Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018, 16:17 GMT

Iceland: Althing Parliamentary Commissioner Act ("Ombudsman")

Publisher National Legislative Bodies / National Authorities
Publication Date 1 January 1988
Cite as Iceland: Althing Parliamentary Commissioner Act ("Ombudsman") [Iceland],  1 January 1988, available at: [accessed 19 January 2018]
Comments This is an unofficial translation.
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Article 1

The decision of "Ombudsman" (Althing Parliamentary Commissioner) shall be held in full assembly.His mandate extends to four years.He shall fulfil the conditions stipulated by law as to fitness for the office of Supreme Court Justice and may not be a Member of the Althing. In the event of the death of the Ombudsman, or his permanent incapacitation for other reasons, a plenum of the Althing shall hold a new election for the office.The same applies if the Ombudsman is released from his duties of his own volition, or if two thirds of the Members of the Althing vote to dismiss him. In the case of a temporary absence by the Ombudsman the Althing may elect a sand-in for the discharge of his functions meanwhile.

Article 2

The rôle of the Ombudsman is to monitor, on behalf of the Althing, and in such a way as is further stated in this Act, the execution of central and local government administration and to safeguard the rights of the citizens vis-à-vis the authorities.He shall ensure that the principle of equity is upheld in public administration and that such administration is otherwise conducted in conformity with the law and good administrative practice.

Article 3

The Ombudsman shall not intercede in other local government decisions than those which are referable to a cabinet minister or some other state authority.

Article 4

The Ombudsman shall not, in the discharge of his functions, have to pay heed to instructions from anyone, including the Althing.

Article 5

The Ombudsman may take up a case following a complaint or on his own initiative. Any person who feels unjustly treated by a public authority may lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman.

Article 6

A complaint to the Ombudsman shall be in writing.It must contain the name and address of the complainant.The complaint shall, furthermore, be accompanied by all the available evidence as to the specifics of the matter. The complaint must be lodged within a year of the conclusion of the disputed act of government. In case there is recourse to be had to a higher public authority a complaint may only be lodged with the Ombudsman following utilization thereof. The time limit of one year, referred to in para.2 above, shall apply thereupon.

Article 7

The Ombudsman may demand from the authorities such information as he may require for his official purposes, including the handing over of reports, documents, statements, and other items with a bearing on the matter. The Ombudsman cannot demand to have access to information that concerns state security, internal or external, or foreign affairs not intended for disclosure, except with the permission of the minister concerned.The Ombudsman may cause a person to be summoned before a judge to give evidence on particulars deemed to be significant.For such hearings the rules of Act No. 74/1974 on judicial procedure shall apply in so far as applicable.The hearing may be attended by the party involved for whom a legal representative shall, if need be, be appointed pursuant to Act No. 74/1974, Article 80, para. 2.Such examinations of witnesses may be held in camera.

Article 8

The Ombudsman shall observe a duty of silence as regards facts which come to his attention in the course of his work and should, because of legitimate public or private interests, be kept secret.The same applies to the Ombudsman's staff.The obligation of silence shall remain, even on termination of duties.

Article 9

The Ombudsman shall, immediately upon deciding to allow a complaint against a public authority, notify the public authority of the subject of the complaint, unless the ensuing investigation is likely to be endangered thereby. As a rule, a public authority, against which a complaint has been lodged, shall be given an opportunity to explain matters to the Ombudsman before he concludes the case with an Opinion pursant to Article 10, para 2, subsection b.

Article 10

If, right away at the outset, the Ombudsman feels that a complaint does not provide grounds enough for a closer investigation or that it does not fulfil the conditions of this Act as to admission, he shall notify the complainant accordingly, and that is the end of the matter. Once admitted by the Ombudsman a case may be concluded by him as follows:

(a)He may dismiss it on receipt of a correction or explanation from a public authority.

(b)He may issue an Opinion as to whether an act of government is at odds with the law or otherwise contrary to good administrative practice.

Should he conclude that the case involves dereliction of duties, punishable by law, he shall notify the appropriate public authority.

Article 11

In the event the Ombudsman detects flaws in a law or public rules currently in force he shall notify the Althing, the minister or local authority involved.

Article 12

The Ombudsman shall report annually to the Althing on his work during the preceding calendar year.The printed report shall be published before 1st September each year. In the event the Ombudsman becomes aware of gross errors or transgressions on the part of a public authority, he may submit a special report on the matter to the Althing or the minister concerned.In cases involving local authority officials the Ombudsman may submit his report to the authority concerned. The Ombudsman decides at his own discretion whether to issue a communiqué on a case, and in what form. Every time the Ombudsman issues a communiqué on a case he shall make known what the public authority concerned has offered by way of defence.

Article 13

The Ombudsman shall, in so far as practicable, receive equal salary and emoluments as are accorded justices of the Supreme Court.He shall be entitled to three months' severance pay at the end of his tenure. The Ombudsman may hold no paid office in the service of either public institutions or private undertakings.

Article 14

The Ombudsman shall engage his own staff.For the number of staff and their remuneration, the Rules set by the Althing pursuant to Article 15 of this Act, shall apply.

Article 15

The Althing will set further rules concerning the work and procedures of the Ombudsman. These rules shall take the form of a Resolution passed by a plenum of the Althing following the second reading.

Article 16

This Act shall enter into force on 1 January 1988.

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