the troubles of going abroad because of missing or delayed vaccination documents, the advocacy role of the AJBH has remained limited.
While there is no national-level ombuds office as such, both houses of parliament handle petitions received through their committees on audit and administrative oversight. Citizens and organized groups also frequently submit petitions to individual parliamentarians.

An important petition mechanism is located in the Administrative Evaluation Bureau of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The bureau runs an administrative counseling service with around 50 local field offices that can handle public complaints, with some 220 civil servants engaged in administrative counseling. About 5,000 volunteer administrative counselors serve as go-betweens. A related mechanism is the Administrative Grievance Resolution Promotion Council, which includes non-governmental experts.
Administrative Evaluation Bureau, News from Japan, accessed in November 2018 from Asian Ombudsman Association website

Administrative Evaluation Bureau, Japanese Ombudsman System, March 2018
An independent ombuds office was created in 2007 following the reorganization of the Latvian National Human Rights Office. The ombuds office is charged with investigating citizens’ complaints, monitoring human rights and proposing governmental action to address systemic issues. Since 2011, the ombuds office has been active in monitoring social care facilities for the disabled, closed institutions, access-to-justice failings, issues of equal access to free education, and discrimination against women. It has also worked to raise public awareness on the issue of hate speech. In 2020, the ombuds office received 1,617 complaints.

In 2020, the Ombuds office turned to the Constitutional Court on several occasions to challenge the regulation on minimum income, which it argued was unconstitutional. The court agreed in several cases, for example ruling that the procedure for determining income subject to personal income tax did not comply with the constitution.
1. Ombudsman of Latvia Annual report (2020) Available at (in Latvian):, Last accessed 12.01.2022.
South Korea
The South Korean parliament does not have an ombudsman office, but the Ombuds Office of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission of Korea (ACRC) may be seen as a functional equivalent to a parliamentary ombuds office. The Improper Solicitation and Graft Act, which was initiated by the ACRC, has had a huge impact in changing the culture. The commission’s independence is guaranteed by law, but the standing members of the commission are all appointed by the president. Most ACRC members are drawn from the legal profession, which could limit its ability to serve proactively and independently as an ombuds office in diverse areas. People can also petition the government directly without approaching the parliament or the ombudsman. A Foreign Investment Ombudsman (FIO) system hears complaints by foreign companies operating in Korea. The FIO is commissioned by the president on the recommendation of the Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy, via the deliberation of the Foreign Investment Committee. The FIO has the authority to request cooperation from the relevant administrative agencies and recommend the implementation of new policies to improve the foreign-investment promotion system. It can also carry out other tasks needed to assist foreign companies in resolving their grievances.
Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission of Korea (ACRC),
Office of the Foreign Investment Ombudsman,
In the absence of any constitutional provision for an ombuds office, the Office of the Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights was established by law L. 3/1991. The ombudsman’s mandate extends to equality and non-discrimination, prevention of torture, forced returns, and disabilities issues. The president of the republic appoints the commissioner upon the recommendation of the Council of Ministers, subject to approval from the parliament. The commissioner presents an annual report to the president, with comments and recommendations. Copies of the report, investigative reports and activity reports are made available to the Council of Ministers and to the parliament.

Excluded from the commissioner’s oversight are the House of Representatives, the president of the republic, the Council of Ministers, individual government ministers, the courts (including the Supreme Court) and other officials.

Opinions and reports sometimes appear to accommodate the behavior of the authorities instead of insisting on the need for full respect for human rights in practice.
1. Office of the Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights, Report for 2020 of National Mechanism
for the Prevention of Torture, 2021$file/NPM%20ACTION%20REVIEW%202020.pdf
Italy does not have a national ombuds office. In 1990, a national law provided for the establishment of municipal ombudsman offices, but this provision was abolished in 2010. Some functions are performed by regional ombudsman offices (Difensore civico). Through questions and other oversight instruments, members of parliament perform with significant vigor an analogous advocate’s function with regard to issues and complaints raised by citizens (Russo and Wiberg 2010).
Russo, F. & M. Wiberg (2010). Parliamentary Questioning in 17 European parliaments: Some steps toward comparison. The Journal of Legislative Studies, vol. 16(2), pp. 215-232
A law establishing a Turkish ombuds office, called the Public Monitoring Institution (KDK), was adopted in June 2012 and went into force in December 2012. The office is located within the Parliamentary Speaker’s Office and is accountable to parliament. The ombudsman reviews lawsuits and administrative appeals (from the perspective of human rights and the rule of law) and ensures that the public administration is held accountable. In 2020 alone, the institution received 90,209 new applications and concluded 91,100 cases. Among them, the highest number of applications was relating to Local Administrations (10.86%), followed by the Ministry of Justice (10.60%), and the Social Security Institution (8.62%). According to the KDK itself, two main obstacles hamper the efficacy of its work. First, the degree of compliance with its decisions has been low, with only 20% of its released decisions having been obeyed by public administrative bodies. Second, under the current law, the KDK cannot conduct inquiries on its initiative. The EU Commission indicates that despite the KDK’s increasing workload, the institution does not react to widespread infringements of fundamental rights. It also lacks ex officio powers to open investigations relating to cases requiring legal remedies.
Ombusmanlık. 2020. 2019 Yıllık Raporu.

European Commission. “Turkey Report 2021. Commission Staff Working Document.” October 19, 2021.
The National Congress does not have a formal ombuds office. Efforts to establish such an office failed twice under previous governments. However, the National Congress and its members listen informally (but not systematically) to concerns expressed by citizens and public advocacy groups, inviting them to congressional hearings.

The first public ombudsperson’s office on a special issue was installed in 2018. In compliance with the act establishing the Office for the Defense of Children’s Rights (18 April 2018), the Senate of the Republic of Chile, at the proposal of the Senate’s Human Rights Commission, unanimously appointed the first children’s ombudsperson. However, neither the Office for the Defense of Children’s Rights nor the National Institute for Human Rights (Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos), which advocates for people’s rights before the state in cases when human rights have been violated, enjoy constitutional autonomy.
La Tercera, “La defensoría del pueblo: Qué es y cómo funcionaría si llega a implementarse en una nueva Constitución “, 18 December 2020,, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

Instituto Latinoamericano del Ombudsman – Defensor del Pueblo (ILO), “Chile: Senado de la República designa la primera defensora de la niñez”, May 2018,, last accessed: 13 January 2022.
The Romanian Ombudsman was established in 1991 after the ratification of the country’s first post-communist constitution and is appointed by both chambers of parliament for a term of five years. In mid-2019, Renate Weber replaced the very controversial Victor Ciorbea, who had ignored the concerns of ordinary citizens and championed those of politicians, as Romania’s Ombudsperson. As was the case with Ciorbea, Weber is a lawyer. She was appointed for a five-year mandate, with the possibility of being renewed only once. Weber was nominated by the junior ruling partner, ALDE. Observers had hoped that she will break with Ciorbea’s legacy and strengthen the office by making it more independent from the Social Democrats.

In 2021, Weber was removed from her position by parliament following a request from the PNL, who had accused her of a conflict of interest. The Constitutional Court later overturned the decision, citing provisions on the principle of legality and that the five-year term of office had been violated. Ms Weber remains the ombudsman at the end of 2021, though the ordeal did not improve the office’s real or perceived independence.
There does not exist an effective and independent ombuds office.
There is no ombuds office at the federal level in Switzerland. However, some cantonal administrations do have an ombuds office.
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