Varuh ДЌlovekovih pravic

In Memoriam Ivan Bizjak

Črnobela fotografija. Na njej portret pokojnega nekdanjega varuha človekovih pravic Ivana Bizjaka.

We have been saddened by the news that Ivan Bizjak, the first Human Rights Ombudsman in the independent Republic of Slovenia, an esteemed colleague and a great man, passed away at the age of 68.

He was elected to the position of the Ombudsman in 1994 and he carried his six-year mandate through until September 2000. While laying the foundations of the institution of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Slovenia, of which he was the founder, he and only a handful of colleagues at the time followed three aspects of operation that still distinguish the institution of the Ombudsman from the state apparatus that it supervises. For the collection of papers on the 20th anniversary of the Ombudsman's operation in 2014, he described the institution's mission in the following words: “First, we are here to solve people's problems. The problem is not an interruption in our work, problems are our work. Second, we must do the best we can for anyone who reaches out to us. Third, we must be better than those we criticize.”

With his approach, the late Ivan Bizjak implemented a comprehensive human approach to the work of the institution – not only strictly legal, or merely analytical, but least of all mathematical, even though he had a bachelor's degree in mathematics. Above all, he strived to gain people's trust, strengthen the recognition and reputation of the institution, which, as he himself thought, “means walking a lonely path. Establishing an institution and at the same time demonstrating its effectiveness – this is a serious challenge. At the formal start of the operation of the Ombudsman, we already had more than three hundred initiatives on the table. And hardly any people.”

But although the initial steps may have been full of challenges, Ivan Bizjak, also with the help of his successors, managed to establish a trustworthy institution. With his involvement in the international field – both within the framework of the then European Association of Ombudsmen (1995–2000) and the International Ombudsman Institute (1996–2000), in which he was a member of the leadership – he also strengthened the institution’s international reputation. “Cooperation among ombudsmen is strongly established, as the Ombudsman is a rather isolated institution in their own country. In this collaboration, colleagues take seriously those who can prove that they are firm and consistent in their work, observe the fundamental principles of the ombudsman concept and, of course, are in no way just a fig leaf of the authorities. Contacts at the international level initially enabled me to transfer the good practices of established institutions, which was also very useful later in the period of closer cooperation and leadership roles in international associations. This aspect, too, therefore benefited the people we served,” he remembered on the 20th anniversary of the institution, which he led between 1994 and 2000.

Ivan Bizjak worked tirelessly for the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms of everyman. His legacy is priceless, with his engagement and the tireless work of the Ombudsman's colleagues, he ensured the correction of thousands of injustices. As an expert on human rights issues, he was a respected lecturer and author of numerous expert articles on this issue, even after the end of his mandate as Ombudsman.

The colleagues of the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Slovenia will remember him as an exceptional person. Our deepest respect.

We offer our sincere condolences to the family, relatives, and friends.

Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina with colleagues

Source of quotations: Zbornik ob 20. obletnici delovanja Varuha, 2014