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Ombudsman Peter Svetina Meeting His Cypriot Colleague Maria Stylianou-Lottides on an Official Visit

At the invitation of Maria Stylianou-Lottides, the Commissioner for Administration and the Protection of Human Rights of the Republic of Cyprus, the Slovenian Ombudsman Peter Svetina is currently on an official visit to Nicosia. His visit confirms the excellent relations between their two institutions, which, among other things, are the result of their close cooperation within theInternational Ombudsman Institute (IOI)) and the Association of Mediterranean Ombudsmen (AOM). Svetina met with the leadership of the Cypriot human rights ombudsman institution, with whom he discussed the role and work of the two institutions. Svetina and Stylianou-Lottides addressed various social issues, but especially the personal experience of more vulnerable groups in society who are often cast aside to the margins or to the bottom of society, whom they encounter in their work. They highlighted the importance of the work of all institutions in line with the international human rights standards and the rule of law, and the importance of their commitment to civilizational and democratic standards. Svetina also met the president of the Cypriot parliament, Annita Demetriou, with whom they confirmed their commitment to protecting human rights. They agreed that the dignity of others should be at the forefront of all our activities, stressing that ethics in public speaking should again be the aim of all, because sadly it is becoming increasingly less important, especially on social media.

 "A society can only be sound if its immune system is working properly – that is, the civil society, independent supervisory institutions, the free and independent media, an autonomous academic community and other active members of society," noted Svetina at the meeting with President Demetriou in Nicosia. "As a society, we have set certain rules to ourselves, many of which have their legal foundation in the legislation, laws and other documents to ensure their lawfulness and fairness. In a society where the rules are clear and so are the consequences of violating them, there is an atmosphere of certainty, which leads to a feeling of security, which, however, has been severely shaken by the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, migrations and other crises. In these new circumstances, social rules are put to the test and therefore it is especially important to respect the decisions of the authorities that determine which rules should apply in society so that everyone's dignity is respected, and everyone's rights and fundamental freedoms can be exercised," added Svetina.  

He also drew attention to the fact that human rights require constant attention because any violation of an individual's rights leaves a mark on and affects their life. He and his Cypriot colleague, Ombudsman Maria Stylianou-Lottides, agreed that every person that turns to a national institution for the protection of human rights finds themselves in an extremely difficult situation (either psychologically, emotionally or socially) in which their security is compromised, so they called for a strengthening of the role of these institutions and the status of ombudsmen at the national and international levels. In addition, they emphasised the importance of the financial independence of national human rights institutions and their operation based on the Paris Principles, because they can only perform their tasks effectively if they are independent of the institutions that supervise them. Svetina also supported Cyprus's efforts to acquire "A" status accreditation according to the Paris Principles, which regulate the status and functioning of national human rights institutions. This is the highest attainable status according to the Principles, which were adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993. Svetina shared his experience with the demanding accreditation procedure with his Cypriot colleagues (the Slovenian Human Rights Ombudsman institution acquired this status in early 2021), expressing his believes that the Cypriot Ombudsman is successful on this journey. "For Cyprus, this will be not only a recognition of its successful work related to the protection of human rights, but also a signal to the country itself that respecting and strengthening the role of such an institution is the right way forward, " concluded the Slovenian Ombudsman, Peter Svetina.