Ombudsman at 3rd International Conference of Ombudsman Institutions for Armed Forces, Belgrade

13 April 2011

The Third International Conference of Ombudsman Institutions for Armed Forces took place at the Palace of Serbia, Belgrade the 13th to 15th of April, 2011.

The Conference with its working title of “Protecting the Human Rights of Armed Forces Personnel: Old and New Challenges” was organised by the Protector of Citizens of the Republic of Serbia and the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), with the support of the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Serbia. The Conference addressed a number of topics central to the work of Ombudsman Institutions whose jurisdiction covers members of Armed Forces with particular reference to protecting the Human Rights of soldiers. The Conference comprised three panels of discussion.

Panel 1: External and Internal Complaint Handling Processes.

Drawing from existing experiences and challenges, the objectives of Panel 1 was to focus on the relationship between external oversight institutions (e.g. ombudsman or parliamentary body) and internal military complaints-handling mechanisms.

The panel was tasked to discuss how these two different arrangements intertwine to safeguard the rights of armed forces personnel.

The points for discussion were:

• What are the comparative advantages and disadvantages of external and internal complaints-handling mechanisms?
• What type of relationship exists or should exist between external oversight institutions and internal military complaints-handling mechanisms?
• What obstacles and challenges are faced by external oversight institutions and internal military complaints-handling mechanisms, and how can these obstacles be addressed?


This panel was moderated by Kjell Arne Bratli, Parliamentary Commissioner of the Royal Norwegian Armed Forces.

The Ombudsman made a presentation to this section of the Conference outlining the manner in which the legislation (Ombudsman (Defence Forces) Act 2004) in Ireland was inter-connected to the Redress of Wrongs (RoW) procedures in the Defence Forces in order to provide substantial safeguards.

This section of the Conference was also addressed by Colonel Jacques de Keyser, Complaint Manager; Lieutenant Colonel Claude Moerman, Deputy Complaint Manager of the Belgian Armed Forces; Mr. Bosko Siljegovic, Parliamentary Military Commissioner of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Mr. Raino Marttunen, Principal Legal Adviser at the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman of Finland. Mr. Sucko Bakovic, Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms in Montenegro; Ms. Adriana Steheouwer, Deputy National Ombudsman of the Netherlands; Lieutenant General Petar Radojcic, Inspector General of the Ministry of Defence of Serbia; Ms. Zdenka Cebasek-Travnik, Human Rights Ombudsman of Slovenia; and Dr. Susan Atkins, Service Complaints Commissioner for the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom.


To view the Ombudsman’s presentation to Panel 1.

Panel 2: Military Unions and Associations

The objective of this section was to consider how states could respect the fundamental rights of armed forces personnel (i.e. the right of assembly) while at the same time take into account the specific requirements of military service.
The Ombudsman for the Defence Forces moderated this section of the Conference.

Points for discussion:

• What is the nature of arrangements for military unions and associations where they do exist?
• What are the boundaries for activities of military unions/associations?
• What is the relationship between military unions/associations and ombudsman institutions with jurisdiction over the armed forces? How can military unions and associations cooperate with ombudsman institutions with jurisdiction over the armed forces?


There were presentations from Colonel (ret.) Bernhard Gertz, Vice President of the European Organisation of Military Associations (EUROMIL); from Mr. Kjell Arne Bratli, Parliamentary Commissioner of the Royal Armed Forces; Mr. Valer Dorneanu, Deputy People’s Advocate of Romania; and from Brigadier General Sladjan Djordjevic, Assistant Minister for Human Resources at the Ministry of Defence in Serbia.

There were also presentations on this topic from Mr. Paul Kiss, Executive Chairman of the Parliamentary Commission for the Federal Armed Forces of Austria; and from Mr. Poul Christian Sorensen, consultant at the Haerens Konstabel-og Korporalforening(HKKF)/EUROMIL.

The Ombudsman moderated an open discussion stimulated and informed by presentations from members from EUROMIL including Mr Edward Lugthart, Vice President, MARVER/FNV, the biggest Military Union in the Netherlands, Mr Poul Sorensen, referred to above, from the largest Military Union in Denmark and Mr Gerry Rooney, General Secretary, Permanent Defence Forces Other Ranks Representative Association (PDFORRA), Ireland. Col Gertz took the opportunity to cite the Conventions which enshrine commitments and obligations to provide members of Armed Forces with a right to representation. It was also most informative to compare the work of Unions and Professional Representative Associations.
 

The discussion also explored the distinctions between the respective roles of the Military Ombudsman Institutions and the Representative Associations or Unions.


Panel 3: The Role of Ombudsman Institutions in the Protection of Rights of Armed Forces Personnel in Multinational Missions

This panel was to focus on overcoming the challenges faced by ombudsman institutions when armed forces personnel are deployed to multinational missions.

Points for discussion:

• What is the legal framework for the protection of the rights of armed forces personnel in deployments abroad?
• What is the role of ombudsman institutions in protecting the human rights of armed forces personnel in deployments abroad?
• What are the main challenges and obstacles for the effective protection of the rights of armed forces personnel in deployments abroad (e.g. the problems of extraterritoriality and multi-nationality)?


This section of the conference was moderated by Dr. Hans Born, Senior Fellow at the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), Switzerland.

The Ombudsman made a presentation to this section of the Conference which was also addressed by a number of delegates including:
Mr. Joseph Perez, Chief of Assistance & Investigations at the U.S. European Command; Mr. Hellmut Konigshaus, the German Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces; Mr. Gilles Grollemund, the President of the French Military Appeal Commission; Mr. Indrek Teder, Chancellor of Justice of Estonia; and Mr. Paul Kiss, Executive Chairman of the Parliamentary Commission for the Federal Armed Forces of Austria.


To view the Ombudsman’s presentation to Panel 3.

At the Third International Conference of Ombudsman Institutions for Armed Forces, there was a presentation by Dr. Hans Born, Senior Fellow at the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) about the initiative to establish a Military Ombudsman Institution Website and Handbook which was a follow-up to the Memorandum agreed at the conclusion of the Second International Conference of Ombudsman Institutions for Armed Forces in Vienna, 2010.

The Reports of the Conference comprising of the key points from discussion, the Belgrade memorandum and Conference documents is available at Conference Report. The Belgrade Memorandum is also available.

Photos of Delegates to Conference