An ombudsman (conventional English plural: ombudsmen) is a person who acts as a trusted intermediary between an organization and some internal or external constituency while representing not only but mostly the broad scope of constituent interests. An indigenous Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish term, Ombudsman is etymologically rooted in the Old Norse word umboðsmaðr, essentially meaning "representative". An ombudsman is an official, usually appointed by the government or by parliament, who is charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints reported by individual citizens. Modern variations of this term include "ombuds", "ombudsperson", or "ombudswoman".

Usually appointed by the organization, but sometimes elected by the constituency, the ombudsman may, for example, investigate constituent complaints relating to the organization and attempt to resolve them, usually through recommendations (binding or not) or mediation. Ombudsmen sometimes identify organizational roadblocks running counter to constituent interests.

In some jurisdictions an ombudsman charged with the handling of concerns about national government is more formally referred to as the "Parliamentary Commissioner" (e.g., the United Kingdom Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, and the Western Australian state Ombudsman). In many countries where the ombudsman's remit extends beyond dealing with alleged maladministration to promoting and protecting human rights, the ombudsman is recognized as the national human rights institution. The word ombudsman and its specific meaning have been adopted in various languages, including Spanish, Dutch and Czech. The post of ombudsman has been instituted by other governments and organizations such as the European Union.

An ombudsman may not be appointed by a legislature, but may instead be appointed by, or even work for, a corporation such as a utility supplier or a newspaper, for an NGO, for a professional regulatory body, or for local or municipal government.

In some countries an Inspector General may have duties similar to or overlapping with an ombudsman appointed by the legislature.

Making a complaint to an ombudsman is usually free of charge.

Sign at Georgetown University Washington DC
Sign near Cape Town, South Africa


Origins and etymology

The origin of the word is found in Old Norse umbuðsmann (accusative) and the word umbuds man, meaning representative (with the word umbud/ombud meaning proxy, that is someone who is authorized to act for someone else, a meaning it still has in the Scandinavian languages). The first preserved use is in Sweden. In the Danish Law of Jutland from 1241 the term is umbozman and means a royal civil servant in a hundred. From 1552, it is also used in the other Scandinavian languages such as the both Icelandic and Faroese umboðsmaður, the Norwegian ombudsmann and the Danish ombudsmand.

The modern use of the term began in Sweden, with the Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman instituted by the Instrument of Government of 1809, to safeguard the rights of citizens by establishing a supervisory agency independent of the executive branch.

A prototype of ombudsmen may have flourished in China during the Qin Dynasty (221 BC), and in Korea during the Joseon Dynasty.[citation needed] The Roman Tribune had some similar roles, with power to veto acts that infringed upon the Plebians.

The predecessor of the Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman was the Office of Supreme Ombudsman ("Högste Ombudsmannen"), which was established by the Swedish King, Charles XII, in 1713. Charles XII was in exile in Turkey and needed a representative in Sweden to ensure that judges and civil servants acted in accordance with the laws and with their duties. If they did not do so, the Supreme Ombudsman had the right to prosecute them for negligence. In 1719 the Swedish Office of Supreme Ombudsman became the Chancellor of Justice.[1] One inspiration to the Supreme Ombudsman may have been the Turkish Diwan-al-Mazalim which appears to go back to the second Caliph, Umar (634-644) and the concept of Qadi al-Qadat.[2] However, the current predecessor of ombudsman institutions, the Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman, is based on the concept of separation of powers as developed by Montesquieu,[1] which has a western origin[3] and roots in the Enlightenment. The Parliamentary Ombudsman was established in 1809 by the Swedish Riksdag, as a parallel institution to the still-present Chancellor of Justice. The Parliamentary Ombudsman is the institution that the Scandinavian countries subsequently molded into its contemporary form, and which subsequently has been adopted in many other parts of the world.

In politics

In general, an ombudsman is a state official appointed to provide a check on government activity in the interests of the citizen, and to oversee the investigation of complaints of improper government activity against the citizen. If the ombudsman finds a complaint to be substantiated, the problem may get rectified, or an ombudsman report is published making recommendations for change. Further redress depends on the laws of the country concerned, but this normally involves financial compensation. Ombudsmen in most countries do not have the power to initiate legal proceedings or prosecution on the grounds of a complaint. This role is sometimes referred to as a "tribunitian" role, and has been traditionally fulfilled by elected representatives – the term refers to the ancient Roman "tribunes of the plebians" (tribuni plebis), whose role was to intercede in the political process on behalf of common citizens.

The major advantage of an ombudsman is that he or she examines complaints from outside the offending state institution, thus avoiding the conflicts of interest inherent in self-policing. However, the ombudsman system relies heavily on the selection of an appropriate individual for the office, and on the cooperation of at least some effective official from within the apparatus of the state. Perhaps for this reason, outside Scandinavia, the introduction of ombudsmen has tended to yield mixed results.

In organizations

Many private companies, universities, non-profit organizations and government agencies also have an ombudsman (or an ombuds office) to serve internal employees, and managers and/or other constituencies. These ombudsman roles are structured to function independently, by reporting to the CEO or board of directors, and according to International Ombudsman Association (IOA) Standards of Practice do not serve any other role in the organization. They are beginning to appear around the world within organizations, sometimes as an alternative to anonymous hot-lines in countries where these are considered inappropriate or are illegal, and in addition to hot lines because ombuds offices typically receive many more calls than do hot lines.(See Charles L. Howard, The Organizational Ombudsman: Origins, Roles and Operations, a Legal Guide, ABA, 2010).

Since the 1960s, the profession has grown in the United States, and Canada, particularly in corporations, universities and government agencies. This current model, sometimes referred to as an organizational ombudsman, works as a designated neutral party, one who is high-ranking in an organization, but who is not considered part of executive management in the sense of being able to make management decisions. Using an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) sensibility, or perhaps more apt, an appropriate dispute resolution sensibility, an organizational ombudsman can provide options to whistleblowers or employees and managers with ethics concerns; provide coaching, shuttle diplomacy, generic solutions (meaning a solution which protects the identity of one individual by applying to a class of people, rather than just for the one individual) and mediation for conflicts; track problem areas; and make recommendations for changes to policies or procedures in support of orderly systems change.

