At the end of their meeting in Kroměříž, the three ombudsmen from the Visegrad Four countries stressed the importance of an active relationship between the state and ombudsman institutions. The importance of the ombudsman's mission, according to them, is particularly clear at a time of social change, such as the epidemic of covid and the war in Ukraine.
"We call on national governments and parliaments to ensure that the protection of human rights at the national level is in no way limited or compromised. This includes ensuring the continuity of the Ombudsman's office," the ombudsmen said in their joint statement, referring to the situation in Slovakia, which has been without an ombudsman for many months. The Slovak Office was represented at this year's meeting of the V4 ombudsman institutions by the Director General of the Section for the Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms Tomáš Čitbaj.
"The mandate of the Ombudswoman Mária Patakyová ended shortly after Russia's military invasion to Ukraine and the Parliament has still not elected her successor. This has prevented the institution from functioning for more than six months. In March, Mária Patakyová launched a procedure on her own initiative to review the state's treatment of refugees from Ukraine. Due to the missing ombudsman, the activities of our institution were limited to gathering information and monitoring the situation, without the possibility of proposing measures and issuing recommendations to the relevant authorities," summarised the impact of the long standstill in the Slovak Ombudsman's Office Tomáš Čitbaj.
In the Czech Republic, the continuity of the Ombudsman's office is ensured directly by the Ombudsman Act. Outgoing officials remain in the office after the end of their mandate until their successor arrives. In Slovakia, when an ombudsman leaves, the post remains vacant until a new representative is elected.
“Ombudsman Institutions have always played an important role in ensuring the checks and balances in states based on rule of law and respect to human rights. They build a bridge between the state and the society, public authorities and individuals. The importance of this mission has always increased with the level of the polarization of the society,” the ombudsmen agreed in their joint statement.