Ombudsman institutions play a crucial role in consolidating
democracy, the rule of law and human rights. While there is no standardised
model across Europe – some countries choose a single-member generalist ombudsman
institution, others opt for a number of ombudsmen at regional level
or in specialised fields – all share the goal of reviewing maladministration
and protecting the rights of individuals.
Council of Europe member States which have not yet set up
a national, generalist ombudsman are encouraged to do so, endowing
the institution with a broad mandate to investigate individual complaints
while taking care that it should not interfere with judicial review
of administrative acts, at least for human rights violations.
The ideal ombudsman should be impartial and independent, anchored,
where possible, in the constitution and appointed and accountable
to parliament, endowed with the power to investigate all bodies
of the executive branch, including a right of access to documents
and persons held in detention. States should ensure their ombudsmen
have the resources to do the job, and take steps to raise their
public visibility and create an “ombudsman-friendly” climate.