(It may be of interest that the term appropriate, as in appropriate dispute resolution, is something of a term of art. ADR is usually thought to be alternative dispute resolution, as in an alternative to formal, rights-based processes, including formal grievance procedures and the courts. It usually is thought to include mediation and arbitration. However, the word "appropriate" in this context includes rights- or rights- and power based dispute resolution. For example, appropriate dispute resolution of a work-place assault might be a formal grievance procedure or an appeal to security officers. Appropriate resolution might also include simple forgiveness. Appropriate dispute resolution thus refers to a much wider set of processes than are usually thought to be part of alternative dispute resolution.)

One particularly important function is to monitor and pick up "new things" – that is, issues new to the organization. This is particularly important if the issue is "disruptive" in the sense of requiring the organization to review and possibly improve its policies, procedures and/or structures. (See for example:Identifying and Communicating the Usefulness of Organizational Ombuds With Ideas about OO Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness ©2010, Mary Rowe, JIOA vol 3, no 1, p7 and passim.) In recent years there have been many articles about organizational ombuds and about how they coordinate with internal conflict management systems. (See for example: and (including the IOA publications section) and for many references).

An organizational ombudsman who is practising to IOA "standards of practice" is neutral and visibly outside ordinary line and staff structures. An organizational ombudsman will practice informally (with no management decision-making power, and without accepting "notice" for the organization). An organizational ombudsman typically keeps no case records for an employer and keeps near absolute confidentiality. The only exception is where there appears to be an imminent risk of serious harm, and an ombudsman can see no responsible option other than breaking confidence—but organizational ombuds programs report that they can almost always find "other responsible options", such as helping a visitor to make an anonymous report about whatever appears to be the problem.

Ombudsman services by country


The Ombudsman of the Republic of Albania or Avokati i Popullit (People's Advocate) was envisaged in Chapter VI of the Albanian Constitution approved in November 1998 (articles 60-63 and 134). Article 60 states that The People’s Advocate defends the rights, freedoms and lawful interests of individuals from unlawful or improper actions or failures to act of the organs of public administration.[4] The Parliament passed the Law on the People’s Advocate, Law No. 8454, in February 1999. The People’s Advocate is elected by three-fifths of all members of the Assembly for a five year period, with the right of re-election. The Law has since been amended by Law No. 8600, of 10 April 2000, and Law No. 9398, of 12 May 2005. The current Ombudsman is Dr Emir Dobjani, who was elected on 16 February 2000 and re-elected on 17 February 2005.


The office of Human Rights Defender, or Ombudsman, of the Republic of Armenia was created by law in October 2003. The official website [5] describes the goal of the office as the protection and restoration of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It receives complaints against state and local officials. In February 2004 Larisa Alaverdyan was appointed to the office by presidential decree. The second ombudsman was Armen Harutyunyan, who was elected by the National Assembly under article 83.1 of the Constitution on 17 February 2006, obtaining more than 3/5 votes of deputies, for what was intended to be a six-year term commencing on 20 February. The 2003 law governing the office was amended later in 2006, 2008 and 2010.

The current Human Rights Defender, Karen Andreasyan, was elected by the National Assembly on 2 March 2011, with 83 votes in favour to 13 against. A lawyer, journalist and broadcaster, he has worked with several human rights non-governmental organisations.


The Commonwealth Ombudsman in Australia was established in 1976. The Ombudsman can investigate complaints about the actions and decisions of Australian Government departments and agencies, the services delivered by most private contractors for the Australian Government, and oversee complaint investigations conducted by the Australian Federal Police.

There are also ombudsman agencies in each state, a number of industry based ombudsmen, and many other complaint-handling and review agencies, as detailed in the main article.


The Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsman) of the Republic of Azerbaijan is also the country's national human rights institution, accredited with A status by the International Co-ordinating Committee of NHRIs. The first ombudsman, Elmira Suleymanova, was elected by the Parliament on 2 July 2002, and was reappointed in 2010 for a second term. Suleymanova (born 1937), formerly a professor of chemistry, had been active in the women’s movement in Azerbaijan.[5]


Under the Ombudsman Act 1980, the Ombudsman of Barbados is appointed by the Governor-General with the approval of both houses of the legislature.


There is no ombudsman or national human rights institution in Belarus.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Institution of Human Rights Ombudsman/Ombudsmen of Bosnia and Herzegovina is also the country's UN-accredited national human rights institution. It was created by law in 2004.[6]


In Brazil the office of Ombudsman is called the Ouvidor, usually heading a service called Ouvidoria, and each government agency defines its own service. These organisations usually lack full independence. Examples of public service ombudsmen are the Ouvidoria da polícia do Estado de São Paulo — São Paulo State Police Ombudsman — and the Ouvidoria da Secretaria de Defesa Social do Estado do Rio Grande do Norte — Ombudsman of the Social Security Ministry of the State of Rio Grande do Norte.


The institution of the Ombudsman (Граждански защитник) in Bulgaria was established by law in 1998 but the first Ombudsman was elected in April 2005. Since October 2010 the office has been held by Konstantin Penchev, formerly Chair of Supreme Administrative Court.[7] There are also regional ombudsmen (Граждански посредници) in most parts of the country.


In Canada the office of the ombudsman is present in all departments of the federal government, in many provincial and municipal governments as well as in Crown Corporations such as CBC and Canada Post. There is an Ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces and an Office of the Veterans Ombudsman.

There are also several independent ombuds offices in Canada, including the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments.

Provincial and Territorial ombudsmen

While Canada has no single national legislative ombudsman, nine Canadian provinces and one territory have parliamentary ombudsmen (sometimes called "citizens' protector" or "citizens' representative") in the classical/legislative tradition, who oversee the provincial government and receive and investigate public complaints. They are:


The Chilean office is unusual in Latin America in retaining the word Ombudsman in its title: the 'Capítulo Chileno Ombudsman', or Chilean Ombudsman Chapter.[8]


The Ombudsman's Office of Colombia (Spanish: Defensoría del Pueblo, or People's Defender) is the national agency in charge of overseeing the protection of civil and human rights within the legal framework of the state.


