Rejection of the Report on the Work of the Ombudsman for Children is an Attack on the Independence of the Institution

logo 1On 9 and 10 June 2016, the Members of the Croatian Parliament discussed the Work Report of the Ombudsman for Children for 2015, after opinions on the Report had been issued by the Government of the Republic of Croatia and by the Parliamentary Committee on the Family, Youth and Sports, which proposed that the Report be adopted. However, the said proposal was not accepted by the Croatian Parliament, as out of 129 Members of the Parliament, 56 voted in favour of the proposal, 64 voted against it and 9 abstained from the vote.
The Ombudsman for Children is required by law to submit a work report to the Croatian Parliament, which gives the mandate to the Ombudsman. A work report of the Ombudsman for Children summarises the activities related to individual complaints about the violations of children’s rights and other activities in the monitoring, advocating and promoting the rights of all children in every area of life over a period of one year. The aim of these reports is to point out the deficiencies in the functioning of the system for the protection of children’s rights and encourage public authorities to make improvements in some segments and ensure the rights of all children.
However, pursuant to the Law on the Ombudsman for Children, the non-acceptance of such a report by the Croatian Parliament constitutes grounds for the removal from office of the Ombudsman before the expiration of the eight-year mandate. This provision jeopardises the independence and autonomy of the institution of the Ombudsman, as the Ombudsperson for Children, Ivana Milas Klarić, stated in her address to the Members of the Parliament. In the opinion of the Ombudsperson Milas Klarić, the non-acceptance of the Report on the Work of the Ombudsman for Children for 2015 is an attack on the independence of the institution of the Ombudsman for Children exerting political pressure, which undermines democratic standards in the society.
It needs emphasising that in 2015 the Office of the Ombudsman for Children received 1 456 new complaints about the violations of children’s rights, conducted 1 092 general initiatives, issued 70 general recommendations for the protection of children’s rights and issued opinions on 25 regulations and documents on the protection of children’s rights. The Ombudsperson and her associates also visited 78 child care institutions, met and cooperated with children in their communities, in the regional Offices in Split, Osijek and Rijeka as well as in the Little House of Children’s Rights in the main Office in Zagreb. These activities provided a basis for the Ombudsperson to call attention to the areas in which children’s rights were most often violated in 2015, including the children’s right to live with their parents and enjoy parental care, educational rights, health care rights and the right to protection from violence. The Ombudsperson also emphasised that the realisation of children’s rights in all areas has been made more difficult due to poverty and the lack of social support and assistance to families in fulfilling their parental responsibilities, as well as in small communities away from urban centres, on islands and in mountainous areas.