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Act on the Public Defender of Rights

In essence, the public defender of rights, the Czech version of the ombudsman, is an independent individual elected by the Czech Parliament to investigate complaints regarding violations of rights by public authorities. The Czech ombudsman has a degree of “authority to investigate” (in particular as regards access to information) and initiates redress not using power (the ombudsman cannot give orders to or penalize a public authority) but by notifying the authority in question or by recommending it to take certain steps building on the influence of his office (he may exercise pressure by threatening to make the case public or notify the authority’s governing body).
Anyone can turn to the ombudsman if he believes that a government office (listed in Section 1 of the act) harmed him or another person by a) acts that violate the law, b) acts that are contrary to the principles of a democratic state and good governance, or c) inactivity.
The authority of the ombudsman does not extend to the highest constitutional bodies, courts of law, prosecuting bodies and intelligence services.
The ombudsman does not investigate complaints in regard to acts older than one year, cases that were heard in court and apparently unfounded complaints. If shortcomings are found on the part of a public authority during investigation, the ombudsman requests a position document from the authority and consequently proposes measures of redress (including corrective legal measures if provided for by the law). If the authority in question fails to provide redress, the ombudsman may make the case public.
Apart from investigating complaints against public authorities, the ombudsman has other powers and tasks: he may recommend amendments to existing regulations (both laws and codes of practice of public authorities), although his recommendations have no legal power. This “right” does not concern municipal decrees, i.e. norms falling into the responsibility of self-governing bodies. According to the Constitutional Court Act, the ombudsman may petition the Constitutional Court to revoke legal norms below the level of laws as well as take part in proceedings dealing with revocation of such norms initiated by other parties.
The Act on the Public Defender of Rights was passed on 8 December 1999 under No. 349/1999.
(Abstract by Pavel Čižinský)
11. 6. 04
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