Pučki pravobranitelj = People's defender of rights

Czech Republic

The Czech Ombudsman is officially known as Veřejný ochránce práv – Public Defender of Rights – but more frequently referred to simply as ombudsman. The office was established in 1999. It has the traditional ombudsman role of mediating between complainants and officials in public bodies, but has no direct means or mechanisms of enforcement. Should the relevant body fail to provide remedy the ombudsman may eventually pass the matter onto the government. More at the official website.


The Cypriot Ombudsman is known as Commissioner for Administration , is an Independent Authority and was established οn 15 March 1991. Currently, the Ombudsman (Commissioner for Administration) is Eliana Nicolaou.[6]


  • The Parliamentary Ombudsman (Danish: Folketingets Ombudsmand) was established in 1955 to investigate complaints brought by an individual or ex officio in all matters relating to public governance, including maladministration by central or local authorities, on a case-by-case basis and on a general scale. The ombudsman's main areas of expertise include administrative law; constitutional law; the rights of inmates in correction facilities; and access to information. The ombudsman is appointed by the Parliament of Denmark.
  • The Consumer Ombudsman (Forbrugerombudsmanden) was established in 1974 to ensure that the consumer protection and marketing rules are complied with by private undertakings. The ombudsman can ultimately institute legal proceedings before the Copenhagen Maritime and Commercial Court.
  • The highest representative of the Danish government in Greenland is called the Royal Ombudsman (Rigsombudsmanden) since 1979.
  • In February 2011 the Danish government turned down a request from a United Nations committee to create the position of Ombudsman for Children (Danish: Børneombudsmand).[9]


The officer known as Defensor del Pueblo (people's defender) performs the functions of a people's ombudsman.


In Estonia, the Chancellor of Justice (Õiguskantsler) is an independent supervisor of the basic principles of the Constitution of Estonia and the protector of individual rights. The Chancellor of Justice is appointed to office by the Riigikogu (parliament) on the proposal of the President for a seven-year term. The institution of the Chancellor of Justice in Estonia was established by the 1938 Constitution and combines the function of the general body of petition and the guardian of constitutionality. Such a combined competence is unique internationally. The institution is independent of the legislative, executive or judicial powers, and reviews the application of the legislative and executive powers of the state and of local governments to verify conformity with the Constitution and the laws. The institution reports annually to the Riigikogu. In 2008, the Riigikogu appointed the current Chancellor of Justice, Indrek Teder.[10]

The function of ombudsman was entrusted to the Chancellor of Justice in 1999. The Chancellor of Justice monitors whether state agencies comply with people’s fundamental rights and freedoms and with the principles of good governance. In 2004 the ombudsman functions expanded to cover local governments, legal persons in public law and private persons who exercise public functions. Since the office was re-established in 1993, the Chancellor of Justice has made several hundred requests for bringing various legislation laws into conformity with the Constitution. In most cases the requests were complied with. The Chancellor of Justice can refer matters to the Supreme Court. The Chancellor of Justice can carry out conciliation proceedings when it is alleged that discrimination has occurred on the grounds of sex, race, nationality, colour, language, origin, religious or other conviction, property or social status, age, disability, sexual orientation or other grounds specified in law.

The Chancellor of Justice may also submit his opinion to the Supreme Court in constitutional review court proceedings, or initiate disciplinary proceedings with regard to judges. The institution, which already had the function of inspecting places of detention, has served since 2007 as Estonia's national preventive mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.

European Union

The European Ombudsman was established by the Maastricht treaty, the treaty establishing the European Union.[11] The current European Ombudsman, holding office since April 1, 2003, is Nikiforos Diamandouros, former national ombudsman of Greece. The European Union Ombudsman investigates claims by individuals or companies which reside or have their interests within the European Union against incidents of bad administration by bodies or institutions of the European Union.[12]


In 1973, the French Government created an office if Ombudsman, or Médiateur de la République. A reform in May 2011 merged that office with the Children's Ombudsman (Défenseur des enfants), the equality authority (Haute autorité de lutte contre les discriminations et pour l’égalité, HALDE) and the body supervising the conduct of police and other security agencies, the Commission nationale de déontologie de la sécurité (CNDS), creating a new body named the Defender of Rights (Défenseur des droits). In July 2011 Dominique Baudis was appointed to the office by the Council of State on the nomination of the Prime Minister, for a single six-year term.[13]


In Finland the office of Parliamentary Ombudsman,[14] modelled after the Swedish Ombudsman, was established by the Constitution of 1919. The Ombudsman is appointed by the Parliament, and has the task of ensuring that all government departments and officials follow the law. The Parliamentary Ombudsman shares many duties with the Chancellor of Justice. The Ombudsman has wide-ranging oversight and investigative powers. She or he has access to all government facilities, documents and information systems and can order a police investigation if necessary. If the Ombudsman determines that a government official has not acted in accordance with the law she or he can advice on the proper application of the law, reprimand the official or in the extreme case order the criminal prosecution of the official. Partly because of the prosecutorial powers the Ombudsman enjoys considerable respect and her or his legal opinions are usually strictly followed. Her or his legal interpretations carry a lot of weight in the absence of a court precedent.

There are also special ombudsmen for gender equality, children's welfare, rights of ethnic minorities, data protection, and consumer protection, operating under the auspices of various ministries and other government agencies. Also, every health care provider in Finland is legally obliged to have a patients' rights ombudsman.


The Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia is a national human rights institution. The office of public defender was established in 1997 based on the decree of Parliament of Georgia. The Public Defender shall be elected for a term of 5 years by a majority of the total members of the Parliament of Georgia. In his activities, the Public Defender shall follow the Constitution of Georgia and the present Law, as well as the universally recognized principles and rules of international law, international treaties and agreements concluded by Georgia.

