Natisni vsebino

Special features of the role of the ombudsman in transition conditions

15.10.2000 17:18
Category: papers


VIIth IOI CONFERENCE, DURBAN SOUTH AFRICA
Workshop 3: Democracy in transition – the inevitable chalenges: corruption, freedom of the media, access to information
Ivan Bizjak, ombudsman

Conditions in countries in transition differ from conditions in countries with consolidated democracies. The transition countries are undergoing a process of strengthening democracy and enforcing the principles of a state based on the rule of law, which at the same time means that mechanisms for the appropriate protection of the rights of the individual and the guaranteeing of his legal security are only now being established.

As a result of the numerous inadequacies in the normative and institutional machinery of the state, the role of the ombudsman in transition conditions or in the conditions which follow the establishment of a new state is even more important than in traditional democratic conditions, since the ombudsman can contribute to the strengthening of democracy and the state based on the rule of law and to the modernisation of state institutions.

This paper deals with conditions in the transition countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The first section analyses some special features of transition conditions and the key goals of democratic transformation, to the realisation of which the ombudsman can contribute his part. The second section looks at the ways in which the ombudsman can influence the resolving of key transition-related problems. As a starting point we shall take the case of Slovenia and, in relation to this, the findings of the Human Rights Ombudsman. We take into account also the available data from the other countries in question. The findings on the role of the ombudsman are partly based on the results of a survey carried out among ombudsmen in transition conditions in which the respondents were asked for their views of the special features of the role and influence of the ombudsman in such circumstances. Eleven ombudsmen from Central and Eastern European countries took part in the survey.

1. Special features of transition conditions

Transition means a move from one social and economic system to another. I intend to put aside the economic aspects of transition, although this transformation also has its reflection in the asserting of human rights, particular those of a social nature. In the political sense it involves a transition from an essentially totalitarian system to a democratic system, the establishing of a state based on the rule of law and human rights.

The system from which the Slovenian transition derives was not favourable for human rights, despite the efforts made towards democracy. The practice and culture of protecting human rights were not established. In the sphere of civil society, however, a powerful sensitivity to questions of human rights was established before the actual dismantling of the old system. This was clearly reflected both in the efforts to achieve independence and to democratise the former common state, and in the Slovenian constitution. This sensitivity later waned considerably, especially among those sections of civil society which had turned into a political elite. At the same a weakening of civil society occurred, which today is felt above all in the formulation of policies in areas where civil society has to play the role of a corrective to the will of political elites.

A transition-type transformation means radical changes to legislation, structures of authority and the practice of state bodies. With the effecting of democratic changes in our country it seemed possible that this extensive task could be completed in a short time. However it is becoming increasingly clear that this is a long and complex process. Particularly difficult and time-consuming is the change in mentality necessary in order to change the practice of state bodies and their officials. In Slovenia, and in some of the other states which appeared after the collapse of communism, there is a further need to establish integral state subjectivity and to resolve the numerous issues brought by independence.

This is merely a rough outline of the processes which are still under way in Slovenia and other countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The consequence of such changes are on the one hand an unstable and, because of frequent changes, not entirely consistent legal system, and on the other a series of state bodies so overwhelmed by applications that deciding on them is a lengthy and sometimes ineffective process. To this should be added the great expectations of people who anticipated positive and rapid changes and the righting of wrongs which occurred in the past. All of this is only happening slowly. At the same time many people are encountering problems which were previously unknown, particularly unemployment and social problems.

The democratic state based on the rule of law

Human rights can only be well protected in a democratic state based on the rule of law. Transition is the route to such a state. The fact that we talk about a transition means that we are aware that we have not yet achieved the goal. Transition requires a change (modernisation) of legislation, structures and practice, but this cannot be achieved without a fundamental change in the thinking of those who make the decisions.

