The Ombudspersons specific attitude to the publics right to information
In February this year ten civic organizations sent information requests to the Human Rights Ombudsperson. They asked for information in writing about the Ombudspersons work in 2006-2007 (the number of appeals received from the public, the number of investigations initiated, the number of acts issued in response to human rights violations, etc/// ) and copies of annual reports which are not posted on the Ombudspersons website.
In April replies to these information requests began arriving from the Ombudspersons Secretariat. They were all similar and boiled down to a reminder of the prohibition on interfering in the activities of the Ombudsperson and to the assertion that the Ombudsperson is not obliged to provide information about her activities to those making formal information requests. The head of section “X” in the Secretariat, Mr Lohunov, moreover, cites Article 37 of the Law on Information and Article 20 of the Law on the Human Rights Ombudsperson. He also asserted that according to Article 2 of the Law on the Human Rights Ombudsperson, the issues raised in the appeals do not require the use of acts issued in response to human rights violations.
It is disappointing that departments in the Ombudspersons Secretariat should be headed by people who are either incapable of differentiating between information requests and appeals, or who deliberately manipulate the law.
We would remind them that, in accordance with Article 30 of the Law on Information, information regarding the human rights and civil liberties situation, as well as instances of their violation, do not constitute confidential information and the authorities, their public officials are obliged to provide information concerning their activities, in writing, orally, by telephone or via public addresses from their officials.
We are sending a repeat information request to the Ombudsperson regarding her activities and hope on this occasion to receive an answer in keeping with the law. Should we again receive fob-offs, we will be forced to take more extreme measures.