The Public Defender supervises the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms on the territory of Georgia, elicits the facts of violation of human rights and assists in the redress of the infringed rights. The Public Defender supervises the activities of public authorities, national or local, public officials and legal persons, evaluates all acts passed by them, gives recommendations and proposals. The Public Defender conducts educational activities in the field of human rights. The current holder of the office, George Tugushi, was elected in 2009. His mandate expires in 2014.


The nearest equivalent to a federal ombudsman service in Germany is the Petitionsausschuss Deutscher Bundestag, the parliamentary petitions office, which receives and investigates complaints of maladministration. There are a number of sectoral ombudsmen, including the Wehrbeauftragter des Deutschen Bundestages (Ombudsman for the Military) and the SÖP (Schlichtungsstelle für den öffentlichen Personenverkehr e.V.), Ombudsman Institution for Public Transport.


The Citizen's Advocate (Ombudsman) of Greece (Greek: Συνήγορος του Πολίτη) was created in 1998 as an Independent Authority. Following the resignation of Professor Georgios Kaminis in September 2010, the duties of the Citizen's Advocate passed to Deputy Ombudsman Kalliopi Spanou. The Advocate is assisted by six Assistant Advocates, who coordinate the activities of the Advocate's office in the six thematic areas in which the office has authority: i) civil rights, ii) social protection, iii) quality of life, iv) state-citizen relationships, v) children's rights, and vi) gender equality.

Hong Kong

The Office of The Ombudsman, Hong Kong, known as the Commission for Administrative Complaints until 1994, is an independent statutory authority, established in 1989 under the Commissioner for Administrative Complaints Ordinance 1988, to redress grievances arising from maladministration in the public sector through independent and impartial investigations to improve the standard of public administration.


After 1989, the end of the communist era multiple ombudsman posts (called országgyűlési biztos, parliamentary commissioner) were created:

  • Commissioner of civil rights (Állampolgári jogok biztosa)
  • Privacy commissioner (Adatvédelmi biztos)
  • Commissioner of privacy rights (Kisebbségi jogok biztosa)
  • Ombudsman for Future Generations (A jövő nemzedékek ombudsmanja, from 2008)

In the future the four ombudsmen will be replaced by only one Ombudsman of Fundamental Rights (Alapvető jogok biztosa).


The post of umboðsmaður Alþingis (parliamentary ombudsman) was set up in 1987 under the terms of law number 13/1987, which deals with complaints against the government. The ombudsman's authority was expanded to local government levels in the 1997 law number 85/1997. The ombudsman is appointed by the parliament (Alþingi).


The Government of India has designated several ombudsmen (sometimes called Chief Vigilance Officer or CVO) for the redress of grievances and complaints from individuals in the banking, insurance and other sectors being serviced by both private and public bodies and corporations.[15][dead link] The CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) was set up on the recommendation of the Santhanam Committee (1962–64).

In India, the Ombudsman is known as the Lokpal or Lokayukta. An Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) was set up on 5 January 1966 under the Chairmanship of Shri Morarji Desai. It recommended a two-tier machinery: Lokpal at the Centre (parliamentary commissioner, as in New Zealand) and one Lokayukta each at the State level for redress of people's grievances. However, the jurisdiction of the Lokpal did not extend to the judiciary (as in New Zealand). The central Government introduced the first Lokpal Bill, Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill in 1968, and further legislation was introduced in 2005, but has so far not been enacted.[16]

The state-level Lokayukta institution has developed gradually. Orissa was the first state to present a bill on establishment of Lokayukta in 1970, but Maharashtra was the first to establish the institution, in 1972. Other states followed: Bihar (1974), Uttar Pradesh (1977), Madhya Pradesh (1981), Andhra Pradesh (1983), Himachal Pradesh (1983), Karnataka (1984), Assam (1986), Gujarat (1988), Delhi (1995), Punjab (1996), Kerala (1998), Chhattishgarh (2002), Uttaranchal (2002), West Bengal (2003) and Haryana (2004). The structure of the Lokayukta is not uniform across all the states. Some states have UpaLokayukta under the Lokayukta and in some states, the Lokayukta does not have suo moto powers of instigating an enquiry.

Kerala State has an Ombudsman for Local Self Government institutions like Panchayats, Municipalities and Corporations [7]. He or she can enquire/investigate into allegations of action, inaction, corruption and maladministration. A retired Judge of the High Court is appointed by the Governor for a term of three years, under the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act.

In the State of Rajasthan, the Lokayukta institution was established in 1973 after the Rajasthan Lokayukta and Up-Lokayuktas Act, 1973 was passed by the State Legislature.

The 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement led by social activist Anna Hazare includes in its demands the creation of a stronger ombudsman agency (with jurisdiction over all state institutions) through the enactment of a Jan Lokpal Bill, as an alternative to the Lokpal Bill proposed by the government in 2010.


The Office of the Ombudsman was set up under the terms of the Ombudsman Act, 1980. The Ombudsman is appointed by the President of Ireland upon the nomination of both Houses of the Oireachtas, and is a civil servant of the State. The Ombudsman deals with complaints against Departments of State, local authorities, health boards and An Post.

There are other ombudsmen established in the Republic. The first Pensions Ombudsman, Paul Kenny, was appointed in 2003. Emily Logan became Ireland’s first Ombudsman for Children in March 2004. The Financial Services Ombudsman incorporated the older offices of the Insurance Ombudsman and Ombudsman for Credit Institutions in 2005. Also established in 2005 was the Office of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces, the first holder being Paulyn Marrinan Quinn, formerly the founding Insurance Ombudsman. An Act of 2005 created a three-person tribunal, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, to investigate complaints about the country's police force. All these offices are statutory and their holders are public servants. A (non-statutory) Press Ombudsman began work in January 2008 and legislation has been published to establish a Legal Services Ombudsman. The Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill of 2008 will provide for the statutory protection of the title of Ombudsman.


The State Comptroller of Israel also serves, by law, as Ombudsman. She or he discharges this function by way of a special unit in the Office of the State Comptroller, known as the Office of the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman investigates complaints against bodies that are statutorily subject to audit by the State Comptroller, including government ministries, local authorities, state enterprises and institutions and government companies, as well as their employees.