A state based on the rule of law can be defined as a form of government founded on the rule of laws rather than the rule of the people (Bobbio, 1997: 345-346). I understand the concept of the state based on the rule of law in a tangential sense. Given favourable conditions of convergent operation of all structures to which the rule of law relates - from the legislature to the direct exercising of authority - the ideal of legality can be approached at will, and through attentive operation of all the mechanisms established for this, it is also possible to preserve a state of affairs which is as close as possible to the ideal. In this way it is possible to do away with and prevent irruptions of rule by individuals, to which no state can be immune, whether it is a matter of the arbitrariness of the last official at the information counter of an administrative office, a policeman on the street, or the legislative body.

In order to establish the rule of law, the law must exist - an integral, interconnected, consistent legal system which changes and adapts itself in a way which preserves and strengthens the confidence of citizens in the law which is equal for all and is actually implemented. Everyone can expect of it appropriate protection of his or her rights and interests and at the same time knows that it will not be possible to avoid the prescribed sanctions if his or her conduct is not in accordance with what is prescribed. The ideal state of affairs described of course merely confirms the basic point, that a state based on the rule of law is an ideal.

A consolidated democracy is the other sine qua non for the effective assertion and protection of human rights. This element is especially important for non-judicial forms of protection of human rights such as the institution of ombudsman. I do not intend to go into theoretical meditations on the definition of democracy. Important for the discussion of the framework which enables the effective protection of human rights are particularly important the two fundamental dimensions of democracy as defined by Dahl. These are pluralistic competition and political participation. The realisation of these two dimensions has a great influence on the behaviour of elites and means that they cannot act arbitrarily with impunity or allow a legal system which gives a clear priority to specific groups while marginalising others. A system of organised uncertainty, to use Przevorski’s definition of democracy, prevents the usurping of power by a given elite, which is the most serious threat to the respecting of rights and freedoms. Of course true pluralistic competition does not simply appear as soon as multi-party elections become possible. This is even more true of political participation in the broadest sense of the word. In order to judge how far we have come on the road to transformation, it would be worth examining how well the procedural and institutional minimums which we know from theory (Dahl) have been carried into effect. Although these criteria have formally been met, it is clear that substantively some of them are very weakly implemented in many transition countries, particularly with regard to pluralism of sources of information and the causal connection between government policy and the will of voters.

The social aspect of transition

While considering the legal and political aspects of transition we must not overlook the social aspect. As well as freedoms, democracy requires a tolerable social level. The processes of transformation bring new social problems for various categories. Generally speaking, many people are facing the threat of want and poverty, which is the opposite of what they expected. That such development is for many people an undermining of their human dignity, and thus of the fundamental rights based on it, does not need to be specially demonstrated. To establish a solid democratic state which respects human rights is it is therefore important to establish extensive social safety valves at the same time as democracy and a market economy. Otherwise ‘there is a danger that the democratically achieved results of economic and social policy could remain below a given tolerability threshold for large sections of the population’ (Merkel, 1997:121).

2. The role of the ombudsman in transition conditions

After this theoretical reflection on the special features of the circumstances of transition, let us look at the concrete problems encountered by ombudsmen and the ways in which they can be solved.

Fundamental problems deriving from transition circumstances

Some problems specific for countries in transition have already been mentioned in the first section. Let us see first of all what transition problems are perceived by ombudsmen in various transition countries. The survey asked: ‘Do you observe in your country any special problems important for the ombudsman which are the consequence of transition?’ The problems the ombudsmen identify can be classified into three groups:

