Organisation Transparency-Serbia salutes the news on the election of an ombudsman under the Law on the Protector of Citizens. At the same time we wish to warn that this is only the first step in establishing this institution in Serbia.
Experience teaches that watchdog institutions face obstacles already at the founding stage: late approvals of the systematization act, assignment of inappropriate premises, or similar hurdles are often raised. Those obstacles may grow disproportionately when it becomes obvious that an institution is devoted to working independently from political structures.
In the newly adopted Ombudsman-law, the protection of the human rights for certain groups like minorities, children, or convicts ranks top priority. Even so, it is to be expected that the largest number of complaints will actually refer to partial proceedings or neglect of administration and servants, which often are hidden allegations of abuse and corruption. The newly elected Ombudsman will have the opportunity and obligation to help citizens to protect their rights from malpractice in the administration. At the same time, public servants who wish to point out to irregularities should also be protected by this independent institution.
Transparency-Serbia would like to remind that by electing a Protector of Citizens the state fulfilled only one part of its obligation from the mandatory recommendation no.15, issued by the Group of States against Corruption. It will be necessary to change the law on local self-government in order to motivate the election of ombudsmen at the local level.
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