In Italy there is no ombudsman at the national level however many units of sub-national government (regions, provinces and communes) have their own ombudsman, known as difensore civico, who are elected by regional, provincial or communal councils.


The Office of the Public Defender was created in 2000 by the Public Defender Act 1999, replacing the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman which had existed since 1978. The Public Defender (currently Earl Witter) has the typical ombudsman function of investigating and remedying maladministration, with additional jurisdiction to investigate alleged violations of constitutional rights.


Although Japan does not have a national level ombudsman, individual regions have established ones. Kawasaki became the first city to do so.


The Ombudsperson Institution in Kosovo (OIK) accepts and investigates complaints of human rights violations or abuses of authority by any public authority in Kosovo. The institution is currently led by Ombudsperson Sami Kurteshi, a former opposition activist, political prisoner and refugee, who was elected to the post by the Assembly of Kosovo on 4 July 2009. The first Ombudsperson, Marek Antoni Nowicki, was appointed in July 2000 by the then Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG), Bernard Kouchner; Nowicki's appointment was renewed in 2002, 2004 and 2005 by subsequent SRSGs Michael Steiner, Harri Holkeri and Søren Jessen-Petersen. With effect from 1 January 2006 Jessen-Petersen appointed a Kosovan lawyer, Hilmi Jashari, as Acting Ombudsperson; Jashari remains in the OIK as Deputy Ombudsperson following Kurteshi's election in 2009. The OIK has several offices throughout Kosovo, and participates (although not yet accredited) in the global network of national human rights institutions, as well as in the European ombudsman network.[17]


The current Ombudsman, Tursunbek Akun, was elected to the post in February 2008.


Since 2007, the Latvian ombudsman is a personalized institution literally called Rights' Defender (Tiesībsargs). Previously, similar functions were carried by National Human Rights Office (1995—2006).


In Lithuania, the position of ombudsman is not very popular or powerful at the national level, however, there are controllers of the Parliament ("Seimo kontrolierius*) working in the Seimas.


The Ombudsman Bureau is under the Commission against Corruption (CCAC), which reports directly to the Chief Executive of the Special Administrative Region. The main function of the Ombudsman Bureau is to strengthen the supervision on law enforcement and effectiveness of public administration.


Since 1997 Macedonia has an Ombudsman Institution named "Naroden pravobranitel for protection of citizens rights". The ombudsman is appointed by the Parliament and performs her or his work under the Constitution and the Law of the Ombudsman.


Since 1995, Malta has established a Ombudsman for the protection of the citizens rights. The Ombudsman is a constitutional office, and is appointed by a resolution of the House of Representatives by not less of a 2/3 majority. The Ombudsman is an official of Parliament, directly answerable to the Speaker of the House.


Article 78 of the Constitution of the Netherlands, as revised in 1983, established an office of National Ombudsman. The Ombudsman may investigate, suo motu or on foot of a complaint, the actions of State bodies or other public entities. The ombudsman and deputy are appointed by the House of Representatives for a fixed period or until reaching retirement age.

New Zealand

The post of Ombudsman was established in New Zealand in 1962, to investigate complaints against government departments. In 1975 the post was expanded, with a Chief Ombudsman and several (number unspecified) of other ombudsmen.[18] New Zealand also has three industry ombudsmen - the Banking Ombudsman, the Insurance and Savings Ombudsman, and the Electricity and Gas Complaints Commissioner who is an ombudsman in all but name.


  • The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud in Norway (Likestillings- og diskrimineringsombudet) was established in 1978 as the Gender Equality Ombud (Likestillingsombudet), the first of its kind in the world. In 2006, the Ombud was reorganised to include discrimination in general. The Ombud's task is to enforce the Norwegian Gender Equality Act and the act relating to prohibition of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, ancestry, skin colour, language, religious and ethical orientation, and sexual orientation (Discrimination Act). The Ombud shall also enforce the anti-discrimination regulations in the Working Environment Act. The mandate of the Ombud also includes to actively promote equality for discriminated groups, and to develop new knowledge through documentation and monitoring.
  • The Parliamentary Ombudsman for Public Administration (Sivilombudsmannen) investigates complaints from citizens or may take up issues on its own initiative: complaints from citizens concerning injustice or maladministration from central government or local authorities.
  • Ombudsman for Children in Norway (Barneombudet) has statutory rights to protect children and their rights. Since 1981, the Ombudsman for Children in Norway has worked continuously to improve national and international legislation affecting children's welfare. Norway was the first country in the world to establish an ombudsman for children.
  • Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman (Forbrukerombudet) [19] shall, in the interests of consumers, seek to prevent market abuses in conflict with the provisions stipulated in or pursuant to The Norwegian Marketing Control Act. The Consumer Ombudsman shall, acting on his own initiative or on the basis of communications from others, urge all businesspersons to conduct their activities in accordance with the provisions of the Marketing Control Act. The Consumer Ombudsman shall also ensure that the terms and conditions are not used in any way that may harm consumers and shall contribute to this end through negotiations with businesspersons or their organisations. The Consumer Ombudsman has received attention internationally since it ruled that the iTunes music store's contract terms violates Norwegian consumer and marketing law.[20]
  • Local and regional authorities often have ombudsmen. Examples of this are ombudsmen for health and social affairs, ombudsmen for th elderly and ombudsmen for school students and apprentices at the upper secondary level.[21]


In Pakistan, the establishment of the institution of Ombudsman was advocated on several occasions. It was, however, Article 276 of the Interim Constitution of 1972, which for the first time provided for the appointment of a Federal Ombudsman as well as Provincial Ombudsmen. Subsequently, the Constitution of 1973 included the Federal Ombudsman at item 13 of the Federal Legislative List in the Fourth Schedule. The Institution of Ombudsman was, however, actually brought into being through the Establishment of the Office of Wafaqi Mohtasib (Ombudsman) Order, 1983 (President’s Order No. 1 of 1983), which is now a part of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan by virtue of Article 270-A. It started functioning on 8 August 1983.

