03 / 07 / 2004 Rafael Ribó, Syndicate of Ombudsmen of Catalonia: “In some countries, ombudsmen still run the risk of being imprisoned”
Today and tomorrow Forum Barcelona 2004 will be hosting the first round table discussion of Regional European Ombudsmen. During the inaugural session, the speakers coincided in stressing the necessity of democratizing the methods of naming this figure in certain countries and the convenience of working in a network to strengthen their authority with respect to that of the governments.
“The existence of the ombudsmen is not a democratic luxury,” in the words of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the European Council, Alvaro Gil Robles. The former Spanish ombudsman recognized that, sometimes, “this figure is even bothersome for governments given that few rulers like to hear the truth.”
The opening session of the first round table discussion of ombudsmen revolved around the importance of the existence of this service and their fundamental role in guaranteeing citizens´ rights. The man recently named as the Ombudsman of Catalonia, Rafael Ribó, assured us that “it isn’t true that citizens can only demand their rights by going to court.” Ribó warned that you have to advance towards a progressive reinforcement of the authority of the ombudsmen because, “in some countries, the people who hold this position are still imprisoned.” In this sense, the secretary of the Venice Commission of the European Council, Gianni Buquicchio, assured us that “currently, the institution is not questioned, but the methods for naming the ombudsmen in some countries are definitely not always democratic.”
Nonetheless, Giovanni Di Stasi´s, president of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the European Council, believes that “regional ombudsmen offices are not easy to create in all of Europe, and sometimes, it is difficult to convince the public administrations of the convenience of creating the institution.” For Stasi, “it is fundamental to create a network of ombudsmen so that they can work together, given that their role in society is becoming more and more important.”
The president of the Parliament of Catalonia, Ernest Benach, stated that, “the figure of the ombudsman has been present in the history of Catalonia for centuries,” but he warned that this position needs to be reinvented in order to increase its level of efficiency and effectiveness.
At the opening session of the gathering, organized by the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the European Council, Pilar Valluguer, Councilor on Women and Civil Rights, also participated.