  • legislation:
  • legislation is still unstable (Romania)
  • legislation is not in line with international conventions and the constitution (Bosnia-Herzegovina)
  • insufficient knowledge of changes of legislation among the public, particularly with regard to the housing system and the system of social assistance (Latvia)
  • irregularities in legislation, especially instability of regulations in the commercial sphere (taxes, duties etc.) (Poland)
  • organisation and work of state bodies
  • reform of the judiciary is necessary (Uzbekistan)
  • inappropriate professional standards and personal ethics among some state officials charged the protection of human rights (Latvia)
  • uniformity of authority reflected in tight control of the courts (Bosnia-Herzegovina)
  • delays in legal proceedings (Poland)
  • ineffectiveness of traditional legal remedies (Ukraine)
  • lack of tradition in the protection of human rights (Bosnia-Herzegovina)
  • unprofessional and politicised administrative and police (Bosnia-Herzegovina)
  • inconsistency of the system of health care (Poland)
  • social and political problems:
  • serious violations of social and economic rights (Ukraine)
  • problems with migration, ecology and unemployment (Moldavia)
  • economic conditions prevent the exercising of rights of complainants, especially with regard to social assistance, housing, the right to personal dignity, children’s rights and the rights of the disabled (Romania)
  • the changing of the ownership structure in all sectors (Croatia)
  • limitedness of resources intended for social security (Poland)

Although different problems are listed for different countries, the majority of them apply to all. The answers confirm the key transition problems also identified by the Human Rights Ombudsman in Slovenia (Bizjak,1999:15-16):

  • A stable legal system has not been established and as a result the rule of law is weak and sometimes contradictory, the possibility of arbitrary decision-making is used too frequently, people perceive changes to laws which bring incomplete solutions as violations of their rights. It is therefore no surprise that there are frequent requests for reviews of constitutionality and legality and consequent annulling of the provisions of many laws. Delays in the issuing of executive regulations are more the rule than the exception and therefore even regulations important for the rights of the individual cannot begin to be implemented correctly. Attempts are made to fill legal vacuums by means of analogies, which is usually to the detriment of the individual.
  • State institutions do not make decisions within the legal deadline or within a reasonable period. Some of them fail to implement regulations effectively. The time needed for the protection of rights in the courts has in many cases the same effect as if such protection did not exist at all.
  • Many social problems are getting worse, which as a consequence means the marginalising of a section of the population and driving them into a position where they can see no future and no way out. This applies in particular to those problems whose cause lies in long-term unemployment.

Findings on the unstable legal system and the lack of clarity of frequently changed regulations are also cited by the Polish ombudsman, who draws particular attention to the problem of interpretation of regulations using merely internal instructions or correspondence. With regard to problems connected to the duration of court proceedings the Hungarian ombudsman made the observation that judges all too often understand their newly-acquired independence as untouchability and unaccountability. Certain other characteristics connected with transition come from the reports of the Slovenian Human Rights Ombudsman: blatant irregularities are rectified too slowly, informing the public about government intentions is inadequate, harmonisation among departments in order to resolve problems takes too long, the attitude of the state to the individual is often unsuitable, both with regard to respect for his dignity and to the provision of full information and assistance, there is insufficient care for certain groups bearing the greatest burden of economic transformation, there are still no effective paths of complaint in many areas, and there is an inadequate sense for well-regulated work by state bodies and other bodies.

With regard to the problems dealt with by ombudsmen in countries in transition, it is true to say that they include all the problems cited in their reports by Western European ombudsmen. The problems mentioned above are additional problems and a special feature of countries in transition. The majority of the special problems mentioned are of a systemic nature - thus they do not only involve an irregularity affecting just one individual. The solving of these problems depends on systemic changes in the state, which on the one hand means that solving them is difficult, and on the other that the activity of the ombudsman can contribute to bringing about systemic changes.

The influence of the ombudsman in rectifying problems

Transition conditions are reflected in the work of the ombudsman on the problems under discussion, and also in the method of work itself. Let us therefore quote some experiences which point to the special features in the non-judicial protection of human rights in a newly-established democracy - mainly of course in the case of Slovenia, with some references to experiences in other countries in a similar situation. It can be said that the bulk of the special features which differentiate the work of ombudsmen in the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe from the work of their colleagues in democracies with a long tradition are the same.