The Ombudsman in Pakistan is called "Wafaqi Mohtasib", (English: "Federal Ombudsman") with its headquarters in Islamabad and Regional Offices in Lahore, Sukkur, Quetta, Faisalabad, Multan, Dera Ismail Khan, Peshawar and Karachi. The official website of Ombudsman in Pakistan is

Government of Pakistan has enacted an act namely "Protection against Harassment of Women at workplace Act, 2010, in 2010. In pursuance of the Act, an Ombudsman for Protection of Women against Harassment at Workplace has been appointed. According to the Act, same Ombudsman would also be appointed in all provinces. Ms Musarrat Hilali has been appointed as the first ombudsman for Protection of Women Against Harassment at Workplace.


The Peruvian ombudsman agency is called the Public Defender (Defensoría del Pueblo).[22] The functions of the institution, which was envisaged by the 1993 Constitution and was created in 1996, include combating maladministration, human rights violations and discrimination. It has 36 offices throughout the country.[23] The current Defensora (ombudsman), Beatriz Merino, was elected by Congress on 29 September 2005 for a five-year term. The Defensoría is accredited with 'A' status as the national human rights institution.[24] There is also a specialised Police Ombudsman (Defensoría de la Policia).


The Office of the Ombudsman of the Philippines is empowered by the Constitution of the Philippines to safeguard the government and government-related institutions and corporations from corruption and dispense justice in the case of such offenses.[25]


The Polish Ombudsman is called the Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich, usually translated as the Commissioner for Protection of Civil Rights, or Commissioner for Human Rights. The office also functions as the national human rights institution, and is accredited with A status by the ICC. The holder of the office from 2006, Dr Janusz Bogumił Kochanowski, died in the April 2010 Smolensk air disaster. He was succeeded by Irena Lipowicz.


The Portuguese Ombudsman is called the Provedor de Justiça (Justice Provider), and its role is defined in article 23 of the Constitution of Portugal:

1. Citizens may submit complaints against actions or omissions by the public authorities to the Ombudsman, who shall assess them without the power to take decisions and shall send the competent bodies such recommendations as may be necessary in order to prevent or make good any injustices.

2. The Ombudsman’s work shall be independent of any acts of grace or legal remedies provided for in this Constitution or the law.

3. The Ombudsman’s office shall be an independent body and the Assembly of the Republic shall appoint the Ombudsman for such time as the law may determine.

4. The bodies and agents of the Public Administration shall cooperate with the Ombudsman in the fulfilment of his mission.

Besides the traditional routes, complaints can be filed online and there are toll-free lines for children and one for senior citizens.

Republic of China

In the Republic of China (Taiwan), the role of the Control Yuan is comparable to that of an ombudsman. However in early 2010 there has been discussion among civil society organisations of the possibility of creating a national human rights institution alongside the Control Yuan.


The Romanian Ombudsman is known as Avocatul Poporului, meaning People's Advocate. Currently, the Romanian Ombudsman is Ioan Muraru.


The Russian ombudsman position is called Commissioner for Human Rights.

Russia's Commissioner for Human Rights is appointed for a certain term by the Parliament. The ombudsman cannot be dismissed before the end of his term, and is not subordinate to any body of power, including the President or the Government. Russia’s 83 administrative regions has the right to elect a local ombudsman whose authority is limited to that region. Less than half have done so.[26][27]

This chair is currently held by Vladimir Lukin.


In Serbia, the Protector of Citizens of the Republic of Serbia (Ombudsman) is an independent state authority, mandated to protect human rights and freedoms. It was introduced into the legal system in 2005 by the Law on Ombudsman and confirmed by the Constitution of Serbia in 2006. Ombudsman is elected by the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia for a five-year-term and is accountable to the Assembly for his work. The Ombudsman enjoys the same immunity as a member of the parliament.

The first Serbian Ombudsman, Saša Janković, was elected by the National Assembly in July 2007. He has four deputies, who are specialized in several fields, especially the protection of rights of persons deprived of liberty, gender equality, children rights, minority rights and rights of people with disabilities.

The Ombudsman has competence to oversee the work of government agencies, the bodies authorized for legal protection of property rights and interests of the Republic of Serbia and other bodies and organizations, enterprises and institutions which have been delegated public authority. He has no jurisdiction over the National Assembly, the President, the Government, the Constitutional Court, courts and Public Prosecutor’s Office. The Ombudsman initiates proceedings following the complaint of a citizen or on his own initiative. State administration bodies are legally obliged to cooperate with the Ombudsman and to provide him access to their premises and all data in their possession, regardless of the degree of secrecy, when of interest to the investigation in process or the Ombudsman’s preventive actions. As a result of an investigation, the Ombudsman may recommend dismissal of an official considered responsible for violation of the rights of citizens, may initiate disciplinary procedures against public administration employees, and may require initiation of penal, offence or other adequate procedure.

The Ombudsman can also act preemptively, by offering advice and opinion on issues within his competence, to enhance the operation of the administration authorities and strengthen the protection of human liberties and rights. The Ombudsman is entitled to propose laws within its scope of competence, give opinions to the Government and the National Assembly on regulations under preparation and address the Constitutional Court to challenge the constitutionality of laws.

The Ombudsman provides the National Assembly with an annual report on his work and findings as well as with other special reports.

The Ombudsman has full membership in the European Ombudsman Institute (EOI), the International Ombudsman Association (IOA), the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC) and the Association of Mediterranean Ombudsmen (AMO). In May 2010, it was accredited with 'A' status as the national human rights institution.

South Africa


The Spanish state ombudsman is the Defensor del Pueblo ("Defender of the People"), dealing with complaints of maladministration and having the capacity to bring cases at the Constitutional Court. There are comparable offices in the autonomous communities of Spain, as follows:

Sri Lanka

The Government of Sri Lanka has designated several ombudsmen for the redress of grievances and complaints from individuals in the banking, insurance and other sectors being serviced by both private and public bodies and corporations.


