The Ombudsman’s legal case experts do not just sit and study cases at their desks. One of the important tasks takes place outside our office at Gammeltorv 22, and that is the monitoring visits.
Monitoring visits to places of residence
The purpose of the monitoring visit is often to check how the public authorities take care of individuals who are, for one reason or another, deprived of their liberty for a period of time. We visit for example:
- State and local prisons and the Prison and Probation Service’s half-way houses
- Police waiting rooms and detentions
- Psychiatric wards
- Secure residential institutions for juveniles under 18
We also visit other institutions where citizens reside for either a short period of time or for longer, and where they must therefore adjust their daily life to comply with the institution’s regulations – for example psychiatric and social care institutions and residential institutions for children and juveniles who are placed outside their home.
The Ombudsman has been given some special areas of responsibility which form the basis for some of the monitoring visits, and the focus may therefore vary a little from visit to visit. However, in practice the visits to residential institutions proceed in largely the same way no matter which category the visit falls under.
The special areas of responsibility are:
Monitoring visits according to UN rules
The United Nations have adopted rules against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In Denmark the Parliamentary Ombudsman has been charged with visiting places where citizens are deprived of their liberty, in order to ensure that the UN rules are observed.
The Ombudsman works together with the Danish Institute of Human Rights and DIGNITY (formerly the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims) to carry out the visits which may target both private and public institutions.
Visits to children’s institutions
We visit institutions and other places where children are staying, with the specific purpose of monitoring that the rights of the children are observed. It may be residential institutions, but it may also be a foster family, a school or a crèche. The child monitoring visits may take place at both public and private places.
Other types of monitoring visits, etc.
The Ombudsman has been assigned the task of observing how the police escort foreign nationals out of Denmark when they have been deported. In some instances a legal case expert from the Ombudsman’s office comes along for part of or for the whole journey as an observer.
Equal treatment of disabled persons
The access of disabled persons to public buildings is also part of the Ombudsman’s monitoring purview. When carrying out visits to monitor accessibility for the disabled, the Ombudsman’s monitoring staff brings along measuring equipment to check that for instance ramps for wheelchair users have a degree of inclination which is in accordance with building regulations. One of the Ombudsman’s associates who is a wheelchair user participates in these monitoring visits.
Among others, several town halls, public libraries and institutions of education have been the subject of a monitoring visit from the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman has written a manual on his monitoring visits. Read the manual here.