The Parliamentary Ombudsman of Finland

The first Parliamentary Ombudsman began his work at the beginning of 1920. The first official documents of the office were dated on the 7th of February, consequently the anniversary of the institution has been traditionally celebrated in early February.

To celebrate the 90th anniversary The Parliamentary Ombudsman published a jubilee book containing essay-type articles in Finnish, Swedish and English.

The post of Parliamentary Ombudsman was created by the Form of Government Act, one of the several documents that formed the Constitution of Finland and which entered into force on 17.7.1919. It was modelled on the Swedish ombudsman institution, which had existed since 1809. The first Finnish Ombudsman, chosen on 19.12.1919, was Erik Alopeus and the person chosen to substitute for him was Risto Ryti, who later became President of the Republic. The Ombudsman’s term in office was initially one year. It was changed to three years in 1933 and to the present four years in 1957.

The first Deputy-Ombudsman post was created in 1972 and the second in 1998. The present Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen is the 18th incumbent of the post. The Deputy-Ombudsmen are Jussi Pajuoja and Maija Sakslin. When 50 years had passed since its inception, an excellent doctoral thesis dealing with it was written by Mikael Hidén, who is now Emeritus Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Helsinki.  It has the title Eduskunnan oikeusasiamies (The Parliamentary Ombudsman) and was published by the Association of Finnish Lawyers (Vammala 1970). A jubilee book was also published to mark the anniversaries of 75, 80 and 90 years.

The tasks of the Ombudsman

The Ombudsman exercises oversight to ensure that public authorities and officials observe the law and fulfil their du­ties in the discharge of their functions. There are also two Deputy-Ombudsmen, who act independently and with the same authority as the Ombudsman. In addition to authorities and officials, the scope of oversight includes also other parties performing public functions. The aim is to ensure good administration and the observance of constitutional and human rights.

From the 1st of January 2010 the Parliamentary Ombudsman is Mr. Petri JÄÄSKELÄINEN, Doctor of Laws, LL.M.

The Deputy-Ombudsman is Mr. Jussi PAJUOJA, Doctor of Laws. The post of the second Deputy-Ombudsman is held by Mrs. Maija SAKSLIN, Licentiate of Laws.

The Ombudsman and the Deputy-Ombudsmen are elected for four-year terms, which may be renewed, by the Eduskunta, the parliament of Finland. The Ombudsman may appoint the Substitute for the Deputy Ombudsmen for a term of maximum four years after having heard the Parliament’s Constitutional Committee about the nomination.

The Ombudsman provides the Eduskunta with an annual report on activities and observations in the preceding year.

The work of the Ombudsman

The Ombudsman oversees the legality of actions taken by the authorities mainly by investigating complaints received.

Members of the public are also served and advised by on-duty legal experts at the Office of the Ombudsman.

– Investigations and inspections:

Illegalities or shortcomings can come to the Ombudsman’s attention also through other channels. In such cases he can take matters under investigation on his own initiative.

The Ombudsman also conducts on-site investigations in public offices and institutions. He has a special duty to make regular inspection visits to prisons and other institutions, such as psychiatric hospitals, in which persons can be confined against their will. Other places visited are units of the Defence Forces and Border Guard.

On 7 November 2014, the Parliamentary Ombudsman became the Finnish National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) under the Optional Protocol of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).

In his work the Ombudsman concentrates on promoting fundamental and human rights. Also when he makes presentations, issues statements or writes articles, he emphasises the importance of these rights in the performance of public tasks and legislative drafting.

The ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its Optional Protocol on 10 June 2016 brought the Parliamentary Ombudsman a new special task, provisions on which are contained in the Parliamentary Ombudsman Act. The tasks laid down in Article 33(2) of the CRPD are performed by the Parliamentary Ombudsman together with the Human Rights Centre and its Human Rights Delegation, which jointly constitute Finland’s National Human Rights Institution.

– Other activities :

The Ombudsman actively provides the public with information about his activities.

The instruments of communication used are, in addition to public service and advice, press releases about decisions by the Ombudsman, brochures and the annual report submitted to the Eduskunta. These publications are also available in electronic form.

Ombudsmen in different countries cooperate on a regular basis. In Finland, the Ombudsman maintains contacts with major nongovernmental organisations.