Origins of the Ombudsman Institution
The Ombudsman Institution was established in Sweden in 1809, by the Parliament, who introduced in the new Constitution the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, as an instrument that can enable the Parliament to exercise some control over the exercise of executive power, by monitoring the compliance of public authorities with the law.
This idea was not a new one in 1809. In fact, in 1713 the absolute monarch Charles XII had created the office of His Majesty’s Supreme Ombudsman. At that time King Charles XII was in Turkey and had been abroad for almost 13 years and in his absence the administration in Sweden had fallen into disarray. Therefore, he established the Supreme Ombudsman to be his pre-eminent representative in Sweden. The task entrusted to him was to ensure that judges and public officials in general acted in accordance with the laws in force and discharged their duties satisfactorily in other respects. If the Ombudsman found that this was not the case, he was empowered to initiate legal proceedings against them for dereliction of their duties. In 1719 the Supreme Ombudsman was given the title of Chancellor of Justice. This office still exists, and today the Chancellor of Justice acts as the government’s Ombudsman. In 1766 the Parliament for the first time elected the Chancellor of Justice, but since the 1772, the right to appoint the Chancellor of Justice again became a royal prerogative.
According to the Constitution from 1809, the state power was to be divided between the King and the Parliament. The King was to appoint the Chancellor of Justice (in other words he was the royal Ombudsman) while the Parliament was to appoint its own Parliamentary Ombudsman. The main purpose of the establishment of this new post as Ombudsman (Parliamentary Ombudsman) was to safeguard the rights of citizens by establishing a supervisory agency that was completely independent of the Executive. Like the Chancellor of Justice, the task of the Ombudsman was to supervise the application of the laws by judges and civil servants. According to the Constitution from 1809, the Parliament was to appoint a man “known for his knowledge of the law and exemplary probity” as Parliamentary Ombudsman. In other words, his duties were to focus on protection of the rights of citizens. For instance the Parliamentary Ombudsman was to encourage uniform application of the law and indicate legislative obscurities. His work was to take the form of inspections and inquiries into complaints. Complaints played a relatively insignificant role at the beginning of the institution. During the first century of the existence of the Office, the total number of complaints amounted around 8,000.
(Source: http://www.jo.se/ – The Parliamentary Ombudsmen of Sweden)
Ombudsman Institution in the world
The next Parliamentary Ombudsman was established in Finland, by the Constitution of 1919. The idea has attracted attention outside Scandinavia, after the regulation of the Ombudsman’s office in Denmark, in 1954. In the past 30 years, this institution has spread throughout the world, so now there are about 120 ombudsman institutions worldwide.
Ombudsman institution has developed in two forms:
- Ombudsman with general jurisdiction – treats all issues arising from malfunctions in the administration
- Ombudsman with special competence – specialized in a particular area (for example, ombudsman for child protection, ombudsman for consumers protection, financial services ombudsman, ombudsman for equality and against discrimination, ombudsman for persons with disabilities, ethnic discrimination ombudsman, ombudsman for defense etc.).
The Romanian Constituent Assembly has chosen the name “the People’s Advocate”, an ombudsman institution with general jurisdiction, which has as purpose the defense of individuals’ rights and freedoms in their relationship with the public authorities.
The People’s Advocate Institution was one of the new institutional structures created by the Constitution from 1991, along the Constitutional Court. Thus, the People’s Advocate Institution has as purpose the defense of individuals’ rights and freedoms in their relationship with the public authorities.