Sweden has, since 1882, a Parliamentary ombudsman office (Riksdagens ombudsmän), the oldest surviving element of which is the Justice Ombudsman or Justitieombudsmannen (JO).

With growing attention to discrimination issues in the latter part of the 20th century there arose several anti-discrimination Parliamentary Ombudsmen: the Equality Ombudsman or Jämställdhetsombudsmannen (JämO), monitoring issues relating to gender equality and, from 1 March 2002, equal treatment of students at universities; the Children's Ombudsman, or Barnombudsmannen, concerned with matters affecting the rights and interests of children and young people; the Disability Ombudsman or Handikappombudsmannen, concerned with the rights and interests of persons with disabilities; the Ombudsman against Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation or Ombudsmannen mot diskriminering på grund av sexuell läggning (HomO), and the Ombudsman against Ethnic Discrimination or Ombudsmannen mot etnisk diskriminering. On 1 January 2009 all five offices were merged into the new Discrimination Ombudsman.

Further, the Director-General of the Swedish Consumer Agency is also designated Consumer Ombudsman, and the Chancellor of Justice or Justitiekanslern is an ombudsman of sorts.


The Ombudsmen of Thailand or Ombudsmen for the National Assembly (Thai: ผู้ตรวจการแผ่นดินของรัฐสภา; RTGS: Phu Truat Kan Phaen Din Khong Ratthasapha) was first created in the 1997 Constitution of Thailand or the 'People's' Constitution. The name was shortened to the Ombudsmen (Thai: ผู้ตรวจการแผ่นดิน; RTGS: Phu Truat Kan Phaen Din) only by the 2007 Constitution of Thailand. The idea for such an office first appeared in the 1974 Constitution; however it was not until 1997 that the concept was entrenched. Currently there are three ombudsmen, all appointed by the King of Thailand upon the advice of the Senate of Thailand. The Ombudsmen investigate complaints by the general public against public officials and agencies. They have the power to prosecute but not to enforce judgments.

Ombudsmen are appointed to a six year non-renewable term. Thailand's three Ombudsmen are:

  • Pramoj Chomongkol (Thai: ปราโมทย์ โชติมงคล)
  • Phanit Nitithanprapat (Thai: ผานิต นิติทัณฑ์ประภาศ)
  • Siracha Chareanpanit (Thai: ศรีราชา เจริญพานิช)

The Office of the Ombudsman in Thailand appears online at Links are on the site between Thai and English. Procedures are also indicated.


The office of ombudsman, or Commissioner for Human Rights, in Ukraine was instituted in 1998. Nina Karpachova was elected to the office for a five-year term by secret ballot in the Ukrainian Parliament, and has since been re-elected twice, most recently on 8 February 2007. Under Article 55 of the 1996 Constitution, "Everyone has the right to appeal for the protection of his her rights to the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights". Article 101 provides "The Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights exercises parliamentary control over the observance of constitutional human and citizens’ rights and freedoms." [28] The legal basis of the office, which is also Ukraine's national human rights institution, is set out in Law 767/97, which refers to the office as the "Authorised Human Rights Representative" of the Parliament.[29]

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom a post of Ombudsman is attached to the Westminster Parliament with additional posts at the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, the Northern Ireland Assembly and other government institutions. The office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration was created in 1967, covering the activities of central government departments. A separate (National) Health Service ombudsman was subsequently created, but this office has to date always been held by the same person and the two offices are usually referred to as the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. This Ombudsman will usually investigate complaints referred to him or her by a Member of Parliament where there has been evidence of "maladministration" having occurred which has resulted in an "unremedied injustice". Complaints to the Ombudsman are subject to a "time bar" – this means that the Ombudsman may determine a complaint to be out of jurisdiction if too much time has passed between the event or course of events being complained about and the complaint being received by the Ombudsman.

The Local Government Ombudsman (formally the Commission for Local Government Administration – there are three Commissioners) for England and Wales was created in 1973, and a similar office for Scotland in 1974; since then, a variety of other public and private sector-specific ombudsmen have been created, along with the Northern Ireland Ombudsman.

Other official ombudsman services in the United Kingdom

Industry and organizational ombudsmen

United States

There is no single federal ombudsman agency in the United States, where the function of handling complaints against public authorities has traditionally rested with members of Congress. There are, however, a number of federal bodies that undertake functions associated elsewhere with the ombudsman.

There are also ombudsman agencies in some states, a number of industry based ombudsmen, and many other complaint-handling and review agencies, as detailed in the main article.


The office of the Authorized Person of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Human Rights, or Ombudsman, was created in 1995, by an initiative of the President of Uzbekistan, but subsequently through legislation enacted in 1997, reinforced by a constitutional reform in 2003 and a new ombudsman statute in 2004. The current Authorised Person, appointed by the Supreme Assembly of Uzbekistan (Oliy Majlis), is Sayora Rashidova. The office was one of the first ombudsmen established in the Commonwealth of Independent States, and receives technical support from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.[30]


The 1999 Constitution of Venezuela created a new position, the Public Defender (Defensoría del Pueblo (Venezuela)), an office with the authority to check the activities of the presidency, the National Assembly, and the constitution.

In fiction

In the science fiction television series Babylon 5, the arbiters aboard space station Babylon 5 who preside over cases stemming from public complaints are referred to as ombuds (this is both the singular and plural designation), the gender-neutral title for an ombudsman. Just as with their modern European counterparts, the ombuds only preside over public cases, including robbery, assault, and murder, and do not interpret law as a regular judiciary does.

John Perry, the protagonist of The Last Colony, written by John Scalzi starts off the novel as an ombudsman for a newly-settled human colony.

The webcomic PvP ran a story arc starting at the beginning of March 2009 parodying the comic series and movie Watchmen called The Ombudsmen.

The Fox News parody show, Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld, meets three times per episode with "TV's Andy Levy, Ombudsman".