If we look at the empirical data we see, in the case of all properly-established ombudsmen in transition countries, a larger number of complaints than in comparable Western countries. Ireland is a fairly good comparison for Slovenia - with a comparable number of inhabitants, an ombudsman with similar powers, and an institution which functions in a similar way. However the Irish ombudsman receives roughly the same number of complaints each year as the Slovenian ombudsman does, although the population of Ireland is nearly twice that of Slovenia. In 1999 the Irish ombudsman received 3,986 complaints and the Slovenian ombudsman 3,411. In 1998 the figures were 3,779 and 3,448 respectively.

There is also a difference in the percentage of justified complaints. In traditional democracies 10 to 15 per cent of complaints are justified, while in Slovenia more than a quarter of complaints in the first two years were justified and though the percentage fell in the third year it remained in the high twenties. The reasons for such a state of affairs can be found in the systemic problems which the state is not addressing sufficiently rapidly and effectively.

The role of the ombudsman in transition conditions is perhaps even more important than in countries with a long democratic tradition. I tested this theory by means of a direct question in the survey: ‘If you compare the role of the ombudsman in a country in transition to that of the ombudsman in a traditionally democratic country, do you feel that the role of the ombudsman in the transition country is more important, less important or equally important?’ Of the eleven respondents, seven felt that the role of the ombudsman is more important in these circumstances, while four were of the opinion that it has the same importance as in a traditional democracy. When asked how they assessed the conditions for work in a transition country in comparison to a traditional democracy (whether the ombudsman can do more, less, or that there is no difference), six ombudsmen took the view that the ombudsman can do more, three that he can do less, and two did not see any difference.

It is worth interpreting the answers to these two questions together. Clearly the prevailing view is that the institution has greater importance in transition conditions, while slightly fewer ombudsman are of the opinion that it has greater effectiveness. We can assume that some ombudsman are of the opinion that the institution has the same importance because they consider that because of unfavourable circumstances they cannot enforce their proposals. This is assumption is confirmed by the comment of the Romanian ombudsman who considers that the role of the ombudsman is equally important but that this depends on the authorities’ willingness to cooperate. He feels that the effect of the ombudsman is less, explaining that public expectations are too high and that actual conditions are not suitable for putting solutions into effect. To summarise, ombudsmen in transition conditions incline to the view of the greater importance of the institution of ombudsman in transition countries, which in opinion of the majority could be more effective, while in the opinion of the others these very circumstances are what prevents it from working effectively.

The ombudsman can have an important influence on the progress of transformation and modernisation of the state in three key areas: in the adaptation of legislation and the adaptation of structures and institutions, and in changing the practice of public authorities. In the area of legislation drawing attention to unsuitable and out-of-date regulations is in itself important - the more so since governments and parliaments tend to give priority regulations in the economic sphere and to general political issues, while regulations which are fundamental for the assertion and protection of human rights are often left to one side.

The introduction of numerous new regulations is also connected with problems for individuals. Not even the most thorough legislature can envisage all the situations which life can bring. Some individuals thus find themselves in an impossible situation. Sometimes it is enough to propose a less rigid interpretation of a given regulation, though often the only solution is to change the regulation. Conflicts and legal vacuums also occur with individual newly-passed laws, which state bodies tend to settle to the detriment of the individual. As well as the possibility of proposing to the government or competent ministry a change to a law or other regulation, the possibility which is open to the ombudsman in Slovenia is also important. He can request the Constitutional Court to review the constitutionality of a law and can also lodge a constitutional complaint in the name of the person affected. Through suitable use of these possibilities, the ombudsman can significantly speed up the harmonisation of laws with the constitution and international legal documents, and their adaptation to real-life situations.

Of great help in this process are ratified international legal documents and the judicature of bodies responsible for supervising their implementation. The work of the ombudsman is based on constitutionally-guaranteed human rights and freedoms. Under the provisions of the Slovenian Constitution these rights are exercised directly on the basis of the Constitution. Of special importance for the work of the ombudsman in Slovenia is the fact that international legal documents ratified in Slovenia are incorporated into the domestic legal system. In this way direct application of the European Convention on Human Rights is also possible. This also includes the possibilities of appealing directly to the judicature of bodies founded on the basis of this Convention. The same applies to other ratified conventions of the Council of Europe, such as the Convention on the Prevention of Torture, or the United Nations, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The warnings, opinions and proposals of the ombudsman can also be very important with regard to the adaptation of the structures and institutions of the state to the standards of a state based on the rule of law. On the basis of the problems deriving from the complaints of individuals, it is possible to identify inadequacies in the work of state bodies. It is possible to propose organisational changes, for example where the existing organisation does not enable the effective assertion of the right to complain, and also appropriate reinforcement and organisational changes where procedures are unreasonably lengthy.

