The year 2021 was intense and full of challenges in Lithuania. The country continued to fight the coronavirus pandemic, while migrant flows from Belarus reached the Lithuanian border at the beginning of the summer. The challenges of managing irregular migration have forced state institutions to consolidate their efforts to address national security and human rights issues.
These factors inevitably affected the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office as well, as in response to the constantly changing situation, decisions had to be made promptly, which led to the regrouping of forms and priorities of activities and redistribution of human resources. Last year was also a special year for the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office in that the essence of the institution of the Ombudsman was refined at constitutional level.
In its ruling of 9 November 2021, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania stated that, according to Article 73(1) of the Constitution, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office is an independent and autonomous institution of control over state and municipal officials (except judges), which helps to ensure the implementation of the imperatives of responsible governance, accountability to the public, and the protection of human rights and freedoms, which are based on the constitutional rule of law, also exercising a function of control over the performance of state and municipal officials, in order to protect human rights and freedoms from arbitrariness, abuse, or bureaucracy by state and municipal officials.
By investigating complaints regarding the abuse of powers by state and municipal officials, or the excess of powers conferred by law, bureaucracy or violation of the requirements of legislation, and thus protecting human rights and freedoms, the Seimas Ombudspersons are an additional (subsidiary) guarantor of the protection of human rights and freedoms. In this ruling, the Constitutional Court relied extensively on the Principles for the Protection and of the Ombudsman’s Institution, adopted by the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), which acts as an advisory body to the Council of Europe on constitutionalism, at its 118th Plenary Session held on 15-16 March 2019, which emphasises the principle of the Ombudsman’s independence.
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Source: Office of the Seimas Ombudsmen, Lithuania