Motejl re-elected ombudsman - public defender of rights

Otakar Motejl

Otakar Motejl, the Czech Republic's ombudsman or public defender of rights, was elected for a second term of office on Tuesday, and will hold the post for the next six years. Mr Motejl is the country's first ombudsman - the office has only existed since 2000 - and going by its high approval ratings Czechs seem to think he's doing a good job.

Otakar Motejl, a chain-smoking, 74-year-old former lawyer with a deep, gravely voice, regularly appears at the upper end of public approval ratings, despite having one of those jobs that few people can precisely define. The Czech Republic's ombudsman is essentially there to defend the country's citizens from its bureaucrats, whether from discrimination or excessive red tape.

The ombudsman has the right to interfere in the proceedings of particular cases in the state administration, including ministries, but he is not authorised to order institutions to take any concrete steps. He can only report shortcomings to a higher body or to the Chamber of Deputies - which elects him to the post - or release details of the case in public. Earlier Otakar Motejl summed up his first six years for Radio Prague.

"It was the first term of a new institution, unknown until that point in our legal system, so it was a term of building, of looking for solutions, a period of trial and error. So from that point of view I'd describe the first term as quite positive, because we managed to resolve the concept and management of handling requests from the public."

During its first six years the Office of the Ombudsman has received some 30,000 of those complaints, ranging from pointing out irregularities in Czech law to ensuring that Muslims were not served pork in Czech prisons. Otakar Motejl outlined his priorities for the next six years.

"I'd like to concentrate on improving the processing of the requests, on speeding up the process. I also want the results of cases to receive more attention in the media. And I'd like to continue the job of what I'd call "generalising", because the number of complaints relating to particular issues creates the possibility of drawing general conclusions and coming up with a generalised principle that can be applied across the board in those particular issues."

However Otakar Motejl said he was not planning any fundamental changes in the ombudsman´s office, and was not demanding that his powers be extended. So far it seems Mr Motejl has succeeded in overcoming initial public scepticism towards the creation of yet another office in the Czech Republic.