Particularly important is the role of the ombudsman in restored democracies in changing the practice of state bodies, especially in regard to their attitude to citizens. The simple fact that someone is keeping a watch on these bodies has an important influence on the correctness of their work. This is a preventive role, which is particularly important in the case of law enforcement bodies. Equally important, of course, is the role of the ombudsman in changing the attitude of the state to the individuals who turn to it in order to assert their rights and interests. The principle of the all-powerful state is still strongly rooted in the minds of state officials. The ombudsman can help enforce the principle that the state exists for the citizens rather than the other way around.

Democracy, responsibility and the state based on the rule of law

The degree of influence of the ombudsman on various aspects of the situation in a state is illustrated by the answers given by the ombudsmen in transition countries to the questions contained in the survey mentioned above. A review of the answers to the questions relating to the influence of the ombudsman on the consolidation of democracy and the putting into effect of the principles of the state based on the rule of law and the principle of responsibility is shown in Table 1.

Table 1 

QUESTION

High

Medium

Low

What in your opinion is the degree of influence of the institution of ombudsman on the promotion and strengthening of democracy in your country?

What is your estimate of the ombudsman’s influence on:
- responsibility of those in government
- detection of irregularities
- awareness of citizens of inadequacies
- social interconnection
- determining of priorities in the decision-making process
- democratic procedures
- transparency of the work of the state

Improvement of the work of the state in accordance with the principles of the state based on the rule of law:
- general level of influence 
- legality of the work of state institutions 
- improvements in the practice of administrative bodies 
- improvements in the work of the courts

8
 
 
 

3
9
5
1
3
7

7

5
5
7
3

2
 
 
 

6
2
6
7
3
2

3

5
5
3
2

0
 
 
 

2
0
0
1
5
2

1

1
1
1
6


This is of course a matter of the image the ombudsmen themselves have of the influence of their institutions. Nevertheless it is possible to extract some prevailing estimates from the answers. The assessment that the influence of the ombudsman on the strengthening of democracy is very high is almost unanimous. Neither is it surprising to see a consensus on the high degree of influence of the ombudsman on the awareness of citizens of inadequacies in the state. It is clear that such awareness on the part of citizens has a knock-on effect along the line of vertical responsibility. In the opinion of the respondents the ombudsman has quite a high degree of influence on the putting into effect of democratic procedures and the improving of transparency in the workings of the state. In enforcing responsibility among those in government the prevailing opinion is that the ombudsman has a medium-to-high degree of influence. One reason why this influence is not greater may be the result of the low degree of political culture in transition countries, which is also apparent in lower vertical responsibility.

As concerns the ombudsman’s influence on the carrying into effect of the principles of a state based on the rule of law, ombudsmen give the highest rating to their influence on improvement of the practical operation of administrative bodies. Here very concrete issues are involved, where it is possible in the most direct way to show violations of principles and help change the method of work. In the case of the slightly wider issue of the ombudsman’s influence on the legality of the work of state institutions, the ombudsmen give a slightly lower evaluation. Despite this, the ombudsmen clearly estimate their degree of influence on the realisation of a state based on the rule of law as quite high, except in the case of improvements in the work of the courts, which however is understandable since the powers of the ombudsmen are quite limited in this area, and the judiciary tends to be a fairly conservative and closed system.

Human rights

We have seen that many ombudsmen emphasise as a special feature of transition conditions problems with regard to the exercising of certain fundamental human rights, and especially social and economic rights. Table 2 shows us how the ombudsmen in the transition countries assess their influence in this sphere.

