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Expanding responsibilities

Government has set plans in motion to expand the Office of Ombudsman.

The intention, Barbados TODAY understands, is to transform its role from just an investigator of administrative misconduct to a national agency to promote and protect human rights. With increased attention focussed on human trafficking and concerns about human rights issues generally, reports indicated new legislation to make this possible has been drafted and is being considered by the Chief Parliamentary Counsel’s office.

At the conclusion of Barbados’ most recent Universal Periodic Review, which involved an examination of the island’s human rights record, something all United Nations members have to undergo, several countries recommended the establishment of a new “human rights institution”.

Those advancing this view included the Maldives, Peru, Morocco, France, Morocco. Sources said, however, that even before the review was pursued, the idea of increasing the Ombudsman’s responsibilities by giving the office holder responsibility for human rights issues was being pursued by the Freundel Stuart government.

It was pointed out, though, that such a move still had some distance to go before the process concluded, and that ongoing work included determining the structure, operational functions and likely areas of funding to facilitate the expanded responsibilities by the Ombudsman. While one of the major hurdles officials would have to overcome was financial, officials intend to exploit the “mechanisms” available internationally to support the establishment of such an institutional framework.

This included partnership with other governments and private and non governmental organisations which had expertise and “a working knowledge” in the area. As it currently stands, under Barbados’ law the Ombudsman is suppose to “investigate and report upon allegations of improperly, unreasonable or inadequate administrative conduct”.

The Ombudsman is “appointed by the Governor General, by instrument under the public seal, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition”. (SC)

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