See also


  1. ^ a b Riksdagens Ombudsmän - JO: Historik
  2. ^ Pickl, V. (1987). "Islamic Roots of Ombudsman Systems". The Ombudsman Journal 
  3. ^ Aristotle's Political Theory
  4. ^ Article 60, Albanian Constitution
  5. ^ Azerbaijan Ombudsman website
  6. ^ Bosnia and Herzegovina Ombudsman legislation
  7. ^ [1] Sofia News Agency report on ombudsman appointment
  8. ^ 'Capitulo Chileno Ombudsman' (in Spanish)
  9. ^ Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: DENMARK, Committee on the Rights of the Child, 4 February 2011
  11. ^ Constitution of the European Union, Article III-335 (provisions establishing EU ombudsman)
  12. ^ European Ombudsman website
  13. ^ website of the French ombudsman
  14. ^ Finnish Parliamentary Ombudsman
  15. ^ "LIST OF AGENCIES IN GOVERNMENT OF INDIA FIGHTING CORRUPTION" (pdf). Central Vigilance Commission, Government of India. Retrieved 2008-01-21. 
  16. ^ "Lokpal bill to cover PM". CNN-IBN. Nov 21, 2010. 
  17. ^ Kosovo Ombudsperson website
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ iTunes violates Norwegian law
  21. ^ [2][3]
  22. ^ Peruvian ombudsman website
  23. ^ [4] Oxford University research paper on Peruvian Defensoría
  24. ^ NHRI Forum website
  25. ^ Office of the Ombudsman of the Philippines
  26. ^ Institute of the Commissioner for Human Rights (in Russian)
  27. ^ St. Petersburg Times: Controversial Ombudsman Mikhailov Dismissed (October 23, 2009)
  28. ^ Ukrainian Ombudsman website
  29. ^ Ukrainian Ombudsman statute 1997
  30. ^

External links

Ombudsman associations

  • International Ombudsman Institute (IOI) - representing 120 independent ombudsman institutions around the globe
  • [8] - Asian Ombudsman Association (AOA) - "To promote the concepts of Ombudsmanship and to encourage its development in Asia"
  • Association of Mediterranean Ombudsmen (AMO)
  • ANZOA - Australian and New Zealand Ombudsman Association (ANZOA)
  • BIOA - British and Irish Ombudsman Association (BIOA)
  • CFO - Coalition of Federal Ombudsman (CFO) - Promoting and Assisting Ombudsman in the United States Government
  • European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC)
  • ENOHE - European Network of Ombudsmen in Higher Education (ENOHE), Universiteit van Amsterdam
  • European Ombudsman Institute European Ombudsman Institute
  • IOA - International Ombudsman Association (IOA)
  • ONO - Organization of News Ombudsmen (ONO)
  • USOA - United States Ombudsman Association (USOA) - Promoting and supporting fairness, accountability, and equity in government through the public sector ombudsman

Ombudsman directories

  • IOI - International Ombudsman Institute (international directory of ombudsmen)
  • Ombuds Blog includes lists of organizational ombuds offices in corporations, academic, governmental, and other organizations

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  • Ombudsman — désigne dans de nombreux pays l équivalent de la fonction de médiateur de la République[1] ou de Protecteur du citoyen dans plusieurs pays francophones ou de défenseur du peuple dans des pays hispaniques, ou encore de défenseur du citoyen ou bien …   Wikipédia en Français

  • ombudsman — om‧buds‧man [ˈɒmbʊdzmən ǁ ˈɑːm ] noun ombudsmen PLURALFORM [ mən] [countable] someone who deals with complaints made by the public against government departments, banks, insurance companies etc. In Britain, the main government ombudsman is called …   Financial and business terms

  • ombudsman — n. An official in a government or company whose job is to hear, investigate, and remedy complaints. The Essential Law Dictionary. Sphinx Publishing, An imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. Amy Hackney Blackwell. 2008. ombudsman a …   Law dictionary

  • ombudsman — [ ɔmbydsman ] n. m. • v. 1960; mot suéd., de ombud « délégué » et man « homme » ♦ Dans les pays scandinaves, Personne chargée de défendre les droits du citoyen face aux pouvoirs publics (cf. Médiateur [en France], protecteur du citoyen [au… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • ombudsman — OMBUDSMÁN s. m. (în ţările scandinave) personalitate independentă care are sarcina să examineze plângerile cetăţenilor împotriva administraţiei. (< fr. ombudsman) Trimis de raduborza, 15.09.2007. Sursa: MDN …   Dicționar Român

  • ombudsman — (n.) 1959, from Swed. ombudsman, lit. commission man (specifically in reference to the office of justitieombudsmannen, which hears and investigates complaints by individuals against abuses of the state); cognate with O.N. umboðsmaðr, from umboð… …   Etymology dictionary

  • ombudsman — / ombudzman/ s.m. [dallo svedese ombuclyznam rappresentante pubblico , propr. uomo a cui si rivolgono richieste ]. (giur.) [pubblico ufficiale che procede a indagini su pubbliche amministrazioni e suggerisce soluzioni] ▶◀ difensore civico …   Enciclopedia Italiana

  • ombudsman — Voz sueca que significa ‘alto funcionario público encargado de proteger los derechos fundamentales de los ciudadanos ante los poderes públicos’. Debe sustituirse en español por las denominaciones propias de cada país: defensor del pueblo, en… …   Diccionario panhispánico de dudas

  • ombudsman — |õbudsmán| s. m. 1. Cargo público destinado à defesa dos direitos, liberdades e garantias dos cidadãos. 2. Cargo, em órgãos de comunicação social ou em outras empresas, públicas ou privadas, destinado a receber e investigar queixas ou a… …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • ombudsman — /sved. ˈɔmbˌdsman, ingl. ˈombudzmən/ [vc. sved., «rappresentante pubblico»] s. m. inv. difensore civico …   Sinonimi e Contrari. Terza edizione

  • ombudsman — (izg. ombùdzman) m DEFINICIJA 1. branitelj prava građana 2. pol. predstavnik parlamenta koji povremeno kontrolira rad izvršne vlasti; pučki pravobranitelj ETIMOLOGIJA šved …   Hrvatski jezični portal

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