Table 2

QUESTION

High

Medium

Low

How do you assess the influence of the ombudsman on the improvement of the protection of human rights?

Please indicate the estimated level of influence and the importance of the ombudsman’s work for the various categories of human rights:
- fundamental rights (life, personal freedom and security, protection from torture, etc.)
- civil rights (freedom of expression, freedom of religious profession, freedom of assembly, the right to vote, family life, the right to a fair trial, equality before the law)
- social rights
- economic rights
- rights of minorities
- rights of vulnerable groups (the disabled, children, women, foreigners)

8
 
 
 
 

8
 

6
3
1
7

7

3
 
 
 
 

2
 

5
7
5
3

2

0
 
 
 
 

0
 

0
1
5
0

1


In the ombudsmen’s own view, then, the degree of their influence on the protection of human rights is very high, like their influence on the strengthening of democracy. In order to obtain a more detailed picture, we divided rights into a number of categories, to check the assessment in more detail. It is apparent from the answers that the ombudsmen feel most successful in the asserting of personal and civil rights and the rights of members of special groups. Their possibilities for protecting social rights are poorer, and poorest of all in the case of economic rights. The assertion of social rights is to a large extent dependent on the resources which the state allocates for this purpose. In most countries these are modest, and for this reason the acknowledging of new rights and the guaranteeing of existing rights to all those entitled to them are limited. Economic conditions affect the exercising of economic rights and the degree of effectiveness of the ombudsman’s influence in this sphere.

The influence of the ombudsman on the formulation of policies

The role of the ombudsman is primarily reflected in the addressing of specific problems which the individual has in relation to the state. In investigating and identifying irregularities the ombudsman proposes a way of removing the identified irregularity. The most basic form of irregularity to appear is a specific action or omission by a body under the ombudsman’s jurisdiction which is not lawful or correct or which is arbitrary in a manner which is not permissible. However a specific systemic inadequacy can also appear as a reason for the problem, and this can only be rectified by changing a specific policy.

The identification of problems is part of the role of the ombudsman in the formulation of policies. In the majority of cases the role of the ombudsman as a participant in the formulation of policies is uncontroversial. However given the non-political nature of the institution, it can become problematic when questions and solutions with regard to which political views vary are involved. This is particularly evident when the ombudsman draws attention to problems in the area of social and economic rights. Here the ombudsman runs the risk that his warning of a specific problem will be understood within political parties as acting in the interest of those parties whose manifestos include the addressing of such problems. The ombudsman cannot stop this danger, but a considerably more weighty justification of the identified problem and some restraint in the formulation of alternative solutions are necessary.

It is evident from ombudsmen’s reports that it is more difficult to succeed with recommendations which represent proposals for the formulation or alteration of specific policies than with those which merely relate to the addressing of a specific problem. This is of course understandable, since in such cases the realisation of the recommendation depends on numerous actors. It is however extremely important in this field if the ombudsman’s recommendations concord with the efforts of other actors, e.g. interest groups or - despite the danger mentioned above - political parties. It is not surprising that many interest groups try to use the ombudsman and his influence in setting an agenda for the solutions which they propose. Some attempts of this type are also of a speculative nature, with interest groups wishing to use the ombudsman’s influence to realise their own biased interests or achieve changes of policy in areas where it is not possible to talk about inadequate regulation. A restrained attitude on the part of the ombudsman in such cases is understandable and necessary. This applies even more to initiatives to change policy in areas where there is a conflict of interests of various groups. The ombudsman can asses that the problem involved is one which needs to be addressed and try to have it dealt with by decision-making bodies. However the proposing of solutions is generally not appropriate in such cases.

