The current situation in Slovakia undermines the work of Ombudswoman, Jana Dubovcová, according to an international expert. After complaints by Dubovcová herself and after criticism from opposition politicians and non-governmental organisations, the President of the European Board of the International Ombudsman Institute Peter Tyndall wrote this opinion in a letter to the Speaker of the Slovak Parliament Pavol Paška.

The Institute has 160 members in 90 countries. The letter was made available to the SITA newswire on June 10 by Ján Glovičko, an aide to the Slovak ombudswoman. According to the letter, undermining the work of an ombudsman is understood internationally as evidence of a lack of respect for citizens’ rights.

“I urge you to address the situation as quickly as possible, and thus confirm that the Slovak parliament promotes democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” Tyndall writes in the letter, adding that the International Ombudsman Institute is willing to help. In Tyndall's words, the Institute is concerned about problems faced by Dubovcová, noting that this institution is well established in Slovakia and in accordance with international rules. As in other countries, the ombudsman is connected to the parliament and together with the government is working to protect the rights of citizens. In accordance with international practice, the Slovak
ombudsman or ombudswoman can investigate complaints from citizens and initiate their own investigations.

“The decision of the Slovak Parliament to return the annual report of the ombudsman for the year 2012 and your decision not to include a special report of the ombudsman to the agenda are unprecedented in our experience,” reads the letter, as quoted by SITA. “It can be expected that the role of parliament is to promote and protect the ombudsman’s work. It is expected that the ombudsman some time during their work presents a report which is critical to the work of government. In a democracy, however, it is expected that such a report shall be examined and action will be taken on its basis.”

At the same time as this letter was sent, the parliament handled the issue of the residence of Ombudswoman’s Office, as this still remains – as it did under predecessor Pavol Kandráč at a rented site in Bratislava. A resolution submitted by Smer MP Vladimír Jánoš and approved on June 10 calls on government to solve the issue, if possible by relocating it to premises owned by the state or regional administration, the TASR newswire wrote.

In January, Smer officials claimed that Dubovcová might be relocated outside Bratislava. According to Prime Minister Robert Fico, in the city of Košice in eastern Slovakia Dubovcová would be closer to the marginalised Roma communities that are of so much interest in her work. Two of the “bombshells dropped at government’s doorstep”, as TASR put it, was last year’s condemnation of police violence during a raid into a Roma settlement and a report on the mistreatment of special needs’ students at a state-run facility.

Back then, Dubovcová stated that she has been proposing since she assumed her post one year ago that her office should have eight regional branches. “If the philosophy presented by the parliamentary chairman and prime minister holds true... it should also be appropriate to move the government, or at least certain ministries; for example the Labour, Social Affairs and the Family Ministry,” ombudswoman proposed, according to TASR. “They’d be closer to problems that have been pointed to by the public ombudswoman, so they’d be able resolve them.”

(Source: SITA, TASR)
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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