On 15 March 2019, the “Principles on the Protection and Promotion of the Ombudsman Institution”, (“The Venice Principles”) were adopted by the Venice Commission. The Venice Commission is the Council of Europe’s Commission for Democracy through Law providing legal advice to its Member States.
The 25 Venice Principles represent the first, independent, international set of standards for the Ombudsman institution. They are the equivalent of the Paris Principles which set out the standards against which national human rights institutions are judged. They play a key role in protecting existing Ombudsman offices who are facing threats, provide guidelines for the improvement of current Ombudsman offices and set a template for new offices where none are present.
The meeting of the Venice Commission was addressed by IOI President Peter Tyndall, European Vice President Catherine De Bruecker, (Belgian Federal Ombudsman representing AOMF - Association des Ombudsmans et des Médiateurs de la Francophonie), and Andreas Pottakis, (European Board Member and Greek Ombudsman representing AOM - Association des Ombudsmans de la Méditerranée). The meeting was also addressed by Carmen Comas-Mata Mira (representing FIO - the Iberoamerican Federation of Ombudsman).
The IOI has been highly engaged in the evolution of the Principles because of their significance and also because of the realisation that any set of Principles which was not aspirational might serve to undermine existing offices.
IOI President Peter Tyndall said: “The Venice Principles provide comprehensive and internationally accepted standards for the proper functioning and independence of Ombudsman institutions around the globe”.
The draft considered by the Venice Commission was the subject of some minor amendments which included further strengthening of the protection against inappropriate removal from office. The final version is very much more robust than the initial drafts, and reflects the benefits of an extended consultation in which the IOI was highly engaged, as well as the other representative bodies.
The IOI is very grateful to the Commission for its work, to the drafting group of Ms Lydie Err (the former Luxembourg Ombudsman), Mr Jan Helgesen (Norway), Mr Johan Hirschfeldt (Sweden), Mr Jørgen Steen Sørensen (Ombudsman of Denmark and member of the Venice Commission) Mr Igli Totozani (the former Ombudsman of Albania), and to the Venice Commission Secretariat, especially Ms Caroline Martin. Their willingness to engage with the IOI and the other Ombudsman associations, as well as key international actors such as the Council of Europe and the UNHCR has ensured that the final draft is a key document for the future of the Ombudsman in Europe and beyond.