All eleven of the ombudsmen from transition countries who took part in the survey gave an affirmative answer to the question of whether their institution proposed any changes of policy. With regard to four of the areas to which proposed changes relate, the affirmative answers were as follows:

  • normative protection of human rights: 11
  • practical work of state bodies with regard to human rights: 10
  • good administration (improvements in public administration): 7
  • improvements of social mechanisms: 8

None of them used the opportunity to cite any additional area. The answers show that all of the ombudsmen questioned are included in the formulation of policies which concern the normative and executive side of the protection of human rights, while they more rarely involve themselves in the changing of policies designed to improve the functioning of the administration and social mechanisms.

Asked to estimate the average success rate of their policy-change proposals, the ombudsman gave estimates ranging from 2 to 4 (on a scale of 1 to 5). Two ombudsmen did not answer this question, while one ombudsman circled 1 and 5. The distribution of the answers can be seen from the table below.

Estimate

Frequency

1
2
3
4
5

0
1
4
3
0


It can be seen from these answers that the ombudsmen’s success rate in proposing changes in policy is fairly good. Of course we can state at the same time that it is lower than in the case of other proposals and recommendations, where the majority of ombudsmen cite a ninety plus per cent success rate.

Prevention of corruption

Corruption is a specific problem in all transition countries, though it varies in seriousness from country to country. In some it even represents a serious threat to the successful implementation of democratic transformation. For this reason a successful fight against corruption is of key importance.

The ombudsmen in Central and Eastern Europe do not have explicit powers with regard to the fight against corruption as is the case in some countries elsewhere in the world (e.g. some African countries, Vanuatu, the Philippines and Indonesia). They encounter this problem indirectly in the investigation of complaints about arbitrary, inappropriate or unlawful treatment. A possible cause of such behaviour is often corruption in the public administration, and for this reason the presence of the ombudsman has a preventive influence. Of course the role of the ombudsman in this sphere is limited to just a few areas and forms of corruption, and the method of operation is indirect.

It is thus no surprise that the ombudsmen give quite different answers to the question of whether they considered the prevention of corruption as part of their job. Of the eleven respondents, six replied in the affirmative and five in the negative. Those respondents who do consider the prevention of corruption as part of their job were asked what mechanisms are available to them for the prevention of corruption. They gave the following assessments of the three possibilities offered:

Mechanism

Number of answers

- investigation of complaints of individuals
- own-initiative proceedings
- possibility of access to all documents

6
3
4


The Polish ombudsman mentions, as an additional possibility in this field, the possibility of initiating disciplinary proceedings or official sanctions, which many other ombudsmen also have the power to do. The Romanian ombudsman also stresses the importance of reports to parliament.

Conclusion

Because of the specific circumstances affecting the position of the individual in the countries in transition (unstable legal system, transformation of institutions, social crisis), the traditional aspects of the role of the ombudsman are joined by other, additional aspects. The ombudsman can contribute to faster transformation in areas to which political actors do not devote special attention, influence the prevention of (mainly) social conflicts and help change the practice of state bodies and the mentality of state officials, and along with this he can contribute to the modernisation of the state, the consolidation of democracy and the strengthening of responsibility of the individual branches of authority.
 

Sources and literature:

Merkel, Wolfgang: ‘Teorije transformacije: demokratična konsolidacija postavtoritarnih druzb’ in Kaj je politika? Ed. Adolf Bibic, Ljubljana,1997.

Bizjak, I: ’Človekove pravice v Sloveniji danes’ in ’Človekove pravice v Sloveniji danes/Študijski dan Komisije Pravičnost in mir, Ljubljana, Družina, 1999.

Bizjak, Ivan: The Role and Experience of an Ombudsman in a New Democracy. In: The International Ombudsman Yearbook Vol.2 1998 (ur. Linda C. Reif). Kluwer Law International. The Hague/London/Boston. 1999.

Bobbio, Norberto: Etika in politika. In: Kaj je politika (ed. Adolf Bibič). Znanstveno in publicistično središče, Ljubljana, 1997.

Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection: Annual Report 1996/97, Warsaw, 1997.

Annual Report of the Human Rights Ombudsman. Varuh človekovih pravic, Ljubljana, 1997.


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