Last week, the Seimas Ombudsman Augustinas Normantas presented an assessment of the Draft Law on the Intelligence Ombudsman, which raises doubts about the ability of the future Intelligence Ombudsman to be independent. The Seimas Ombudsman is primarily concerned about the power of some politicians to submit written inquiries. According to him, the proposed procedure consists of preconditions for situations where the Intelligence Ombudsman would be obliged to carry out motivated inquiries of politicians or to conduct investigations upon their ground and would not be able to be free to refuse to do so.
After assessing the amendments of the Law, the Seimas Ombudsman noted that the Venice Principles, which the state parties must adhere to, stipulate that the Ombudsman must neither receive, nor carry out any instructions from public authorities. Moreover, the Ombudsman has the discretion to conduct inquiries into possible human rights violations on his own initiative and not at the request or commission of a public authority.
According to the Seimas Ombudsman, the procedure defined in the Draft Law raises questions as to whether the Intelligence Ombudsman will be guaranteed full independence, which is one of the main preconditions for the Ombudsman’s activities: “It can be ascertained that these provisions would limit the independence, autonomy and ability of the Intelligence Ombudsman to plan and control his/her own activities.” The Seimas Ombudsman also expressed doubts about the establishment of the structure of the Intelligence Ombudsman’s Office. “The structure of the institution to be established and the function of organizing the work of the whole institution should be entrusted to the head of this institution, i.e. the Intelligence Ombudsman,” the Seimas Ombudsman emphasized.
Normantas also criticized the proposal to amend the provision of the Law on the Seimas Ombudsmen established for in the Draft, providing that the Seimas Ombudsmen do not investigate the activities of intelligence agencies. According to the Seimas Ombudsman, such regulation raises doubts about its compliance with the Constitution, therefore it should not be adopted.