What is an ombudsman?
An ombudsman is a legal system institution created in Sweden in 1809 with the basic objective to perform the constitutional control and supervise the public administration work and thus protect citizens from bad, illegal and criminal abuse of powers. Since 1970' this institution has been established in many European countries and in the countries all around the world. Today it exists in 130 states. In 2005 Republic of Serbia adopted the Law on Citizen Protection and in 2007 the Office of Ombudsman was established.
What is a local ombudsman?
Local ombudsman is an independent local institution whose objective is to protect human rights and freedoms from indecent, illegal and criminal abuse of powers by municipality or city authorities, institutions founded by city, city public utility companies, other public services entrusted with performing public duties. The ombudsman can propose adopting new, modifying and annexing the existing decisions/ordinances made by municipality/city assembly, he/she can propose modifying existing and initiating new laws, regulations and general provisions which define the issues related to the rights of the citizens.
Local ombudsman is elected by city/municipality assembly and the assembly adopts special ordinance which defines the position, jurisdictions and methods of operation.
Local ombudsman cannot issue orders or prohibitions. The power of this institution can be seen through the authority and argumentation. The readiness of the local self governments to accept the responsibility secures the efficiency of the local ombudsman.
The City of Niš established this institution in 2005 by the Ordinance on Public Legal Defense Office ( Niš City Official Gazette No 25/2005).
When and how does an ombudsman act?
An ombudsman acts upon the receipt of the complaints from the citizens about the violation of the rights and freedoms by some city/municipality ordinance, public utility company, and public service which have been entrusted with performing public duties. Also an ombudsman acts upon the lack of adopting certain regulation/ordinance in defined period due to, so called, silence of administration.
An ombudsman can act upon his/her initiative, i.e., according to the his or her terms of reference in cases when he or she finds out that certain ordinance, act or lack thereof violate individual or collective rights.
Who can appeal to an ombudsman?
All citizens can appeal to the ombudsman regardless of their citizenship. Any citizens’ association, company or any other legal entity, domestic or foreign, can appeal to the ombudsman with the complaint about the local administration and public utility companies which are applying the regulations made by Republic of Serbia and local administration. An ombudsman has no jurisdiction over the work of other institutions and international organisations.
When and how should a citizen make an appeal?
A citizen or legal entity can appeal to the ombudsman only if other legal options have been exhausted. In exception cases, an appeal can be made to the ombudsman even if other legal options have not been exhausted, in cases of suffering non – reimbursable damage or in cases when there is blunt violation of the principles of independence, legality, expertise, impartiality and political neutrality.
An appeal should be made in written form submitted by regular mail or e/mail, fax or hand delivered at the official premises of the Ombudsman’s office.
An authorized person/non-governmental organisation/association can appeal on the behalf of the person whose rights, freedom or interests have been violated.
An appeal can be made no later than a year after the date of the rights violation, i.e., delivering final decision or ordinance/regulation to which an appeal is referring. In case when an administrative procedure cannot be initiated against the ordinance/regulation, an appeal can be made no a later than a year after the violation of rights.
When is it not allowed to appeal to an ombudsman?
In case for which an ombudsman is not in charge of:
- When an appeal refers to the work of republic institutions (ministries, inspections and other services established at the national level);
- When an appeal refers to the work of city/municipality assembly;
- When an appeal refers to the work done by Mayor/municipality president;
- When an appeal refers to the work of city/municipality council;
- When an appeal refers to the work of legal institutions (courts, public attorney office and police;
- When an appeal refers to the work of individual persons;
- When more than a year have passed since the adoption of the final act which violated the rights;
- When an appeal have already been made and there are no new evidence or the verdict has been reached upon the prior appeal;
- When all other legal procedures have not been exhausted.
What does an appeal should look like?
There is no particular form of an appeal to an ombudsman. But for an appeal in a written form to be acted upon, it should include:
- Name, surname, address and phone number
- Clear reference to which city administration department, institution or public utility company an appeal refers to, short description of the case of violation with stating of the evidence whish support the appeal, and the statements about the legal procedures already exhausted;
- An appeal must be signed by an applicant.
In what ways is an ombudsman effective?
An ombudsman acts by sending the opinions, proposals and recommendations to the local self government departments and institutions with the reference to the appeal made by a citizen. Thus, by expressing the position, an ombudsman warns the local self government and public services about the violation of the citizen’s rights or about other irregularities. Also, an ombudsman informs city/municipality assembly and the general public via media.
What obligations do local self government departments and public services have to an ombudsman?
- upon the request from an ombudsman, local self government departments and public services have to provide information and data necessary for an ombudsman to work and to act accordingly;
- local self government departments and public services have to enable access for an ombudsman to all premises where those services work;
- An ombudsman can take statements from the elected, appointed or delegated officials, and from the employees working in local self government departments and public in order to clarify the appeal case and to establish facts;
- local self government departments and public services have inform an ombudsman no later than 15 days about undertaken measures as a response to the opinion, proposal or recommendation sent by the ombudsman.
- In case local self government departments and public services do not inform an ombudsman about the undertaken measures and activities or if the ombudsman believes that undertaken measures are not adequate, the ombudsman will inform the respective authorities which are in charge of supervision of the local self government departments and public service.
Can an appeal be made about the decision made by an ombudsman?
The decisions made by an ombudsman are final and an appeal cannot be made in relation to those decisions.
The procedure before an ombudsman is free of any charges and the work of ombudsman’s office is financed from local self-government budget.
NIŠ CITY OMBUDSMAN: MARINA MITIC
MARINA MITIC was born in 1960. She graduated from University of Nis Faculty of Law. She passed the bar exam in 1998.
From 1989 to 1992 she worked as junior associate at the law firm. From 1999 to 2003 she was actively involved in non – governmental sector, primarily in the Center for Human Rights Nis where she was a part of several projects in the area of human rights protection. From 1992 to 2012 she worked in Nis City land Development Agency.
She was appointed Nis City ombudsman by the Decision made by Nis City Parliament on September 18, 2012.
Office of the Ombudsman
Address: 18a, Kej Mike Paligorića Street, 18000 Niš
Phone: 018/520-509, 504-599; Fax: 018/520-509
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Mail to be delivered to: 24, Nikole Pašića Street, 18000 Niš