Chancellor of Justice
The institution of the Chancellor of Justice is established by the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia. The Chancellor of Justice is an official who is independent in his/her activities. The legal state of the Chancellor of Justice and the work procedures of the Office of the Chancellor of Justice are stated in the Chancellor of Justice Act.
The Chancellor of Justice is appointed by the Riigikogu for seven years, according to the proposal of the President of the Republic. On January 20, 2015, the Riigikogu appointed Ülle Madise as the Chancellor of Justice. She gave the oath of office and assumed the office of the Chancellor of Justice on March 31, 2015.
The main task of the Chancellor of Justice is to ensure that:
- laws and regulations would be constitutional and in compliance with other laws;
- authorities and officials performing public duties would not violate people’s constitutional rights and freedoms, laws and other legislation of general application, as well as the principles of good administration (i.e. the tasks of an ombudsman).
The amendment of the Chancellor of Justice Act that entered into force on February 18, 2007 added the prevention of ill-treatment to the duties of the Chancellor of Justice. The Chancellor of Justice was appointed as the national preventive mechanism stipulated in the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, whose duty is to inspect institutions where the freedom of people is restricted in order to prevent torture and other cruel or degrading treatment.
Another amendment of the Chancellor of Justice Act that entered into force on March 19, 2011 added the mandate of protection and promotion of the rights of the child, i.e. performance of the duties of the Ombudsman for Children, to the Chancellor of Justice.
From January 1, 2015 the Chancellor of Justice has also the competency to supervise compliance with fundamental rights and freedoms when the covert gathering, processing, use and supervision of personal data and related data by agencies of executive power is organised.
Other tasks of the Chancellor of Justice
Other tasks of the Chancellor of Justice under the law are:
- submission of opinions to the Supreme Court in constitutional review proceedings;
- reply to the interpellations of the Members of the Riigikogu;
- reply to written questions of the Members of the Riigikogu;
- make proposals for waiving immunity;
- initiate disciplinary proceedings against judges;
- resolve discrimination disputes;
- submission of opinions to the drafts of legislation of general application, etc.
How to file an application
Everybody has the right to turn to the Chancellor of Justice to review the conformity of an Act or other legislation of general application with the Constitution or the law. Everybody also has right of recourse to the Chancellor of Justice if they find that an authority, an official or a legal person governed by private law performing public duties violates their constitutional rights and freedoms, treats them unlawfully or against the principles of good administration. The Chancellor of Justice also has the right to personally initiate a procedure based on previously received information (e.g. presented in media).
What you need to know before filing an application?
The Chancellor of Justice cannot resolve an application, if:
- the question is not within the competence of the Chancellor of Justice (e.g. a person is seeking legal assistance);
- a court judgment, a ruling on termination of judicial or offence proceedings or a decision of body conducting extra-judicial proceedings has entered into force in the matter of the application;
- the matter stated in the application is concurrently subject to judicial or offence or compulsory pre-trial complaint proceedings;
- the application concerns activity of a legal person governed by private law (e.g. public limited company, private limited company) or a natural person who does not perform public duties (excl. in the case of discrimination);
- resolving the application falls within the competence of other authorities (e.g. responding to a request for explanation, initiating criminal proceedings);
- the person can file an administrative appeal against the body that issued the administrative act, or use other legal remedies (e.g., seek recourse in the courts);
- the application has been filed more than one year after the date on which a person became aware or should have become aware of violation of his or her rights.
If the Chancellor of Justice finds that the constitutional rights and freedoms of a person have been violated, then he/she makes a suggestion to the violating institution (official) for eliminating the violation and for taking measures to avoid similar violations of law. If the Chancellor of Justice finds that a legislation is fully or partially non-conformant to the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia or to a legislation with higher status, then he/she makes a justified suggestion to the body having approved the legislation for making the legislation or its relevant clause conform to the Constitution or the higher legislation.
Once a year, the Chancellor of Justice presents to the Riigikogu an overview of performance of the Chancellor of Justice’s activities. On one hand, this is a report of the Chancellor of Justice to the parliament about fulfilment of his/her main tasks during the previous 12 months. On the other hand, presenting such an overview allows the Chancellor of Justice to draw the attention of the Riigikogu to shortcomings and legal problems discovered by him/her that have appeared upon implementing the Constitution.