Chancellor of Justice of the Government and Parliamentary Ombudsman

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

The 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 investigate matters already resolved by the other body without special reason or the same matter at the same time.

Differences in tasks

Despite primarily similar powers, there are differences in the duties of the guardians of the law, and special tasks have been centralised to the guardians of the law.

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 Act on the division of work between the Chancellor of Justice and the Parliamentary Ombudsman lays down provisions on the special tasks assigned to the guardians of the law. The Act entered into force on 1 October 2022. 

The special tasks centralised to the Chancellor of Justice are concerned with

  • the development of automated administrative systems and general grounds for maintenance
  • the organisation of anti-corruption activities
  • public procurement, competition and matters related to government support.

Read more about the tasks centralised to the Chancellor of Justice.

The special tasks centralised to the Parliamentary Ombudsman are concerned with

  • the Defence Forces, the Border Guard, military crisis management personnel, the National Defence Association and military court proceedings
  • police investigations, competence laid down for police or customs authorities and coercive measures in criminal proceedings and pre-trial investigation
    • However, the Ombudsman’s special tasks do not include matters concerning the failure to conduct, suspend or restrict the pre-trial investigation.
  • secret intelligence gathering, secret coercive measures and intelligence activities and related supervision of legality
  • prisons and other closed institutions and restrictions on the individual’s right to self-determination through other measures
    • for example, restrictive measures in educational institutions and different housing units and the powers of guards
  • supervisory duties related to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
  • supervisory duties related to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • implementation of the best interests of the child 
    • for example, the best interests of the child in early childhood education and care, basic education and upper secondary education, and child welfare matters
  • implementation of the rights of older people, persons with disabilities and asylum seekers
  • implementation of the rights of individuals in social welfare and health care
    • for example, the rights of patients and the rights of social welfare clients
  • implementation of the rights of individuals related to social insurance 
    • for example, pensions and social benefits applied from Kela
  • general advocacy
  • implementation of the rights safeguarded for the Sami people as indigenous people
  • implementation of the rights of maintaining and developing one's language safeguarded for the Roma and other groups
    • for example, the implementation of the rights of sign language users

The Chancellor of Justice can still process these matters when they involve a structural perspective.  Oversight by the Chancellor of Justice may focus on the impacts of various structural factors - such as up-to-date and consistent legislation, steering and supervision of operations, resources and operating procedures, information systems, management and operating culture – and the problems associated with them.

The Chancellor of Justice primarily transfers to the Parliamentary Ombudsman matters that have been centralised to be processed by the Ombudsman. The Parliamentary Ombudsman acts in the same way in matters belonging to the Chancellor of Justice. In addition, the guardians of the law may mutually transfer a matter falling within the competence of both parties if the transfer is considered to speed up the processing of the matter or the transfer is justified for other reasons, such as the joint processing of matters. 

The complainant is informed about the transfer of the matter. The decision on investigating and resolving the matter is made by the guardian of the law to whom the matter has been transferred.

Read more