Chancellor of Justice of the Government and Parliamentary Ombudsman

Finland has two supreme and independent guardians of the law: the Chancellor of Justice of the Government and the Parliamentary Ombudsman. 

The duties and powers of the Chancellor of Justice and the Parliamentary Ombudsman are primarily similar. Both supervise the legality of the activities of courts, authorities and other public officials. Both are also responsible for the oversight of the decisions and actions of the Government and the President of the Republic. Supervising the implementation of basic and human rights is an essential part of the duties of both guardians of the law.

The Chancellor of Justice and the Parliamentary Ombudsman do not supervise each other’s activities. The two guardians of the law will also not re-investigate matters already decided by the other body without special reason. 

The Chancellor of Justice and Parliamentary Ombudsman will not investigate the same matter at the same time. As a rule, a given matter will be investigated by the body with which the matter was first initiated. However, the two guardians of the law may transfer to each other a matter falling within the competence of both parties if this transfer is considered to speed up the proceedings or if the transfer is justified for some other special reason.

Differences in duties

Despite their largely parallel duties and powers, there are certain differences in the duties of the Chancellor of Justice and the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

The Chancellor of Justice supervises the lawfulness of the decisions and activities of the Government and the President of the Republic. While the Parliamentary Ombudsman has the same powers, in practice, the Chancellor of Justice is mainly responsible for this supervisory duty. The Chancellor of Justice also supervises the activities of advocates, public legal aid attorneys and licensed legal counsels, which falls outside the Ombudsman’s area of responsibility.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman supervises the Defence Forces, the Border Guard, peacekeeping personnel, and prisons and institutions to which individuals have been confined against their will. In addition, the Ombudsman oversees deprivations of liberty, such as apprehension, arrest, imprisonment, travel ban and detention. As a rule, the Chancellor of Justice will refer any complaints concerning these matters to the Ombudsman for investigation.